13 Musts from an Accidental Salesperson

I fell into sales in 2008 kind of by accident. At the time, I had a consulting business that revolved around the plastics industry, injection molding to be specific. I got a call one day from a company I had known for many years. They asked me what I thought about joining their employee owner team in sales. Having my own business was my dream and I didn’t want to give that up just yet. Unfortunately at this particular time in 2008 things were not going as planned.

This company wanted someone in sales who knew the plastics industry and knew injection molding who could talk to customers and potential customers. I have a technical background and prior to sales, held many different positions in engineering, manufacturing, quality and management.

Up to this point in my career I had no experience or formal training in sales. I had my own business and I had to do sales to survive but that was different then the position of a salesperson for a company. I never really entertained the thought of going into sales. I’ve worked with many salespeople through the years and saw what they went through day in and day out. It was a revolving door no matter where I worked. I worked with some good people and good salespeople through the years. I felt for them, as they were under the pressure to land jobs ASAP, not only for the company but also so they could survive. In this business the sales cycle can be long.

A Decade Later

Fast forward 10 years and I’m still with this company and I’m still in business development, a fancy title for sales. What is my secret for being in sales this long? The first secret is there is no secret, no magic potion or recipe to be successful in sales. You could do everything that people want you to do or think you should do and still not be successful in sales. There is definitely no shortage of experts out there willing to give their opinion on what you should do. They will tell you exactly what to do to be successful. Will this make you successful? It’s hard to say because every situation is different. What works for one company might not work for another and what works for one person might not work for another.

Over the past 10 years I have learned a lot about sales, marketing and people. In sales you cannot make people talk to you, nor can you make people buy from you. You can only control your attitude and your effort. Just because you follow or do what all the experts say to do it doesn’t automatically guarantee success. One of the keys is to be willing to try as many things as possible. Always be learning whether through seminars, books, videos, or trial and error. Find ways to keep positive and have a good support system.

I’ve developed a list of 13 things that have helped me through the years. Each of these items can be and should be expanded in further detail. I have found through life experience that having a plan is always good. I utilize the PDCA as much as possible: plan, do, check and act. My past experience in engineering, manufacturing, quality and management has helped me along the way in my sales endeavors.

I admit that I struggle every day and the stress in sales is high. Don’t let anyone tell you that sales is easy. My 13 list has helped me keep some sanity by creating a foundation and a systematic approach to success.

  1. Find your “why” – Why do you do what you do
  2. What is your mission/vision statement?
  3. What is your personality type? Do a Meyers Briggs test, know what makes you you.
  4. Calendar – Only put appointments on your calendar, get rid of traditional to-do lists.
  5. Make buckets – These are the lists that your life revolves around. Lists like work projects, health, creative reminders, financial, career, business and so on.
  6. Work flow plan – How to deal with your in box on a daily basis, getting things done.
  7. Daily priorities – What needs to be done today in my buckets?
  8. Set goals – Do you have goals? Write them down and measure them. If you don’t write them down they will not get done.
  9. Gratitude – Make it a point to review a daily gratitude list. Write down all the things that you are grateful for.
  10. Daily reflections – Reflect at the end of the day, did you accomplish your why?
  11. Visualizations – This is just not for sports, it can also be done for work and life.
  12. Always be learning – Take the time to learn as much as you can about sales and marketing as well as what you are selling.
  13. Sales is about data – Collect and analyze as much as you can about your sales process.

Lee Shawback works at HPC Inc., a custom injection molder located in Elgin, Illinois, as a business development engineer. Prior to sales and marketing at HPC, he held various positions at companies in engineering, manufacturing, quality and management all in the injection molding industry.

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