I miss sales.
Actually… no I don’t. For a very short stint before finishing college, I sold items door-to-door. The people I worked with were all the same. All of us. Hungry, greedy, grinders, all go – no quit, closers, and intensely competitive. On our drives to territories we would be listening ‘Jim Rome,’ tell sales stories at lunch, and have quiet evenings of satisfaction/ dissatisfaction on the way back to the office. If you sold so at least “x” amount for the day, you got to ring a bell when walked into the office. Sometimes, we might grab a cup coffee or beer to celebrate a good day if we were ‘on.’ I got to ring it twice by my second week.
I was good at sales. Real good, but it was long, hard hours knocking on doors all day. The more “no’s” you got, the faster and harder you had to go. It was a mental assault to continually believe in who you are and why you were doing it, despite the continuous rejection waiting at the next house. You are right – No. You are special –Not interested. You can be successful at this – Go away. You are almost there – No. This is your time – Why do I want this? After three weeks, I noticed no one in the sales office was over the age of thirty. Top sales people drove the nice cars while all the ‘workers’ drove beat up, used ones. Within a month of my degree, I quit and decided I would do something easier…like selling Life Insurance. That’s another story though…
Corporate/ business life does not carry as much hunger as a sales job. Paydays are scheduled and guaranteed by the agreed salary amount. As a salesperson, everyday was payday for me. This sounds great until you want to stay home sick. Sure, stay home. You just won’t eat today. You want to take a vacation? Are you insane – that’s a pay cut. Every day, knocking on doors, I was thinking about what inspired me most: paying my rent, paying my gas, paying my bills, and feeding myself – in that order. By the fifth sale of the day, I could start smiling. Needless to say, there were several days I didn’t smile. It’s amazing how an empty stomach can create a razor-like focus for your performance. When your livelihood depends on closing the next door, you have no problems concentrating on delivering excellence.
If you haven’t seen the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, I wouldn’t be surprised. It's a slow moving drama, but the acting is solid throughout. Just about every salesperson has or has heard the phrase "always be closing." The opening monologue for Alec Baldwin is probably one of the calmest, vicious, direct, plain, and truthful seven minutes that scores of people need to hear today (I would post it but the language is not appropriate for work, but you can find it on youtube). Imagine you have a department meeting and a person walks in and says, “I have some news today. We have a contest. First prize is a Cadillac. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired. Have I got your attention?” And this is just the beginning of the movie.
Suddenly, the concern of a company dry cleaning service that also includes auto debit is not your biggest priority. Getting the office closer to the window is not your goal. The quiet resentment over a past performance ranking is a faded memory. Feigning an illness could buy you some time, but your performance is your performance, regardless. Now, your continued career survival depends on what you brought to the table - today. If you bring nothing, today – you don’t get to stay. If you want to quit, please do. What you will quickly learn is that there is a group of young, hungry individuals just praying for the opportunity you are currently squandering. You are the next door ‘they’ are waiting for. Your misstep is their moment. Your spoiled tirade is their signal to get ready. Guess who is holding the door for you when you are walking out, angry? Your replacement.
And they are walking in hungry.
I’m thankful not everyone has been in sales, and there are plenty who get this concept and work with a sense of urgency in their everyday careers. There is nothing like sales though. The rush, the moments, the pressure, the one 'line' that pushes a person to where their will disintegrates and they are handing you the money they desperately did not want to give you. I’m grateful for that time but I know where I should be and what I should be doing presently. Everyday I come to work, I come to ring the bell. What you have to decide for yourself is what success looks like to you, and how hungry you are for it? If you want it bad enough, you won’t need coffee to wake you up. You will be hungry enough to wake up, ready to eat the day. Remember, coffee… is still for closers.
Go and do likewise.
To read more of Aaron Dockery's work, visit his LinkedIn Pulse blog!