As I meet people in my work life, especially industry veterans, I like to learn what has helped make them successful. At a sales training I was attending a few years back, I approached Jim, a member of the company’s upper management team and asked him something similar to, “What is the one piece of sales advice you would give to a new salesman like me?” His answer was simple but profound and has stuck with me ever since. He replied, “Plant seeds.” The implication of this simple phrase is that a salesperson must behave like a farmer. You may not earn someone’s business on the first call, but you will plant a seed. In fact most salespeople know that on average it takes multiple calls before a transaction actually occurs.
In my first sales role I remember calling on a local customer multiple times. I had dropped off cards, left flyers, and met the receptionist more than once. In fact I had never even ventured past the front desk to meet the decision maker in person. However, one day he had one of his trucks break down in a different state. The breakdown had caused a bit of a panic, and needing to deliver the goods they were carrying, the decision maker decided to reach out to me for help. I was able to connect him with the right people at a different branch and through company teamwork we were able to help get his driver back on the road with a rental truck. When a need arose, this company thought to call me for assistance, and the seeds I had planted earlier had finally grown to bear fruit.
There are many days in a salesperson’s work life where no new accounts are brought on, and deals are not closed. But those are the days where you must continue to be a farmer. Not everyday is harvest day. But you will never reap the benefits of the harvest unless you first put in the work of planting the seeds.
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: A practical suggestion that I recommend to all salespeople is to keep a simple tally of your sales activities every day. These activities can consist of different categories, such as phone calls made, how many doors you knocked on, emails sent, etc. You can then record the end of the week totals in a spreadsheet and at the end of the year you can review your yearly totals and weekly averages. I use a tally sheet every day, and I’ll be honest, when I have a day or week where my activity is low, I am motivated to improve the next day. Feel free to email me for more details on how I structure my sales activity tally sheet.