There have been many changes over the past 42 years since I began my first sales job:
- We didn’t have mobile phones, never mind smart phones, and when I did buy a ‘brick’ with an antenna it cost nearly 5% of my income!
- We weren’t given any sales training and even product training was pretty skinny.
- We didn’t have computers, fax machines, photocopiers or printers. We used typewriters, carbon paper and correction tape.
We lived on straight commission and learned to ride the highs and lows of sales results; got educated by experience and reading books (not screens); and we carved out a life of relative prosperity by bending over backwards for our customers.
Today’s technology makes the communications of my early days seem like the pony express! Now it’s faster, cheaper and better for the environment.
In some ways selling is easier and in some tougher.
But what does it tell us about the future?
After four decades in sales, it’s still difficult to predict what’s next. Many salespeople have been disintermediated as customers change the way they buy; however, for the professional seller some basics remain constant:
- Stay sharp. Develop a growth mindset. Read, listen to audio lessons, and attend training. Always be open and curious. Look for new skills to develop and new habits to form. If we are to serve customers better in the future we need to provide increasingly innovative and practical solutions to their problems. That level of expertise doesn’t happen by accident.
- Stay flexible. Adapt, change and grow. Because we can’t predict the future, we need to hone our ability to adjust to the winds of change bearing down upon us. Embrace change rather than fearing and rejecting it.
- Set personal and business goals. Clearly defined goals encourage the discipline and stamina you need to weather the storms ahead.
- Create ‘success habits’. Most of what you do is a result of all the habits you’ve developed over the years. Some are good – some bad. Be intentional. Decide which habits will serve you, then one by one integrate them.
- Save for a rainy day. There will be fluctuations in your income. Build a six-month reserve to carry you through dry spells.
- Assess on a regular basis whether your actions are producing the results you want. If not, decide if it’s time to change. If yes, then change.
I wonder if Yogi Berra knew how right he was when he said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”