As a salesman, I pride myself on being a whale hunter. Breaking down large organizations and finding the prospects that will bring the most value to the organization I’m working with. I don’t waste a lot of time on small fish and short term relationships that don’t bring any value. I’ve been trained to do this since I got into sales nearly 6 years ago and I’ve gotten pretty good at it over that time.
With this type of approach though, I have to play a game that not many are willing to play. The Long Game.
The Long Game is something that can take anywhere from 6 months to 6 years to come to a close and isn’t for the weak of heart. The Long Game comes with 100s to 1000s of NOs that are not always said in the most polite fashion. Hang ups, blocks, one-word responses, pass alongs, declines, and the not so often screams. The Long Game is a lot of lonely days and nights, unfruitful trips across country, getting blown off for coffee meetings at 7:30 in the morning, and sometimes even losing your job as you wait for that prospect to finally respond with a “yes!”. The Long Game is a whole slew of rejection and not a whole lot of gratitude from co-workers and bosses (unless you have a good one that understands this).
Hearing all of these negatives would scare away most. Not me though. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Why? Because of the “Yes”. I live for the “Yes!”. Maybe it’s the baseball player in me that is told that I’d be successful if I got a hit 30% of the time (ha! I’d kill for a 30% sales rate!).
I live for being told, “We’ve never worked with them and they’ll never work with us. Good luck!” I take these challenges personally and refuse to be told that I can’t find a prospect and close the deal with them. No matter what it takes and how long it takes.
Most people don’t understand this sort of mentality. “Why wouldn’t you find a job that allows you to always have success?” Easy guidelines of “if I do this, this will happen and I’ll get a raise and a promotion”. Sounds pretty boring to me. I’d rather have sleepless nights and screaming matches in my brain about why this prospect won’t call me back after 3 months of continuous conversations.
The Long Game never has the same route. One road to a close will never be the same as another. I love that unpredictability and surprise.
Here’s 3 traits any salesman or saleswoman will need in order to play and succeed at The Long Game:
- Patience – As I mentioned, The Long Game could be a 6 month sale or a 6 year sale. You have to have the ability to say, “It didn’t happen today, but I’m doing the right things and it will happen.” You have to have the ability to convey this patience to those around you, too. When you are getting chewed out by your boss because you haven’t closed this deal yet, you have to be able to calmly respond with your plan and your projections of when this deal will close and why it’s important to wait.
- Optimisim – You will constantly hear that all the work you are putting in isn’t going to lead to anything. You’ll hear that they’ll never sign on the dotted line. You’ll hear NO more than any person in your office, your friend circle, your family, etc. It is on you to constantly stay optimistic and know that what you are doing is right and will lead to great things!
- Humility – Sometimes all of this work actually doesn’t pay off to anything. You have a bad quarter or a bad year. You lose your office. You get demoted. You get fired! Most people would blame others or blame the market or just switch professions and act like this never happened. The great ones though, accept it, acknowledge, and take ownership for what’s happened. Once you do this, it’s back to work, but people respect humility and that helps you in The Long Game.
I hope you are all willing to play The Long Game. Short term wins are fun and seem exciting at the time, but they won’t lead to long-term success and a true legacy that can be admired and respected by your family, friends, and co-workers. Keep grinding and keep moving the stick forward.
This post was inspired by a recent close I had that took nearly two years from first LinkedIn message to a final signature. This client has the potential to net my entire one year goal and is a game changer for our organization to break into a new industry and cement ourselves in a new geographical region. It couldn’t have been done without support from my wife, my parents, and a great boss who stuck with me when others in the office questioned where it was going.