Lessons from reality TV to help you become a better Ag Sales Professional
Rebuilding your overweight and underperforming territory
Many years ago, I was running hills on a training run to get ready for my 7th marathon. As I did, something snapped in my ankle and suddenly I was in extreme pain and couldn’t put weight on it. No, it wasn’t my Achilles heel, although it felt like it. The next nineteen years were a medical odyssey of trying to figure out what was wrong and how to fix it. Two surgeries, dozens of physical therapy appointments, and numerous cortisone injections but still not better.
Fast forward 19 years and my wife and I had become fans of the reality show “The Biggest Loser” and “Extreme Weight Loss”. If you can handle the emotional side of those shows, it’s worth watching. The way the contestant’s lives are transformed forever is truly amazing. Most had both physical and emotional problems that resulted in major weight gain.
While I wasn’t in that bad of shape, the inactivity of the previous 19 years added a few pounds too many and I was gaining at a rapid rate. Not to mention, I was snoring (through my CPAP) and was told I needed to get on cholesterol medicine. My physical fitness was at an all-time low as I watched an episode, which involved a 370-pound individual with knee issues. Then it hit me. The lessons from the show started sinking in. I had been too busy focusing on the high level of physical fitness I was missing out on to realize what I still could do. I thought about the sub-7-minute miles I could click off so easily. Now, I could barely shuffle down the street. I decided, after seeing these contestants deal with their problems, that I could still shuffle. So, I shuffled. Over the course of the next two years, shuffling turned into jogging, running, biking, hiking, and ultimately back into racing (triathlons) but with a much more appreciative view.
Your territory may go through the same journey. It starts out lean and full of positive energy as the company hands over the geography or customers to you. “Good luck, kid!” is the usual sentiment. Over the years, you add to it, going from lean & mean to healthy, then maybe stout or pudgy. Maybe your territory gets overweight with customers who aren’t producing for you or who hold you back from reaching your goals. Take some lessons from one of the more positive reality shows out there and reinvent your territory back to a healthy business.
How Do the Lessons Apply to Your Territory?
Too often, we look at the top of the mountain (goal), determine that it’s such a big job, and then procrastinate. At sales meetings, we see the top performers getting awards and hearing great stories of how good it’s going for them. Customers are just jumping at the opportunity to work with them. They are on top of their game. Then we go back to our territory and fret over how big the journey will be to get to that level. So, we do the worst possible thing, which is to procrastinate. We know we need to prospect and call on more customers per day, but we find reasons to keep doing what’s comfortable or safe. We know we need to use the basic steps of the sales process, but we find ways to make our sales calls more like social visits because that feels good or seems not-so-salesy.
The victory for any amateur athlete is not that you cross the finish line, it’s that you show up at the starting line. And as I stood on the beach in the cold Florida air at 6:30 in the morning and waited for the cannon to sound the start of the race, I realized it. The secret to losing 60 pounds and being able to complete the 140.6-mile Ironman was to just get started. The secret for you to achieve a high level of sales successor or any sales is to just get started. To quit dreaming and take the first step.
So, whether the timing is right or wrong – just get started. That means now! (I mean right after you get done reading this article!)
2. Do What is Sustainable:
My next and most important lesson in this whole journey is “Do What is Sustainable”. How many of us have made great resolutions on Jan 1, worked hard on them for a couple of weeks, and then failed to keep up the momentum? We make a grand event out of the process. We sign up at the gym or shop for brand-new workout clothes. Then we announce that we are going to work out for an hour each day for the rest of our lives. Here’s my advice – Skip the pomp and ceremony of it all. Start at an unimportant time or place. Pick a Tuesday at 11:37 or a Thursday at 9:14 p.m. The New Year’s Eve hangover lasts longer than most people’s ability to uphold a resolution. So, don’t wait and don’t gather an audience before doing it. Just prove it by doing it.
Start small and gain momentum. I started my fitness journey with a couple of hundred yards of shuffling, followed by walking fast.
By starting small, you will sustain it. Who can’t spare 10, 15, or 20 minutes of their time on a critical task? Give yourself zero tolerance for meeting your commitment. By this, I mean you do it every single day. No excuses, no exceptions. In your territory – commit to making two prospect calls, writing one proposal, or stopping your day for 15 minutes to get organized. If you tell yourself that you will do it most days or as much as you can or that you will try, then you will fail. You will absolutely find some excuse to skip it. Make it a zero-tolerance policy of not missing a day, at least for the first 3-6 months.
What small commitment can you make to yourself right now? Today? One that you will complete every single day? 2 phone calls a day? I’m sure you can spare the 10-15 minutes this might take. That adds about 500 phone calls a year to your sales process. Somewhere in those 500 calls, there is a great prospect you will begin a relationship with. That relationship will someday turn into one of your biggest accounts.
3. Get a Support Network
Whatever shape or form it takes…friends, peers, a coach, a supervisor, self-development material, etc. You are going to hit some lows and some highs. Your success rate of surviving the lows goes up dramatically when you have a support network. Someone or something that can help you out of those times when things aren’t going so great. Someone who believes in you and your journey. Most importantly, this person is an accountability partner. You feel accountable to a higher cause when someone is expecting you to follow through on your plans.
The coaches on The Biggest Loser are as much a part of the competition as the contestants. They are there to push and drive contestants, but they also provide two key components. The first is expert advice. They advise on working too hard, not resting enough, injury prevention, nutrition, etc. You need to find the person who can help you with this kind of coaching. They need to know you and know your business.
The second thing the coaches are providing is belief. They believe in the contestant even when the contestant loses belief in themselves. You see this when the coach has pushed them and they hit rock bottom. The coach will turn the conversation from pushing them into one of believing in the contestant to accomplish and reach the goal. This phase is critical as many of the people on the show never had someone believe in them. This pulls them through this valley of despair and back onto the path of reaching their goal. Find that person in your life who does that for you. Even those that have previously had success in their lives, still have those times of doubt and disbelief. Often, the show will have celebrity athletes as contestants who have grown out of shape and are now down on their fitness: Gold medalists, Super Bowl champs, etc. They too need the power of a support network, the push to “Just Start” and a sustainable path.
Who is your accountability partner? Don’t wait for them to be assigned. Go out and find one that fits you best. Look around and pick a positive, knowledgeable person within your organization. High trust and high interest in your success as a person are most important.
4. Know yourself
A key component of a long journey is knowing yourself. At each stage of the journey, you will face challenges and emotions: setbacks, breakthroughs, tiredness, excitement, over-confidence, under-qualified, overloaded, or feeling stuck are just a few.
Know when you are getting too low and need to utilize your resources – primarily your accountability partner. Know when you are going off track and need to use dashboards, CRM, peer advice, or coaching to get back on track. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Then, expand your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses. Know how you show up at work and in front of your customers.
When contestants go through the Biggest Loser, they find out a lot about themselves. Most find out how resilient and tough they really can be. A few don’t stick with the program but even they figure out what is important. By knowing when they will fail and when they will succeed, they know when to reach out for help or when to make course corrections so they can keep going.
Whether your territory is out of shape, a little heavy, or downright overweight, get started today on getting fit with these four steps!
For Success in your territory
- Get Started
- Do What is Sustainable
- Get an Accountability Partner
- Know Yourself