“It just doesn’t make sense,” I told him. My frustration was visibly showing. “They want me to more than double the total dollar value of proposals I send out. How can I hit my sales number if I am so busy writing up hundreds of extra proposals?”


My mentor furrowed his brow a bit and look puzzled. “Are you sure that is what they want you to do, more than double the number of proposals?”


“No, they want double the TOTAL DOLLAR VALUE. But to do that, I obviously have to double the amount of proposals.”


“Do you?” He asked? “Take a step back and think about what they are asking you. Do you believe they are stupid? Could there be another explanation? Take a step back and get a better vantage point.”


Take a step back. Great advice. Exactly the advice the 24 year old me needed to hear.


That simple act of pausing and changing one’s perspective opens up possibilities that we just can’t see from our current vantage point. In that instance, taking a step back made me realize that as a company, we were spending too much time chasing small deals. By upping the targeted total dollar value of proposals, the company was forcing the sales team to change it’s behavior and focus on larger accounts, which yield a higher margin and a lower set up cost (and hence generate more commissions for MOI!).


Hard to think I could have any problems with a strategy that would increase my commissions, but from my limited perspective in the moment, I couldn’t see the mission. Your perspective limits your thinking and your interpretation of facts around you as well.


You likely have received directives from sales management in the past that seemed to make no sense. Some of those directives seem to be in contradiction to you being able to get good results. There are no contradictions. There are only conclusions based on faulty premises. Checking premises involves first and foremost taking a step back and changing your perspective. The same applies when you have a prospect who isn’t buying or is stalling for seemingly no reason. Take a step back and change your perspective to find the answers. Stop just pushing on the prospect to by and try to find data points you are not seeing.


If you are a sales manager, you may be asked to give directives to the sales team that you do not understand or agree with. It is irresponsible and an abdication of your leadership responsibilities to either cover for upper management, or cover for the sales team. If you don’t understand or agree, take a step back. Find the why behind the directive, and help your team members to be able to take a step back themselves to understand.


About a year ago, several colleagues and I did one of those escape rooms as a team building event. This was a group of 8 motivated, driven, intelligent and self actualized individuals. We did a good job overall in sharing and cooperating to solve the puzzles in front of us. At the very end, one step away from solving the last puzzle to escape, we were all crowded by the door trying to figure it out. I decided to give my teammates some space to figure it out, and literally took 3 steps backwards away from the door. As soon as I did, my new perspective allowed me to see a clue on the wall that gave us the answer we were searching for. I didn’t even have to give the team the answer, all I had to do was point out the clue on the wall. It was a very literal example of the benefits of taking a step back.


You are now, or you will soon face a challenge of some sort. Be it a prospect that seems stuck on a small detail of the proposal, or a change in the procedures of your company that seems to derail your best efforts. Save yourself some frustration and take a step back, because that is the secret to moving forward.