There is one question I get asked more than any other.  I call it the “one thing” question.  “What’s one thing I should do to be more successful in sales?”

The most accurate answer to that question is that success in sales (or in anything else) doesn’t come down to just one thing.  There is no silver bullet in sales, or in life.  I can however, answer the spirit of that question, and discuss what I think is the most important thing to do.

Well, it’s actually something you should NOT do.  To be successful in sales (or anything else) commit to, above all else, NOT worrying about the things that you do not control. 

Every aspect of your job and your life can be dropped into one of two buckets.  The stuff you can influence (or control) and the stuff you can’t.  Every single minute of time dedicated to worrying or stressing about something in the “no control” bucket is time you are not focusing on things that you can impact.  Laser focusing your brain on things you control, and deliberately freeing yourself from the rest is the single most impactful decision you’ll ever make.

I talk to dozens of salespeople every day, and here are some of the things I hear a lot.

  • The commission plan isn’t right
  • The Company image is hurting my sales
  • Prospects are not responding to my emails
  • The Ops department isn’t delivering
  • The leads are terrible
  • The weather is too bad to sell/The weather is too good to sell
  • It’s a busy time in my market, no one needs my product/service
  • I am worried I won’t make my goal this month
  • Our prices are too high
  • My boss hates me

What do all these things have in common?  You control none of them.  None.  The weather is the weather.  Short of being the god Thor, you are not going to control the weather. You just need to make a plan that accounts for it.

Yeah, but what if….” they’ll tell me.

What if?  What if the government passes a 200% sales tax and puts us all out of business?  What if you get a terminal case call avoidance?  What if a large meteor hits the earth and extinguishes all life on the planet? What if someone invents the new widget that makes our widget irrelevant?

Seriously, stop fretting about stuff you cannot control. It is wasted time.

There are really only 3 things you control in your world of sales.

  1. Your attitude (includes what you choose to focus on)
  2. Your activity (how many calls, how many meetings, how many productive tasks)
  3. Your skill (How good is your 30, how good is your needs assessment, how good is your ROI).
  • Instead of worrying about not making your goal, figure out specific things you can do differently to convert better.
  • Instead of worrying about the price, find a way to identify bigger pain in your prospects and use that leverage to offset your price.
  • Instead of worrying about how your boss feels about you personally, figure out what you can do differently to improve how you work with them. (Habit 5 of the 7 habits)
  • Instead of worrying about prospects not responding to your emails, figure out how you can change them up to get them opened more, or what other ways you can get a response.
  • Instead of worrying about your company’s image (assuming it is in fact bad), start identifying other companies you’d like to work for (You can apply all your sales skills to getting them to hire you!)

There’s an old proverb that states that the train that runs you over is never the one you were worrying about.  That’s because no one gets hit by a train they actually see coming.  If you are standing on the tracks, worrying about what would have happened if the last train that came through hit you, the one behind you is going to squash you like a bug.  TURN AROUND!  There are things you CAN do right now to influence your circumstances. Focus on what you can control.

This seems like a simple concept, but most game changing things are simple.  They are fundamentals that we tend to over-complicate (like the ROI convo).  I constantly have to remind myself to focus on what I control, and let go of the rest, even after some very painful personal experiences taught me that lesson to begin with.

I was listening to a Tim Ferris podcast recently.  He was interviewing one of the most decorated Navy SEALs about the mindset it takes to be elite.  When he asked what the difference was, the answer he got was that SEALs always accept personal responsibility for what is happening, versus focusing on excuses.  He clarified with a statement that hit home. “We don’t worry about what might happen, we just make a plan for everything that might happen, then we start executing plans based on what IS happening”. Now that is proper focus!

How much time are you spending worrying about what might happen, instead of focusing on behaviors that address what is happening now?  Focus on what you control, let go of the rest. That’s as close to a silver bullet as I you’ll ever find.