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The Green Sheet Online Edition

February 09, 2009 • Issue 09:02:01

Stand by your plan

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

I'd like to share a story one of my mentors recently told me about a pivotal point in his career. In the 1980s, he was the top salesperson in his company. His weekly production exceeded the next-highest person by over 80 percent. And his commissions reflected his supreme level of achievement.

He reached a point where he was no longer selling; he was just taking orders from his existing clients.

Week one

One Friday, he realized he hadn't sold anything all week. This concerned him, but he figured it was just a brief anomaly. By Wednesday of the following week, however, when there were still no sales, he decided he had better make a few calls.

Week two

The end of week two quickly came and went, and he had still made no sales. He became very concerned. He started doing all the things he had done to originally build his sales:

  • He made cold calls.
  • He went to networking meetings.
  • He called his referral sources.

Even with all this effort, his total sales still amounted to zero.

Week three

By the third Friday, he was feeling like a failure. He thought maybe his run was over, and he should consider obtaining a second job as a bartender - just to make ends meet.

He began to slump at his desk and stare at his phone, hoping it would ring. He dragged himself home at the end of each day, snapped at his wife, ignored his children and drifted slowly into a state of depression.

His sales skills began to decline. He was no longer selling from a place of confidence, but out of panic. This hampered his ability to reach out to new clients. His tone and attitude were obvious: He was desperate, and it showed.

Week four

But on the Thursday of the fourth week, everything changed. Sales flooded in at a pace he had never seen. His existing clients all placed orders, and prospects he had contacted during the slow period began placing orders, too.

By the end of the day, his total sales exceeded any previous week's total. His commissions that Friday were the biggest he had ever received.

He was thrilled. He realized that he wasn't a failure. In excitement, he called his wife. "Honey, get a sitter," he said. "We are going out and celebrating."

Her response surprised him. "I will get a sitter, but we aren't going out," she said. "We are going to talk."

Reality check

Arriving home, he found the kids gone, but his wife was not dressed to go out on the town. He asked why she didn't want to celebrate when he had just had the biggest week of his career.

She replied, "Celebrate what? I am considering leaving you. For the past two weeks you have been miserable, and you have taken it out on us. We have all suffered, and it's not fair or right."

He was shocked. He apologized. He explained how his sales had plummeted. Consumed with worry about the future, he had been working twice as hard but with no sales. Her response was the best advice he ever received.

The advice

"You say you were doing all the right things," she said. "You say you were making your calls, attending your functions and still no sales? So what? Can you make them say yes? Can you make people buy who can't or won't? If you did everything you could do, why did you consider yourself a failure?"

She was right. He had done all the right things. He had made all the sales calls and done all the proper follow up. He couldn't make people buy anything; he could only push them to make decisions.

His wife's honest feedback made him stop and consider his approach to sales. He needed to change how he perceived success.

The lessons

His story is even more poignant in today's payments sphere. Let us remember the lessons he learned:

  • You can control only your actions, not the actions of others. If you follow your sales plan and do everything correctly, you are successful - whether you sell something or not.

  • Success is found each time you get a decision. Remember that a no is a decision. You still win when someone tells you no.

  • You only fail when you don't follow your sales plan. Failure is not a slow period in sales; it's when you do not execute the proper steps to reach clients and get decisions.

  • Your value is not found in the sales you make. Don't tie your self-esteem to the size of your commissions; instead, tie your value to the efforts you make. And make the right efforts.

Revamped plan

If you are following your plan but are not seeing results, don't belittle yourself. Examine your plan, and make adjustments. Ask others to examine your efforts. The people you consult don't have to be in our industry, but if they are in sales - and are successful - they can help you evaluate your action plan.

One caveat: Pick someone who has the same values and understanding of sales as you.

Also, consider your goals. Set realistic goals that you can accomplish with your actions. Realize that getting a potential customer to reach a decision is a worthy goal for you, even if the decision is no or not now.


My mentor's belief that he was failing, even though he was following his proven plan, impacted his confidence. It jeopardized his relationships with others and almost cost him his marriage.

He and his wife have been married for over 30 years now. For him, that's the true measure of success in sales. What's yours? end of article

Jeff Fortney is Director of Business Development with Clearent LLC. He has more than 12 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at jeff@clearent.com or 972-618-7340.

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