5 Principles for Success in Sales and Life

Long ago while I was a summer college student salesmen with The Southwestern Company, I heard a motivational speech by the late great Mort Utley. He spoke on the 5 key principles of success. After over 30 years I’ve not forgotten them and realize that I have incorporated them into all I do, think, teach, coach and counsel – from my children to my corporate sales training and management consulting clients.

The 5 Principles are 1) Think big, 2) Know what you want, 3) Do your homework, 4) Have a positive mental attitude, and 5) Value and manage your time. Wisdom and fundamentals never go out of style.

When you think big, something always happens. Many people think small and achieve something less than they really could have achieved. Winners see the possibilities, reach out farther and swing for fences. Big dreams, big thoughts and big goals yield results far beyond the masses. In sales, those that think big set big goals. Shooting for 200% may only produce 120%. Aiming for 100% might only achieve 80%. Expectations drive everything. Set them appropriately, not unreasonably, and you will exceed mundane expectations all around you. Whether it’s your revenue growth target, new customer acquisitions, territory penetration, career or personal family aspirations, think big and watch what happens.

Understand what you want to achieve, and then set goals to get there. One has to know the target before one can hit a bullseye. Focus and determination need to chase a goal. In sales we have quota targets and objectives. We also have bands of time in quarters, months, weeks, days and hours. We can break down our goals into chunks of manageable and observable time. Now we have something to work toward. I was taught once and now always say: “There are those that make excuses and those that find a way.” Once I know my manageable target, it was then on me to simply find a way to obtain it.

Knowledge and skill breeds confidence and competence. Get the prep work done and study what needs to be mastered and understood. Amazing how many around us don’t put in the time to become prepared. Whether it a sales pitch, customer presentation, product information, competitive material, industry knowledge or staying current and relevant with selling best-practices, the best of the best come ready for battle. There’s but a small difference between successful and highly effective people and those who are not – successful and effective people do their homework.

Yes, positive mental attitude – the old PMA. Think yes, never no. Smile, never frown. Sounds old fashioned and trite. Think again. Indeed you are what you think and the attitude you bring to any situation. Many a salesperson (anybody for that matter) has gotten mired in negativity and spiralled downward. It’s how you think and deal with these trials that determine success and the ability to climb upward from doldrums. Certainly problems abound in a broken world – and with customers, products and organizations. Yet you can be a source of peace, light and correction. How you mentally and then physically approach the challenges in sales (and life) is critical to your own well-being and for those around you.

If you waste an hour, you can never replace it. The cumulative effect of competently and consistently performing prioritized activities is profound. Without a prioritized attack plan one can become overwhelmed. I see it all the time in the sales world. Large territories, numerous leads of varying quality, then add customer issues and sales process complexities. Too many moving parts; too little time. What’s a salesperson to do? Don’t panic – stay on it. Determine all valued actions, then scope and understand their impact and timing. Daily. Appropriately manage your schedule and make adjustments to the action plan as priorities move. Bottom line: do good things well and often, with an understanding and accounting for every hour.