Finish Strong

Selling can be one of the most rewarding professions. After all, how many other professions offer you the ability to make money in direct proportion to your efforts? For me, even more rewarding than the money was the thrill of the hunt: seeking out a prospective buyer, trying to engage them, finding a need and ultimately providing a solution. The money that followed was a nice byproduct of finding a solution to a problem.

But it can also be one of the most frustrating professions. Trying to find prospects, trying to get them to open up and, heck, sometimes just getting them to call you back can all be extremely discouraging. In my 20 years as a selling professional, I’ve experienced just about every emotion you can imagine. In fact, you can go from the lowest lows to the highest highs in a single phone call.

A critical factor to my selling success is my commitment to finish strong in all I do. That’s right, to finish strong. Those two words stuck in my brain in my early selling days, and they have provided me with my own personal platform for achievement. As we near the end of this challenging year, I can think of no better advice than to finish strong.

"I find myself accountable to not only myself, but also to the world around me. To quit with 30 seconds left is simply not an option for me. In sales, I have leaned on my commitment countless times to reach my goals."

Early on, I struggled to get my selling career going. The finish-strong mentality helped me stay accountable to my goals, objectives and tasks. Let me explain.

In life, sports and business, you’re certain to encounter barriers to your goals and objectives. Sometimes, these moments come in a split second, and sometimes they come over a long period of time. Regardless, you, and only you, have the power to choose how to respond to the challenges in front of you. The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you respond that matters.” When you adopt the finish-strong mentality, you create a level of personal accountability that guides you through critical decision points. I call these decision points finish-strong moments—the points in time when you must decide which path to take. Will you lie down, settle and quit, or will you move forward toward your goal to the best of your ability?

I was in the gym last week boxing. We were doing three-minute rounds and I was exhausted. With 30 seconds to go in the last round, I thought I was going to pass out. partners know about my commitment to finish strong, and I find myself accountable to not only myself, but also to the world around me. To quit with 30 seconds left is simply not an option for me.

In sales, I have leaned on my commitment countless times to reach my goals. I’ve got some examples to share with you, but first, one point about goals: Write them down and keep them visible. I know you’ve heard this, but the power of writing a goal down is paramount to maintaining focus and ultimately reaching your goal. I first learned the power of this from an exercise at a sales training course I attended early in my selling career. One night, we were instructed to list our blessings, beliefs, objectives and desires. Without going into the entire list, let me share a few of the things I wrote down: Blessings: I am healthy, strong and have great family support. Beliefs: Hard work yields results. I can accomplish anything. Objectives: Double my income and cut my debt in half by the end of the year. Desires: Learn to race cars. Provide for a future wife and a family.

The next thing I did was to type the list on a piece of paper the size of a business card and laminate it. Then, I carried it with me in my wallet. I would read it in the morning, during the day and before I went to bed at night. This ritual created a focus like I never had before. It helped me stay positive and helped me to keep my eye on the prize.

After attending the sales course, I took a new strategy back to the sales front line. Basically, I got back to basics.

First off, I needed to build a solid pipeline. I’d taken on a new territory, and there was no significant pipeline to speak of. In order to begin building it, I committed to making 25 prospect calls per day via the telephone. But I struggled to meet my daily goal for several weeks. I needed something to help me. Being a visual person, I got an idea. I took 25 paperclips and set them on a drink coaster next to the phone. For each meaningful sales call, I would put one paperclip back in the holder. I resolved to never leave the office until all of the paperclips were gone—to finish strong each day. My territory spanned east to west, so I could call until late into the night if I needed.

For the next six months, I stayed focused on the goal of 25 calls. There were many times at the end of the day when everyone else was leaving and I had a paperclip sitting there staring at me. It was tempting to leave and ask myself to make 26 calls the next day, but that was not part of the plan. I can honestly say I never left a paperclip on the coaster and I never put one back I did not earn. In that fi rst year, I tripled my income and stuffed my pipeline to the point that I never had to make a cold call again.

As I sat down to finish this column, I was overcome with emotion. My mother passed away without warning, and I’m currently with my family planning the memorial service. For some, writing a motivational piece could easily be put aside for now. However, I made a commitment to meet a deadline, and I’m eager to share this concept with you. So I’m leaning on my commitment to finish strong right now as I write. I know that’s what my mother would want me to do.

So I don’t want to paint this rose-colored picture that when you decide to fi nish strong, all of a sudden, your world will change and good things will come easy. The fact of the matter is, living a finish-strong life is hard—rewarding, but hard. You see, when you adopt this mindset and hold yourself accountable to it, you’ll find yourself being more committed, more disciplined, more enthusiastic and more focused. This puts pressure on you to perform to the best of your ability. If you can’t handle this pressure, then you’re resigning yourself to mediocrity. But, if you resolve to fi nish strong in all you do, I can promise you that you will gain much more satisfaction in life than if you choose a different path. Oh, and, yes, I did have the opportunity to drive race cars. But that’s a whole ’nother story.

Dan Green is a sales leader and trainer, founder of Finish Strong LLC and is the executive vice president of Simple Truths.

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