Recently, I began coaching a remarkable entrepreneur named Robert (real name withheld). He graduated from a premier US university, and landed a successful fast-paced job in marketing, where he rose through the ranks so quickly that he was able to create his own company in the same industry. He enjoyed 13 years of incredible success, selling millions upon millions of dollars worth of products. He became so successful that, over time, thanks to one of his biggest clients, he began spending all of his sales efforts on them. It was an obvious choice, since that client was responsible for a large majority of his sales. It wasn’t that he neglected his other clients—he didn’t—he just didn’t feel the need to do more prospecting, since most of his time was spent servicing his number one client. The plan worked well for years, until the last 18 months, when his largest client encountered its own financial troubles. Orders slowed to a trickle, and communication became strained. When sales opportunities did arise, they wanted him to do more for less—so much less that Robert had to lay off people in his company. Yet, he wasn’t the only one handing out pink slips to people—his lead client was leading the lay-off charge.
For months, Robert found himself in denial—not believing that this situation could be happening to him. He was, after all, the CEO/Founder of multi-million dollar company that, for years, had been quite successful. Yet now, he found himself alone and confused—wondering if this was even the business for him. Months of relative in-action compiled, while he kept hoping for his main client to make a turnaround. When we starting discussing his situation, he was incredibly hard on himself for leading a company with declining sales—he often repeated himself as if he had been hit by a stun gun. In a way, he had been hit by one—and I get his feelings, because I’ve been there too. I know what it’s like to be at the top of your game one day then be in a free-fall the next day. The year after the Inc 500 announced that we were one of the fastest growing companies in the country (#4 overall), we were faced with going bankrupt. Your emotions run wild—they can freeze you into in-action where you literally look like that proverbial “deer in the headlights” walking around like a zombie. Your in-action compounds on itself to a point where you just sit at your desk, staring out the window with no idea what to do. I’ve been there—I get it.
Welcome to the Jungle
There is nothing worse than in-action. As Wayne Gretsky would say, “I missed a 100% of the shots I didn’t take.” The same can be said about making sales—you’ll miss 100% of the sales you don’t try to make. The first step with Robert was helping him get back in the sales saddle. He often said, “I’m lost—I can’t believe this is happening to me.” The key is moving from denial to taking action toward things that will help turnaround your situation. When you’re in the jungle, it is very easy to focus on how miserable you are—throwing yourself the ultimate pity party for what has happened TO YOU.
Step One is shifting your focus from what happened to making simple, deliberate actions that will help you move forward.
This is easier said than done, because falling is hard and disorienting—not to mention that you landed in this metaphorical jungle where you don’t know which way to go. In the past couple of days, Robert and I chatted in a rainstorm. We huddled in my car and found a moment of laughter in the deluge that occurred during our meeting. In our discussion, he mentioned how lost he felt—and it was at that point that we talked about the “jungle.” There are so many things that can grab your focus when you’re battling to hack a path in your jungle. The key is staying focused at making a path—not paying attention to your misery, but instead taking action—in his case, making prospecting calls. It’s not complicated, it’s just hard. In short order, he started dusting off the prospecting calling muscles that he used so effectively earlier in his career—and guess what happened? He started finding success. It’s wasn’t a huge sale—it wasn’t even a sale yet, but it was a positive call. One little success can help build the momentum for more, but the key is to keep swinging that sales machete in the jungle—it’s the only way to get out.
The good news is that Robert has found success before—he knows how to swing the sales machete. The key to his path will be swinging it with intention—with focus on moving forward—each day. It’s hard, and it’s where I’m going to help him win. If you find yourself alone, the first thing that can help you is finding a “swim buddy”—a partner who is there to support you, encourage you, and not judge you on why you got there, but focus instead how to get you out. Robert isn’t out of the jungle yet, but now he accepts the fact that he’s in it, and he’s starting to take actions, which are already showing promise.
Each day for Robert is about going All-in and Moving forward, because that’s how anything great happens—getting up each day, giving it your all, regardless of the outcome, and then repeating the process again and again.
Alpha Mike, Robert.