Heavyweight champion Joe Louis said it best, “You have to be tough and stick it out, or you wind up being nothing.”
Even if you’re not literally fighting your way to greatness, you can be sure that you’ll have to push past a few punches to achieve anything worth pursuing. This certainly applies to any career path, but sales professionals can relate to this sentiment extremely well.
Most people are guilty of embarking on multiple initiatives in their life and not mastering any of them; these half-baked plans can leave you feeling like you’re running on a treadmill.
The key to achieving the life you’ve always imagined for yourself is knowing when you should stick it out through the hard times and when you should cut your losses and quit. Legendary marketer and immensely successful author Seth Godin offers perhaps the best advice on this subject in his transformational book The Dip as you consider important decisions in life.
Using Godin’s insight as a guide, you can be better prepared to stick tough times out with determination or quit with confidence.
Stick: It’ll Be Worth It
If the struggle ultimately results in achieving a life goal, dig in and find ways to keep that endgame in the forefront of your mind.
1. There is long-term potential
Ask yourself why you started in the first place. Is it possible you’ve forgotten the long-term gain and are wallowing in your short-term pain? The honeymoon period of your new sales role has passed and, maybe things have stopped feeling exciting and new.
Challenges always arise, like a week of missing quota or a few tough cold calls. Don’t let momentary challenges deter you from digging your heels into the short-term so it can pay off in the long run.
Remember: most things worth doing are difficult.
2. It hurts
You’ve arrived at “The Dip,” that pesky place that serves as a litmus test to weed out the weak. Recognize this growing pain for what it represents: progress. Seth Godin describes this as the moment you should be waiting for. You’ve already invested a good deal in this pursuit, and now is the time to laser focus on the why that’s driving you. If you’ve developed a habit of getting to this pivotal point and throwing in the towel, then you could be a “serial quitter.”
In winners, this challenge inspires hunger and the determination to conquer.
In serial quitters, it’s a signal they’ve trained themselves to see as a reason to give up.
If you’re in “The Dip,” you’ve gotten farther than most. Now is the time to stick it out, to position yourself as one of the more resilient in the chase, and to use those challenges as major learning experiences that ultimately lead you to get better at your pursuit. Godin’s warning is clear: “Serial quitters waste a lot of time and money, and go nowhere.” Dig into this moment; the overwhelming majority of people won’t.
3. You’re extraordinary!
You are 100% worth the effort you’re putting in, and you owe it to yourself to reap the benefits. Your time is valuable, and you deserve a remarkable return on your investment. One caveat:
The only one standing in the way of that happening is you.
Jobs, relationships, and personal goals will all confront you with various highs and lows. When your pursuits are worth it, you should not only stick through those lows but lean into them, learn from them.
As a sales professional, each time you spend an extra hour refining your call list or following up on a lead with a new approach, your aim sharpens, and you get closer to the next level, and the next, and the next. You’re far more capable than your perceived limitations lead you to believe, and with that said, it’s time to get to work.
Quit: It’s Good For You
Quitting doesn’t mean giving up on a pursuit with long-term value because it’s hard. Instead quit the things that no longer serve your long-term goals.
1. You’re chasing a dead end
We’ve all been there, relentlessly pursuing something that no longer exists. Maybe there are too many elements outside of your control, or perhaps you just don’t ultimately have the passion required. Worst-case scenario, you’re bored out of your mind but too nervous to go in a different direction. Don’t be. Getting out of this “Cul-de-sac,” as Godin calls it, is not only brave but incredibly smart.
Set aside your pride for a moment and consider the facts. If your interest in the long-term gains of this pursuit die and you know deep down that you’re settling for mediocrity, abandon ship before you waste any more time. Mediocrity leads to hitting quota at 70% each month and chalking that up to elements outside of your control when really you’re more committed to the excuses than the challenge of getting to 100%. Godin advises, “If you’re not able to get through the dip in an exceptional way, you must quit. And quit right now.”
These introspective moments can be difficult, but they’re necessary. Stop rationalizing and defending these time and energy vampires. Allocate these precious resources to something worthwhile and achieve the life you actually want.
2. You think there is no turning back
I’ve already committed to this path. I’m in too deep to change course now. This isn’t exciting, but it will keep me afloat. What will people say? What happens if I try something else and it doesn’t work out?
The list of limiting beliefs we feed ourselves day in and day out restricts our ability to achieve happiness. The path to success is littered with self-doubt to overcome, pride to sidestep, and moments of brutal honesty with yourself.
Quitting doesn’t have to mean giving up on the big picture. Quitting could apply to a strategy, an approach, an idea; changing the track doesn’t always mean changing the destination. Maybe you’re not asking your prospect the right questions. Or perhaps you’re tapping out too soon. Likely, you haven’t succeeded in communicating your skin in the game. Godin remarks,
“Selling is about a transference of emotion, not a presentation of facts. If it were, a PDF flyer or a website would be sufficient…if the salesperson is there for the long run, committed to making a sale because it benefits the other person, the signal is sent loud and clear… it changes the entire dynamic.”
This strategy, for example, allows you to be consultative, change course, and improve every touchpoint in the customer journey. It takes strength and intelligence to admit when a sales strategy you believe in isn’t working. Don’t be stubborn and wrong; you’ll be the only one who loses.
3. You’re always in survival mode
Most of us have a crippling fear of failure. But what is failure, really? If you’re putting in just enough effort to make it through, then you’re settling for being average — I assume if you’re reading this, you’re not someone that likes to hear they’re “average.” Rarely do we set out to be mediocre at something. No, we want — and should want — to be extraordinary. And you can be (see: reason 3 to stick it out above) if you’re willing to let go of the idea that being “well-rounded” makes you more marketable.
Focus, find what is worth sticking with, and quit the rest. Surviving and thriving are vastly different from each other and often, in order to thrive, you have to survive first. The key is not living your entire journey in survival mode. Effort spent on things you don’t have the passion, time, or resources for, redirected into something worth fighting for, expedites your journey to those long-term gains that inspired you in the first place.
So, have you made your decision yet?
You likely have a specific pursuit in mind at this point – getting promoted to a closing sales role, finally getting into a workout routine, or even mastering a hobby. Know this: committing can be daunting. Remind yourself that everyone you look up to faced the same uncertainties, the same fears, the same frustrations, the same doubts.
The admiration they inspire comes from the simple fact that they pushed past all that noise and stuck it out where it was worth it; they defeated the dip.
They also quit a LOT of dead ends, backed out of a lot of wrong turns, and refused to settle for being ordinary. Do the same, and you too can have the scarce knowledge of what it feels like to be at the top. Target what you want and pursue it relentlessly, push past the dips, and quit the dead ends.