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Personal Development in Sales

You’ve heard this expression before (or any of its iterations:) “You can take the boy out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the boy!” So what the heck does that old saying have to do with sales you may ask?


The Person Behind the Sales Professional

There are many sales professionals who feel that they need only improved their critical sales skills in order to improve in their sales careers. They spend time working on prospecting, closing, presentation, rapport building and networking skills, and (some) make a daily decision to always work towards improvement. But when asked what they are doing to improve their personal lives, they often respond “I worry about that when I am not at work. Work is time to focus on work-related skills only.”

How wrong they are!

Let’s look at an example of two sales professionals; Bill and Jim. Both have been in software sales for around 2 years and both have months when they hit their quotas and months that they struggle to reach their expected revenue numbers. Both Bill and Jim are pulled aside by their respective managers and are told that they need to “pick up their games” and to “deliver expectations on a more consistent basis.”

Bill’s Approach

Bill takes his manager’s “warning” seriously, and decides to spend at least 30 minutes everyday reading more about his industry, practicing his critical sales skills and building his professional network. Each morning, Bill gets to his office early and plans his day out to make sure that he maximizes his selling time. He makes a point of getting all his paperwork and “busy work” done as quickly (and as thoroughly) as he can so that he can devote more time to sales.

When Bill gets home after a long day of sales-related activities, he is spent. He spends some more time reviewing what sales activities he did well and which he needs to improve on. The last things Bill does before he goes to bed is to review his tomorrow and to begin strategizing how he will approach each of his sales calls.

Jim’s Approach

Jim also took his manager’s words to heart and realizes that working on his sales skills alone won’t deliver the expected or desired results. He begins to realize that his energy levels often wane by mid-afternoon and he is usually too tired (emotionally and physically) by Friday to give 100% effort to his sales job.

Jim decides to start exercising at least 4 times per week, changes his diet to include a more healthy balance of food and to make sure that he gets enough sleep at night.

Jim also realizes that his emotional state or “mindset” isn’t serving him well as he recognizes that he is quick to feel overwhelmed and gives up on sales cycles too early. Jim finds some “business related” coaching support that gives him some tools and technologies that help him better manage his mindset.

While working on developing a more empowering mindset, Jim realizes that his personal relationships, or more accurately his lack of attention to his relationships have been a major player in his overall attitude. Jim begins to realize that when he would come home from work he would often feel a bit of unease as he felt he and his wife were growing apart.

Jim quickly makes a decision to “put first things first” and decides that his personal relationships are of critical importance to him and makes a commitment to doing something everyday to build on his marriage.

But Jim also recognizes that his critical sales skills have weakened over the years so he takes a course on time management and builds in time to work on his sales skills every day.

Fast Forward Three Months

Bill’s numbers showed a sharp but temporary increase over the last three months. While his dedication to improving his sales skills was impressive, his attitude in the office began to cause some issues with the team. His health seem to suffer a bit and it was obvious to everyone who knew Bill that he was too focused on his career to notice that other areas of his life were falling into trouble.

Jim’s numbers did not increase as quickly as did Bill’s, but they did improve and seem to be headed even higher. His attitude, health and focus showed a drastic improvement and Jim has evolved into a leader in the office and his professional network is starting to see Jim as a real “player” in the sales industry.

Fictional or Reality?

If, while reading this article, you were thinking that this scenario was a work of fiction, think again. Not only did this scenario happen (albeit some poetic license was employed) but it happens in sales offices around the world everyday. Those that realize that their career in sales is but one part of their lives and know that to improve one life-area at the expense of another is a recipe for disaster, are leading more fulfilled and successful lives. Those that focus only to improving their sales skills in order to advance their careers are doing themselves an incredible injustice.

Organizations and Associations like NASP don’t just provide tools and advice on how their members can improve their sales results, but also how members can improve the overall quality of their lives. You, as a dedicated sales professional, need to realize that your dedication to improvement may begin with a desire to earn more money or to advance your career, but must evolve into a commitment to improving each and every area of your life.

Do not let one area of your life prove to be the weak link that renders the chain useless. While you may not be able to take the city (or core essential) out of the boy, you can focus on improving the core essential, making the whole person more fulfilled, integrated and authentic.

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