How Often Do Salespeople Quit After Their First Catch?

Sales guru Paul Reilly discusses the problem of salespeople resting on their laurels after an initial sale instead of continuing to 'fish', and how to change that habit.

On a recent vacation, I observed a seagull tirelessly hunt for twenty minutes. The seagull circled above the ocean and dove 40 or 50 times trying to catch a small fish. Each time, the seagull came up empty-handed. Imagine the exhaustion. After each fruitless attempt, the seagull kept going, never stopping — not even for a moment — to rest. Though instinct, I still admired the seagull’s determination. It continued to dive for fish. After 15 grueling minutes, the seagull finally caught a fish.

The seagull’s tireless effort is not what makes the seagull a great hunter, it’s what the seagull did next. Despite the seagull’s previous success, it kept hunting and caught five fish in a row. Instinctively, the seagull kept hunting.

How often do salespeople quit after they catch the first fish?

Too many salespeople stop after catching that first fish. These salespeople rest on their laurels and celebrate instead of continuing to fish. These salespeople believe this initial success will be enough to carry them. It won’t.

Seagulls instinctively keep hunting. What if you could develop that same instinct? All you need to do is change your habits.

Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit focuses on understanding and changing habits. To change your habits, you need to change the habit loop. The habit loop consists of a cue, routine, and reward. The first step is to understand the cue and then change the routine.

For example, a salesperson has been working on a large order for months. They finally receive the order and take off the rest of the day. The salesperson enjoys a leisurely afternoon rather than continuing to hunt.

In this scenario, the cue is receiving the order. The routine is taking off the rest of the day. The enjoyment from a leisurely afternoon is the reward. To change this habit, the salesperson needs a new routine.

Once the salesperson receives the order (the cue), the new routine could be to follow up on other pending orders, make three prospecting calls, or schedule a meeting with a new prospect. The new routine focuses on hunting for new business.

The previous reward is an afternoon of leisure. The new reward is a sense of greater accomplishment and the security of not going hungry. This sense of accomplishment is enough to compel the person to change. The end result is a new habit.

Successful salespeople are relentless. Just like the seagull, they continue hunting. They don’t give up after failure or success. Although you might catch a fish today, don’t let that success lead to your failure.

Paul Reilly is president of Reilly Sales Training, a St. Louis-based, privately-owned company that specializes in training sales professionals, sales managers and service professionals. Call Paul at 636-778-0175 or email [email protected].

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