Travails and Triumphs. Life and Love. A blow by blow account on the daily life of a sales woman and her quest for world domination one purchase order at a time.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

6 Lessons I learned in the last 10 months

On my first day with my current company, I was full of hope, proud of my background, and was ready to show the company what I got. I moved because I want to move up and that's the only thing I had in mind.
SalesmanImage by petesimon via Flickr

I was forward you see and ate other people's personal space when I was with my last company. I was a loud-mouth gal with an I-don't-give-a-fuck-I-know-the-account-better-than-you sneer. I got a huge award during my rookie year (and being the only gal in the channel at that time) and I had a certain air of pride with what I can do. I saw myself as a Regional Sales Manager level type, and I knew I had it in me. It was only a matter of time before I skipped to the next level.

But of course, being a newbie, I had to restrain myself a bit.

I was all smiles and I tried to be reserved, pleasant, and friendly. I downplayed my uber-confident persona so I could be one with the team. I decided to study first my peers, my boss, and the company culture to know what the level of the playing field I am in. I didn't want to come across as loud-mouthed and obnoxious know-it-all.

My team was a friendly and funny bunch of guys and gals. I soon find myself enjoying their company though I still had my reservations since I know everybody was watching my every move and every utterance that comes out of my mouth. Every nod or facial expression, every frown and squint I made (I don't have 20/20 vision that's why I frown/squint. I can't damn see well that I had to take a higher contact lens prescription), and everything I did or did not do was observed and noted.  I felt like a piece of meat being inspected by a prospective buyer. Being ogled, scrutinized, or talked about is nothing new to me. I was a newbie. It was to be expected.

However, in my mind I knew that my aim was to move up. I wanted to show them what I got, that I deserved to be in the team. I targetted showing what I can do during my first presentation.

I prepared my slides with gusto, crunched figures that I know will be looked for by my boss, showcased photos of store executions, and table of issues and next steps that will be implemented in my account. I was confident I will ace my first presentation. I was nervous, but I knew I could hack it.

I have never felt so stupid and humiliated in my life. 

Don't get me wrong, my boss was pleasant and nice, and so was my team.

I was just transfixed at how seamlessly my other peers presented their accounts. No fancy slides with side bars and circles highlighting their charts, unlike mine. My boss kept asking questions that I had not anticipated and had no clear answer to give.

Where the heck did that came from? I thought I anticipated all the questions since I have been doing this kind of stuff for 5 friggin' years already!

I underwent training for crying out loud on how to present! How come I felt I was not able to give my message across? I had the figures there, I showed store executions, I even had issues and next steps! Should I have not omitted my SWOT analysis?

From that moment on I only felt one thing I fervently wished I would never feel again. INADEQUACY.

I dragged myself home that night wondering what the hell have a put myself into? I was in my first month, my sales performance was dismal (due to year-end inventory build up), and my presentation did not seem to make a dent of good impression on my boss and my peers.

In the words of Anthony Bourdain, My torment, my disgrace was complete.

The days of sulking and self pity dragged on to weeks, and then to months. All my previous accomplishments and words of praise from major account owners that gave me the confidence to kick-ass whenever, wherever, shriveled up and went to ashes.

Gone was the gal who butts in at every conversation giving out snippets of sales wisdom and tips for weary new sales hires who are confused at what to do with their accounts. I became one of my previous tutored minions who did not know which end to begin. My dream of world domination one purchase order at a time went kaput. And there's no The Person I Admire the Most to wake me up from the slump that keeps spiralling me down. I was all alone.

I achieved a speed to market award and was instrumental in making my company attain a special supplier award. I gained thumbs-up with a certain department for a job well-done on cleaning up certain issues with an account I was handling. But that was not enough to boost my spirits.

All I saw were my inadequacies. Certain parameters that I was not up-to-par with, challenged figures, and miniscule contributions. 

I was a walking talking has-been. It showed. Really showed.

I came to work early to be able to accomplish much, taking my work home to accomplish more. But at the end of the day, my only accomplishment was not getting enough sleep, getting Pityriasis Rosea from the stress, and easily broken hair. My inadequacies remained. 

I tried everything to feverish prayers, paralysis from analyzing numbers in front of my laptop, visiting my branches and looking for unseen opportunities to gain extra sales, and even channeling The Secret so that positive vibes rub-off on me and hopefully be able to translate into   a stellar performance on my end.

My boss, pointed out some of the things he noticed. It was only a matter of time. I was actually waiting for it to happen. So much for channeling The Secret. 

Turns out that Negative Reinforcement still works its magic on me. The masochistic gal that I am, I thrive when people think lowly of me. It pushes me to grit my teeth and fight.

It worked.

I gained a sales high since I started with this company. Historically, it was paltry to what I was churning out in previous years. 40 million bucks of sales monthly was just usual to me way back. I could cough up 20 million more if needed. But delivering half (plus blood and sweat and dashes of stress) of what I could produce before (without breaking a sweat mind you) almost made me jump for joy and dance the funky chicken.

I was riding high. For the first time I felt I was able to contribute. I felt useful once more.

But, as the old sales adage goes "You're only as good as your last performance".

The adrenaline of being able to contribute was short-lived.

I confidently committed to a figure I knew I would get because there were a lot of factors involved that I knew would side on me. High with feeling useful once more, no longer humiliated with myself for not being able to produce much, I committed.

Being the cautious person that I am, I often stick to the safe side when it comes to numbers commitment. Under promise and over deliver worked for me for many years. It had served me well.

This time around I overestimated the situation. The factors I was relying on the be able to hit my commitment may not be able to push thru. I was screwed if I don't do something about it.

Damage control is the order for the day.

As of this writing I am doing damage control, putting other options on the table to turn things around. Or, at the very least, soften the blow.

I will not delve much on it because I have yet to see the end of this. I will just let it go and let God.

I will update you on the turn out whether good or bad. But I'm leaning on the positive side of things.

So what is the moral of this tirade?

1. Humiliation leads to humility.   For 5 years I knew I was good, heck, even better than the so-called veterans. Wrong! It only takes one instance that will slap you in the face and will tell you to get off your high horse. Some may be literal humiliation, other times it's just plain old realizing that you come up short and need to catch up and learn more. Lucky for me it was the latter. But somehow the blow is harder than the former. There will always be people who know more than you do. It's always up to you to catch up and be at par or more.

2. You're only as good as your last performance. It's an old adage, I know. Enjoy the moment. After a few minutes, move on. But duplicate the factors that made you succeed.

3. Stop wallowing and do something. Sales life isn't fair. One day you're on top, the next a has-been. Accept it as a fact like you need air to live. Stop wallowing in self pity that you're not as sharp as you used to be or as good as you used to be. If you keep at it you'll only end up bald,  acne-ridden, depressed, or, God-forbid, die of hypertension. The only thing you can do is improve yourself and do something about it.

4. Admit mistakes but take action first. Exhaust all possible means to
Boxing is a traditional Western combat sport.Image via Wikipedia
 achieve your goal. If you made a mistake, admit it. But before you do, make sure you tried all the options you can think of to turn things around. Don't go down without putting up a good fight.

5. Fine-tune your internal motivation engine. Keep it in check. Don't rely on other people to build your confidence. More often than not you are on your own.

6. Let go and Let God. Or for other people, let it go and go with the flow. Some things are beyond your control (like the weather for instance). You just have to roll whatever card comes up after you've taken all the necessary measures.

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