Chapter 6: How OCD Will Help my Career

I’ve been watching a collection of Monk reruns recently, and as charming as Adrian Monk’s ingenious, quirky character is, I can’t help but cringe along with his castmates when I look up to see him straightening the shades of every single lamp occupying the room of a murder scene.  This is not because his obsessive compulsive tendencies make me uncomfortable, it’s actually quite the opposite: I see a little too much of myself in him.  I know exactly how it feels to need to tap surrounding objects in a given pattern an exact number of times.  I, too, have obsessive compulsive disorder, and contrary to the condition’s portrayal on Monk, it has helped me on a regular basis.

Playing competitive collegiate tennis is stressful.  You push your body as hard as you can for hours every day, and then have the pressure resting on your shoulders of making it pay off.  There will be times the match is all tied up, you’re the last one on court, everybody is depending on your win to feel that pay off, and you’ve got to close.  My mind deals with that stress by thinking compulsively.  I’ll say to myself, “If you don’t tap the back fence with your right shoulder twice, touch your forehead to your strings, and tap right in front of the baseline with the edge of your racket three times, you’re going to lose this point.”  Yes, I have absolutely received time warnings from this process, but I have also refined it.  I’ve focused my energy on transforming “if you don’t do this you’re going to lose,” into, “if you do this, you’re going to win the point.”  I might have to complete a series of ridiculous looking tasks, not without drawing some whispers from the sidelines, but by the time I walk up to the baseline and start the point, I am fully convinced that I am meant to win that point.  Each person has to find their own way of dealing with that stress.  I’ve got it covered: my coping strategy is built-in.  I might have to listen to my compulsions and deal with judgemental stares in the process, but I was also the clincher in the finals of the NCAA tournament to win Emory a national championship.  There’s clearly something to it.

I’m graduating this year, and inevitably, my tennis career will come to an abrupt halt.  I’ve made the decision to channel my competitive energy into a career that requires it, and I am confident that having OCD will help me be successful in my sales career.  Having OCD will keep me in a continuous state of keeping my act fully together, because that’s the only option I have.  I’ve had to close out a match hundreds of times; I can, and will, use the same strategies to close out a sale.

Some of the key trials of the sales process I’ve learned thus far from my sales development internship at LeadUp are: staying calm and level-headed, being relatable, preparing sufficiently, adopting a customer-centric model (CCM) rather than a sales-centric one, and inspiring passion in your champion.  So, let’s address those one by one:

  • The solution to staying calm and appearing relatable is founded in stress management, because the only way to exude a relaxed persona is to really be relaxed.  While everybody else is searching for their tick, like I said before, my stress-coping mechanism is built in.  I’ve found what keeps me calm when it matters, and I’ll continue to utilize it.
  • Doing the pre-call preparation and incorporating the CCM are two things you just need to get done; that’s really all there is to it. From having OCD, I am very familiar with what it feels like to be overwhelmed when you fail to just get things done, and the solution is developing a refined routine, something I have all too much experience with.  Adopting the CCM and completing the necessary research will become part of my pre-call routine, and I don’t stray from a routine, trust me.
  • Finally, the secret behind inspiring a passionate champion is coming from a passionate standpoint.  My experience with positively directing my thoughts will translate directly to being passionate, because my results truly mean everything to me.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may be defined by having intrusive thoughts, but those thoughts can be proactive if utilized positively.  By the time I’m through with refining this method, it’ll be as close to perfect as I can get; anything else would irk me to no end.   I know what you’re thinking, “Wait, does this mean that if I don’t have OCD I’m doomed as a salesperson?” The answer is no!  Well, even if you weren’t thinking that, tune into my future blogs to find out how all you non-compulsive-regular-people can succeed in sales ;).

Chapter 3: Finding Your Champion

 Professional inspiration and subsequent execution stems from passionate foundations.  After listening in on a couple of sales presentations, the take-away I’ve drawn is this: I should seek to inspire a passion for success within each and every one of my clients.  Passion offers the most direct route to motivation.  In the context of sales, connecting with a passionate employee-advocate means that you have found your champion. This particular kind of champion is a rarity.  They have the power, internal drive, and motivation to take your product through the tedious bureaucracy of their company, to upper management, and ultimately put in the work it takes to integrate it into their system.  All it takes to achieve that goal of making a sale, is awakening a passion in each client for the product that you yourself are passionate about.

The presentation that drove this idea home was done by a representative from one of our most successful clients. During a whiteboard debrief of their internal sales process, he explained that nearly everyone they contact shows initial interest in their product. Even so, there is a drop off from from 70 percent interest to 40 percent execution in the transition from stakeholder demo to pitching to decision makers.  This could be caused by a variety of things, but one of the more probable is a lack of passionate champions.  Going from thinking a product would benefit your company, to actively fighting for it by presenting it to management is a dramatic progression.  If passion is lacking as these steps advance, particularly if there is pushback from management, the drop off of champions will be dramatic, as exemplified by this particular client.

This got me thinking, how can I instill passion into my champions?  From what I’ve learned thus far, instilling passion can be broken down into two separate processes: staying relevant and exhibiting devotion for your product.  As an account-based sales agency, we have the resources to stay relevant by utilizing a continued contact approach.  If we can hit the decision maker’s emails, create a buzz, and maintain interest throughout the sales process, then the likelihood of client’s investments in our product sustaining over time is much higher.  The second half of this equation is showing a client that they should be passionate about our product because primarily, it solves their problem: our passion is the most powerful tool we can use in conveying that.  People can relate to excitement, hence the telling phrase, “interested people are interesting.”  If I can inspire the same faith I feel for the necessity of my product or service in my clients, I will be infinitely more successful.  So, how can I find the most passionate champions? For now, all I really know is that if I talk the talk, I’ll be more likely to connect with clients who can walk the walk.

Chapter 2: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Sales is about developing connections: understanding what makes people tick and how to tap into that.  A salesperson’s job is to make someone feel like they need a product that they otherwise might not have known existed.  Developing the ability to see the world from a customer’s perspective is the first place to begin the process.  As Jacco Van De Kooij and Fernando Pizarro point out in their book, BluePrints for a SaaS Sales Organization, “The question to ask is not, ‘how are we going to sell it?’ but rather ‘how is the customer going to buy it?’”  This week, I’ve been reflecting on the differences between the sales-centric model and the customer-centric model.  As I begin my journey with sales, it’s my hope that I utilize the latter as much as possible.

If being a member of my tennis team has taught me anything, it’s this: the stronger our team chemistry is, the better we are.  When a team is collectively aware of the goal they are looking to accomplish together, and competing for one another instead of just themselves, they are infinitely stronger.  If I’m in the middle of a difficult conditioning session, and I look next to me to see a my teammates fighting their way through it, I’m going to try ten times harder for them than I would if I was alone.  That conditioning session might be the difference between clinching the finals of nationals in a tight third set, or losing because your body isn’t strong enough to make it through.  Talent obviously plays a role in this; meaning that if you have a group of talented  salespeople, they’ll get the job done, the same way that a talented team will inevitably win.  But if a salesperson can convince a client that they are on the same team and working toward the same goal, suddenly, they both have a greater personal investment in the deal. That common understanding results in their cumulative potential for success suddenly skyrocketing.  This propensity towards teamwork is the basis for the customer-centric model.

The sales-centric model, on the other hand, is incredibly controlled, moving through the trite stages from contacting, to demoing, and ultimately getting to every sales-guru’s favorite step: closing out the win.  In this model, there are simplified steps for the salesperson to follow, but the major challenge is to limit any drops in profitability due to “churn” (a measure of the number of customers who unsubscribe to your service after a given amount of time). Churn only happens when the customer does not see enough benefit in the continuation of paying for the service initially sold to them. The customer-centric model solves this dilemma

CCM eliminates the differing goals between salesperson and customer.  Their objectives merge, and the goal becomes solving the problem the customer is facing with your, the salesperson’s, product, and extending that solution over time.  As long as the salesperson is constantly looking to assist the customer, churn shouldn’t happen.

By explicitly addressing the client’s problem–the one the salesperson and the client would be solving together–and applying the CCM model to the period of time following the initial quick-fix, the customer sees value in sticking around.  Working as a team toward a shared goal creates good chemistry, and the better the chemistry, the more a team can accomplish together.  The team I am referring to forms between the sales force and their client.  Like I said before, I’m far from an expert in sales, but the importance and power behind teamwork has been a lesson I’ve learned time and time again.  Through my tennis career, I’ve seen what can happen when a group of people set their mind toward the same goal, and how much they are willing to do for each other (considering my shin splints, it’s a lot).  This concept can, and should, be translated to sales.  If I’m just trying to get my numbers up, there’s no way I will be helping a customer as much as I know that I can, because I’m more focused on the number than on their company’s success.  If we develop a give and take relationship, where I bring in a new customer and really do solve whatever problem his company is facing, he will continue working with me.  I will be able to sell more, and eliminate the churn I was at risk for previously.   The most successful teams develop when the vendors and the client realize they are playing on the same side, and build their relationship upon that assumption.


Chapter 1: Some Words That Stuck With Me

I have a bit of a temper on the tennis court.  If I miss a shot, there are times I can’t help but yell out some choice words a little too loud for most referees likings (they usually let me off the hook).  My strength is that I can typically recover from that jolt of anger within the 30 seconds I have in between points, and be mentally ready for whatever comes my way once the next ball is in play.  This sequence is what came to mind when I spoke with Morgan Ingram, creator of the SDR Chronicles at Terminus and trailblazer in the world of sales blogs, at a recent networking event.  He told me that the most important part of sales is keeping a level head, and honestly, I’d never thought about that.  

I am going to lose in sales more than I ever did in my collegiate tennis career, and that is a fact I need to accept.  Like I said in my last blog, I hate losing.  But finding that balance between being competitive, or invested in the outcome of my efforts, and being too emotional, might mean the difference between being a good salesperson and a great one. I’m not about to sacrifice that “great” title.  If I hold onto the resentment of one failed sales call while on the phone with the next potential client, the results would likely be cringe-worthy.  I’m going to save you, my boss, and myself that cringe, and try to learn from that mistake before I make it.

After that initial burst of anger and disappointment felt after losing a point, the most important thing for me to do is slowly walk to the back fence, take a deep breath, and figure out what I need to fix.  Did I lose focus?  Did I make an unforced error?  Whatever the cause may be, the only thing I can do is learn from it and move on.  An overwhelming majority of the time, winning a tennis match means winning 51 – 55% of the points.  That means that even if you win, you will lose just under half of the total points played.  Just because I lose one sales call, doesn’t mean I’m about to give away the match because of my frustration.  That frustration is meant to fuel a fire that will ultimately lead to a successful sales call, followed by another, and another.  I’m not quite sure what “winning the match” will feel like for me in sales, but once I do, you better believe I’m coming for that “great” title.

In It to Win It

This blog marks the start of a new sales career: my own.  I’m on the brink of stepping out into the real world, and if there’s anything I’ve learned over the last four years at Emory University, it’s that I thrive in the midst of competition and pressure. Sales seemed like the natural career choice.

Just to give you an idea of how competitive I can get, during my first tennis season playing at Emory, before stepping foot on the court, I would always turn to my teammates and say with a smirk, “I’ll run a suicide for every game I lose.”  I was easily the cockiest girl around, some might even have called me obnoxious – who can blame them? But for me, there’s no such thing as being too competitive.  Over the next three years, my team went on to win two national championships, and I became a 5 time all-american: a testament to my competitiveness and hard work far more than my athleticism, trust me.

When people ask me whether or not I enjoy playing tennis, I’m always unsure about how to answer the question.  I do know two things; I’m competitive and I work hard.  I am driven by hearing somebody say, “You can’t do that,” As soon as I hear those words, I work my ass off to accomplish ten times what they said I couldn’t.  I want to be in sales because I want to feel that rush – the rush of proving that I can accomplish whatever anyone throws at me, over and over and over again.

I might be obsessed, but we’ve all got our kinks.  I’m going to channel that fixation the most productive way I can think of: starting here, at my sales development internship with LeadUp.  Hey, if my passion is winning, I might as well jump into a career that rewards winners.

I have no formal experience or education in business; I am not an authority on the matter of sales, and I’m not pretending to be.  I’m just a girl who hates losing more than anything else in the world.  So, why would anyone care what I think?  Because there’s always more you can do; I’m going to find that extra bit it takes to win, and I’m going to build on it.  If you’re looking to see what it takes to get to the top when starting from the bottom and build with me along the way, look no further.  Sales development, meet your new Yoda-in-training.

I’ll be using this blog as both an outlet and a resource for myself and for whoever wants to be part of my journey.  I’ll be sharing my successes and my failures, my favorite resources and experiences, with some sarcasm along the way.  If anybody has any recommendations for books, blogs, or any sources that will help me improve and get some early wins, I’m all ears.