THE BLOG
12/14/2016 09:26 am ET Updated Dec 10, 2017

Understanding the Connection Between Willpower and Sales

2016-12-09-1481289783-477346-BrandonDempsey.pngBy Brandon Dempsey

Recently, I had a call with a top salesman I coach. I asked how selling to his top 25 clients was going. He shared that he hadn't stuck to his strategy because he wasn't excited about it anymore, so I asked if he was excited about his current sales numbers. He was not. 

Three months earlier, we had built a five-touchpoint system to engage current clients and drive referrals. This consisted of various lunches, gifts, and casual phone calls or sharing content. I've seen plans like this double existing client revenues in the past. While this salesman had experienced some great wins using a few of the tactics, not everyone had responded with a referral. While there was never an expectation of a 100 percent response rate, he was losing interest because he only had a few wins so far. The program wasn't being executed to its full potential.

An outsider could easily look at this situation and say, "Clearly, if he'd just stick to his plan, he'd hit his numbers," and in large part they would be right. But how many of us have not stuck to our plan, not completed our tasks, and then not been happy with the results? Willpower is about sticking to the process even when your mind tells you to quit. Sticking to a process is hard, but so is being great. Successful people execute day in and day out. They perform at a higher level because their willpower is stronger than others.

At our company, we build a marketing plan each year that includes the amount of content we are going to write, events we are going to host, influencers we are going to meet, customer touchpoints we will execute, and all other sorts of marketing initiatives. This year was the first year we hit virtually 95 percent of the activities we planned out, and it's the first year our cash flow grew by 40 percent. 

Sales and marketing isn't a "put one out, get one back" game. Rather, it's about performing needed actions consistently according to a system that generates predictable results over a long period of time. It takes willpower to stick to these actions every day. I've found that the secret to developing willpower is to build systems that remove mental blocks. This focus on execution allows me to get out of my own head and just do the tasks. Here are a few of the habits I've built that strengthen my willpower and generate the results I'm chasing:

  • Find a group of like-minded people pursuing similar goals to meet with on a regular basis. This could be a mastermind group you set up with people who sell to the same audience you do, a networking group of an organization you belong to, a nonprofit organization, or a leads sharing group. All that matters is that the people in the room have similar goals and meet on a recurring basis, no more than two-to-four weeks apart. The more often you meet, the faster you'll get results. The regularity of meeting will produce more opportunities and make it easier to stick to a consistent marketing plan, as you'll be put in front of people who can both introduce you to those you want to meet, and hold you accountable to doing what you say you're going to do.

  • Block out certain times for reading and generating content. I've always struggled to read just a few business books and write a couple articles a year. This year, I began blocking time off in the morning for reading, and time on the weekend for writing. To date, I'm averaging about two-to-three books/month and two-to-four articles/month. This has helped me hit goals in ways I didn't even think were possible before. If, like me, you are new to writing, set up Google Alerts for key terms in your industry. Read the articles that Google sends you, write an opinion piece about that article, and cite it in your writing. I've found it's often much easier to respond to something that was already written than to just conceive something out of thin air.

  • Set weekly goals for people met, leads generated, and proposals given. It's amazing, but we see what we look for. The more we look for opportunity, like networking groups that cater to our target market, the more we find it. It's hard to see an opportunity without meeting with people. And without looking for an angle on how you can serve them, it's difficult to get motivated to push a proposal. Having written goals around the actions you are going to take drastically improves your ability to achieve them, because you are programming your mind to look for those opportunities. If you don't write your goals down and don't look at them regularly, you'll simply forget about them and move forward without actually making progress.
  • Willpower is a muscle, and it has to be strengthened. Like working out, sporadic repetitions don't build muscle. What builds muscle is creating a plan and executing on it. 

    Brandon Dempsey is an owner of goBRANDgo!, a Saint Louis, MO-based marketing firm. He is the author of Shut Up And Go!.