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It was two months into my first job as a copy salesman that I finally made my first sale. Every day, I’d hop into my brown 1984 Chevy Citation and drive to an industrial park in Edmonton, Alberta. I’d take my pamphlets that I had prepared the night before and start walking into offices. “Hi! I’m Colin. How do you like your copier? How about your fax machine?” I did this 20 times a day for two straight months — and not one bite.  

And since I was working on 100% commission, those two months really, really sucked. I hated every single call I made. I hated my 40-minute commute. I hated stuffing pamphlets into stupid folders. I hated Chevy for making the Citation.  

Finally, I landed my very first sale. It was for a $3,000 black-and-white table top copier (model 5614, to be exact). I walked out of the store and I felt like a champ. Better than that. I felt like a winner.

After a horrible few months, I knew that I had what it took to close a deal. I knew I at least had the wherewithal to stick with it.

While it took me months to learn how to close a deal, it would take me years to learn the art of building grit. I’d spend my lifetime learning how to use the struggle to build momentum and strength to propel me to not only be a much better salesperson but to be a much better and happier human.

So, What’s Grit?

For me, grit is the willingness to do the brutal work that underpins growth and excellence. Edmonton (same latitude as Moscow), industrial district, way minus in the heart of winter, and knocking on doors many hours a day for a solid year … enough said.

Grit is 100% commitment to your goals, no matter what. You need to have a very strong why behind each one. I spend 10–12 hours at the start of each year defining my goals and testing them with my business coach and close confidants in my tribe.  When things get tough, what and who do you lean on and leverage into to make sure the hard work gets done? It’s being present in every moment and having the ability to reset and refocus when you hit setbacks.

Building Your Grit Game

Here are 20 recommendations I have experienced over the years with amazing colleagues that will help you develop Grit Game.

  1. Mindset: Think of being the CEO of your territory and not just a sales rep. Build a winning extended team just like a CEO would run his or her company.

  2. Channel negative energy and pain from not hitting quota into a positive learning opportunity for growth. Don't be a victim, be a hero.

  3. Build a detailed plan that others (and you) can follow and get feedback from many people. Send it to them.

  4. Find people who will team up with you to be successful, and give someone permission to hold you accountable.

  5. Set small daily and weekly goals (and email some friends to get momentum) to get wins along the way.

  6. Spend 10 minutes per day visualizing success. A great resource is How Champions Think by Bob Rotella.

  7. Make a top-12 book (audio) list to read or listen to and schedule one to consume each month. Recap it for peers.

  8. Listen to one podcast per week and recap it for colleagues or friends.

  9. Do something (wake up at 5 a.m.) for 20 weekdays in a row, for example, exercise or read to start the day.

  10. Start meditating five minutes per day and build to 10 minutes over two-to-three months. My two favorite apps are Calm and Muse.

  11. Start a breakfast club and meet one morning a week to strategize with peers and call top prospects.

  12. Stay late one day per week and make calls from 5 p.m.– 6:30 p.m. and prep your calls for the next day.

  13. Create 20 customized prospecting emails on the weekend and send them at 6 a.m. Monday morning.

  14. Call two top performers in your company, dissect how they have been successful, and take their teachings. Repeat every quarter.

  15. Write your plan for the week and send to a mentor or manager. Summarize at the end of the week how you did against it.

  16. Try a new sport or hobby (yoga, softball, painting, cooking class) and stick with it for at least two months.

  17. Gamify small wins that build momentum and get you unstuck from your rut.

  18. Prepare and deliver a whiteboard of your product or solution benefits to a customer, video it, and share with your manager or mentor.

  19. Set your goals at 2x your annual number. By setting your targets to 2x, you'll find yourself pushing through more activity —  five more calls a day or 10 more customized prospecting reach-outs per week. By setting those goals, even if you miss and fall slightly short, coming in at 125% is much better than falling short of a simple 100% goal.

  20. Even if it doesn't get you to quota that month, grinding out that $4,000  deal or less than 5% of your quota will get you to your annual quota, will help you build the muscle memory to do that every month.

Think of being the CEO of your territory and not just a sales rep.”

Colin Nanka | Senior Director, Enablement for Commercial Sales, Salesforce

Learn More

How to Craft the Perfect Sales Pitch By Annie Simms,
Account Executive, Salesforce
The Simple Client Meeting Rules Every Salesperson Should Follow By Laura Stack,
President and CEO, Productivity Keynote Speaker and Author, The Productivity Pro, Inc.

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