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Sales: a Marathon or a Sprint?

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Being one of the few sales people in my network, I am often asked if sales are like a marathon (long term & long cycle) or a sprint (short term & short cycle). What my friends want to know is how I manage a sales cycle – do I run like crazy to close a deal or do I build long-term relationships with my clients and partners.

Let me tell you a story…

I was working as an IT professional for many years until I decided to make the jump to sales. Coming from an IT background, I thought everything in life was either black or white, right or wrong, 0 or 1…

I quickly learned that sales were not an easy gig or an exact science, so I learned to work in gray zones. Today working in the gray zone is what I like most about sales! Why? Because it forces me to be resourceful and creative! I get to work with many who are just like you and I: “human beings.” They have their own personality and style and I need to adjust to them. My mentor use to say that a sales person is a chameleon: if you want to be happy and successful in sales you have to adjust and connect to your customer and understand his or her needs and motivations.  Some people expect fast-paced interaction and others expect to build long-lasting relationships. You need to adjust yourself to this reality. Therefore, I believe that sales are a sprint and a marathon.

As a salesperson, I worked on developing the skills to do both: the sprint and the marathon. So, I’ll close deals in the short term, build long-term potential business relationships, while writing proposals all at the same time. On top of this, there is administrative work including monthly expense reports, management meetings, and CRM data entry.

The administrative part is definitely the boring part of the work, but it’s a healthy habit to log important information into my CRM. This way I don’t forget important meetings or critical information, in order to take good care of my customer. If I don’t take good care of them someone else will …

I make sure that I have a quarterly sales plan with specific objectives. This means setting goals and working to make my numbers. Quarterly goals break down what has to be done each week to make sure I hit my goals.

The key is to find a balance between running a marathon (building long-term relationships and partnerships) while conserving energy to sprint (opportunities and quick wins) when need be along the way. With time, experience, and a mentor, you’ll learn that one of the most important things is to start with the big picture, plan your marathon and keep in mind that you’ll have to sprint sometimes, usually more often than you think!

So, are you running a Marathon or a Sprint? Maybe you should try both!


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