Columnists, Neil Overfelt, V5I1

Why You Do What You Do

My wife asks good questions.   

Yesterday it was, “What makes some days at work good, and others just okay? What makes you sometimes come home in a good mood and sometimes you’re quite distant?”  

Actually, she asks great questions, and I know they’re great when I have to think about them for a while because I’m not always sure I know the answer, even when they pertain specifically to me. 

This one definitely pertained to me, and I knew the answer as soon as she asked the question. Luckily, I was driving, so I had a good reason to keep looking straight ahead instead of at her. Those eyes and that silent anticipatory patience can be penetrating.  

“Hmm, interesting question,” I said. 

 I was thinking. Or stalling, really, because I knew the answer as soon as she asked it. But I had to formulate my answer for both her and myself.

 

She knows me better than anyone alive, so there’s no point dodging the question, but at the same time I wanted it to be both truthful and concise. 

It wasn’t a subject I wanted to uncover very deeply because I knew in my heart it wasn’t something I wanted to admit. The answer was thin and hollow, not one I was proud of as a man who from day one had professed family comes before work.

“A good day is when you sell a lot of stuff. An okay day is when you don’t.”  

And hearing myself say those words got me thinking: That’s it in a nutshell, isn’t it?  

As sales people, we’re proud of our profession, and we absolutely should be. It’s a tough job, but in all honesty, we’re the ones who keep the economy growing. We’re the ones who keep the doors open or cause the business to close. Whether you’re a deal maker or a deal breaker, ultimately the success of the business lies with you. 

When I was managing a retail lumberyard in Michigan back in the ’90s, my area manager once told me we should be called sales managers, not store managers, “Because without sales, you’d have nothing to manage.” 

Nailed it. Production is vital. Procurement is vital. Operations, logistics, credit. All vital. So now you have product on the ground, a way to get it there, and accounting control so you know where all the money goes. 

And your product sits there waiting for someone to sell it. Waiting for cash to flow. Waiting for someone to do something with it. Business is stagnant until something gets sold.  

Enter the professional sales person. (Yeah, I’m talking to you!) We’re the linchpin. Without sales, nothing happens. I once had an RVP who’s favorite saying was “sales cures all.” 

Again, nailed it. He was spot on. Need cash? Sell something. Need inventory turns? Sell something.  Want to give raises, try new products, expand your fleet? Sell something!

But, please keep it in perspective. Please remember why you do what you do, and ultimately who you’re doing it for. Yes, you have to sell to keep your job, keep your boss happy, keep the doors open, keep the cash flowing, yada, yada, yada. I get it, but that’s so “surfacy.” I want you to think deeper.

 

Dig into your soul. Why do you really do it? Go ahead, think about it, I’m not going anywhere.  

It’s not for your boss, trust me. A fellow worker once told our boss, “I was looking for a job when I found this one!” Indeed, he was, and shortly thereafter he was again. 

He missed the point entirely. The boss didn’t want to be pleased or flattered. He wanted passion. Passion to make our lives and the lives of those we touch better. The passion to bless others with a fantastic product that will fit them like a glove and in turn help them make money, which allows them to continue toward their own dreams.  

I was brought up in a hardworking, blue collar family. Money was around, but tight. But what we had a lot of was integrity, forthrightness, our word, and an earnest desire to do right by others. Both my folks brought those qualities, but my mom brought another thing as well. Passion. No question where I got mine, but I had to figure out what I was passionate about.  

And each of you have to find your passion as well: What drives you through the toughest markets and through the front doors of your toughest customers? 

For me that passion is my family. My wife first, then my two daughters and their families, then my extended family, church family, band family, and work family. I want to give my best to these people. And for me that starts with giving my best effort to my customers, being the best salesperson I know how to be. Continuing to learn, read, listen, practice, tweak, reinvent, teach, mentor. 

Yes, it starts with wanting to be the best salesperson I can be, but that’s not where it ends. That’s not the end-all. It ends by being able to give the best me I can to my families. 

It’s a perspective that continues to deepen with age, so when my wife asks me what makes some days good and some days just okay, I know to my core they’re all good because I know my passion. I truly hope you find yours.

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