Mike’s Story Part 3: Tough Decisions That Led to Success

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In this post, I’m going to tell you how I made sacrifices or tough decisions not knowing exactly what it would lead to, but having trust that it would take me forward. In almost every case, I took a major leap of faith that turned out pretty okay or led to something positive in my life. While some of those decisions failed, as long as you pivot and make the best of the situations you are dealt with, it will turn out okay.

The first of the big tough decisions

I was faced with the decision to take a job with a cell phone company an hour away from where I lived. This may not seem like a big deal to everyone but it was 56 miles each way, 5-6 days a week, working retail hours and I was starting my career at a C-level store. Stores were based on size, number of employees, and client traffic. Largest being A, smallest being C. At this point I was living three miles from where I worked. The idea of driving almost 60 miles each direction almost every day was a tough decision. But, I accepted and was later moved to a B-level store and after showing success in meeting and exceeding my sales targets month after month.

Now, in nature I have always been a team player (even to a fault), sacrificing when I didn’t have to. In sports, I would help my teammates even when I wasn’t asked. So naturally, after starting to show signs of leadership at this store, one of my district managers approached me about needing strong sales reps in at the A-level store due to the sheer traffic. After a short time, I decided it was a good idea to show that I was “for the team” and help the district improve by bringing my success and sales techniques to the top store.

This was a tough life adjustment, there were days I would leave at 10 pm and need to be back at 8 am. Nights, weekends and holidays all spent over an hour from home. Luckily, I don’t think I could have been prepared for the lifelong benefit that came from this decision.

Picture this. The store was in front of one of the biggest malls around. Most Saturdays were spent with 8+ people waiting. Don’t forget, people hate waiting. Imagine standing in the middle of a store for 30-45 minutes (or more) waiting to be helped. People were angry and left without the resolution they wanted. You would find several reps and managers running around like busy bees, trying to serve everyone and make them happy.

Here was the standard protocol.

When a sales rep became available they would take the next in line. Therefore, there was a slim chance you would help a specific client. However, my life was forever changed by two lovely ladies, a middle-aged woman and her older mother. She was there to help her mom get two new phones, one for her and one for her husband. They were absolutely lovely, and I always try to make my clients laugh and have a great experience.

My goal was to help them relax and enjoy the experience.

I must have been doing a pretty good job because the younger of the ladies made a statement: “You should meet my daughter, I think you would have a great time together.” I’m sure any decent-looking guy with a hint of personality has had a mom at some point in their lives try to set them up with their daughters. I did the “gentlemanly” thing to do, and said, “Yeah, I am sure we would.” But damn, these ladies would not let it go. They were coming in for the hard sell. I even caught the mother of the daughter hiding behind an accessory rack trying to take a picture of me to send to her daughter.

I caved and said, “Well, if you are this serious about it here is my card. Tell her to reach out to me.” I pulled the trigger you could say, but as we’re told, “moms know best” and if she was this sure about it then I didn’t have anything to lose.

A tough decision led to the love of my life

Eight hours later I get a text from a number I didn’t know and it said “I’m so sorry!” Well, that text turned into meeting eight weeks later, getting engaged six months later, and getting married two years later! Tiffany and I are now happily married with a two and a half-year-old and a newborn!

I am happier and more loved than I could ever have imagined. Taking the chance on a job that wasn’t going to be easy led to the greatest gift I would never have known existed. This story is obviously not the normal “how I met my wife story” but whose is? It’s my story and it all happened because I said yes to a sacrifice.

How I started taking chances

You may be wondering where my “Ah Ha” moment about taking chances started. I was in middle school and a teacher was handing out tests and I made the suggestion that she should make the test open book. She said, “sure why not”. That was the day I decided why not ask. What’s the worst that could happen? She says no? I still had the test in front of me either way. This was something I held onto for years.

The second big tough decision

The next story is the not so successful result of asking for a management position at the B-Level store closer to home. After working 60+ miles away for around a year, there was an opening for the assistant manager position. I had put my name in the hat for previous management roles and was never lucky enough to get them. Although, going through all those interview experiences helped me learn how to present myself properly, tell my story and describe what made me different.

This was my chance to get closer to home, so I pushed hard for an interview. I wouldn’t say I was lucky to get the interview, but I was prepared. One of the sayings my dad said growing up is about luck, and it’s a quote I will likely use with my sons. He said “There is no such thing as luck. Luck is just when preparedness meets opportunity.”

I have spent my life “training” for opportunities I didn’t even know existed yet I always wanted to be improving. I thought being a manager was what I wanted. It was my original reasoning for taking the position in Roanoke and being at one of the biggest stores put me at the top of the list.

It wasn’t what I expected

I got the position and this is one of those “oh shit” scenarios. I hated it. Not only did I hate it, but I wasn’t very good at it. I was an amazing individual contributor, but when it came to managing people I lacked a lot of the skill set needed to do it right. I can’t look back and think of one thing that was even a glimmer of success. The empathy I had for clients was severely lacking when it came to dealing with sales reps.

Some of the reps I worked next to over the previous years so this was a challenging peer to leader transition that is hard for even the most gifted leaders.

I was the guy who was given goals and then figured out how to get there. I didn’t like having to ask sales reps to do the same thing over and over again. I knew the job wasn’t as hard as they were making it but I didn’t know how to be patient or understanding. I was terrible. I thought I wanted this and I was failing. If it wasn’t so hard to fire someone from corporate America I believe I would have or at least should have lost my job. Conveniently, Tiffany was graduating soon and wanted to move to Charlotte, NC and I was looking for a way out of Lynchburg at the time. Maybe things would have been different if I stayed, but I believe my career would have ended quickly after that promotion.

A fork in the road

Like I said, I was all about moving to Charlotte. While it was easy in thought, the actual steps to make it happen were not. I was moving away from my parents, friends and townhouse that I owned. Everything was going to change. My job was one of the biggest questions marks. I applied for about 17 positions with the same company in Charlotte, 16 retail positions and one B2B role. Retail was familiar and I was all about going back to a sales rep role since that’s where I did my best work. However, one of my directors made a suggestion about my personality being a good fit for the B2B world and that made me very interested.

The role they were hiring for was an apprentice role and it came with a massive pay cut. At this time, I was in the $60,000+ range and this job was $42,000 salary only. No commission. The position was open for almost a year while the two Charlotte B2B managers were in search of the perfect candidate. It’s hard to find someone willing to take a pay cut but it was perfect for me. I was planning on moving in with Tiffany and her parents for a short time until we got married and found a house. This was a tremendous opportunity for me to learn from ten B2B sales reps and two managers.

Come to find out the main reason I was selected was because of my management experience. Go figure. The role I didn’t like and wasn’t great at, was the main reason I was hired. This is the indirect success of making the decision to work an hour away from home for almost a year.

Time goes by

I spent the next six months in this role shadowing reps, being mentored by managers in the top market in the region, a total blessing which led to my success as a B2B rep. At the sixth month mark I was faced with a challenging decision. I was tired of being an apprentice. I knew I could do the job but I was tired of not having my own clients, getting bored, and ready to make more money. I was on the verge of taking a role outside the Charlotte market when a position opened up on both teams. I went from “I can’t do this apprentice thing anymore” to “I have to make a decision which manager I wanted to work for”. I ultimately picked the vertical team that had construction and manufacturing.

This is really where I hit a stride. This was the world I was meant to be in. This is the world where my direct, honest and hard-working mentality played the best.

This was where I found my love for small business. I was dealing with businesses with 5 to 500 employees. I met a lot of business owners in the construction industry and was able to use my consultative approach to understand the problems business owners were dealing with. I was able to dive in and use technology to solve some of those problems and build relationships I still have today. One of my “Ah Ha” moments that I didn’t realize until recently was my ability to diffuse the fear in the client’s heads. I called it “avoiding objections” in a previous post.

What I was really good at was being proactive to point out issues, concerns, fears and why there wouldn’t be an issue with the solution or product I was offering. It was a technique of Problem, Cause, Solution, Benefit presentations that I really took to, part of a sales training that Verizon put me through.

Practice makes perfect

There was a role play competition I participated in called ICON, a bracketed tournament of who could handle client situations with sales techniques. It taught us in a simulated environment, with a live person and panel right in front of you – and I wanted to win. In the first year, after the 5th round in the experience, I made it to the finals. I was picked up in a limo, got to meet Ludacris and had a real red-carpet experience. Making it that far proved that I was one of the best. I give all the credit to my training and practice. I desired to be the best and I felt that this was what really set me up for what I know and use today with clients.

Avoiding objections is really just helping clients feel comfortable with who they are dealing with and the solution you are trying to sell them. Picture these scenarios.

Client tells you what they want and you send them an email with a proposal and hope they call you back.

Or…

You meet with a client. You let them know what portions of their needs are the most challenging to meet, which ones are most cost effective, what to expect at different parts of the process, and which parts they may not be factoring into their scenario.

Which person are you more likely to buy from?

All it takes is a little care and a lot of preparation to overcome the inherent fear in making buying decisions and you will win. The preparation comes from being very consistent in your approach and your client interactions so you become an expert at your process which will lead to you being the one people turn to as a valued consultant instead of a typical sales rep.

Creating, sticking to, and mastering a sales process and technique that worked for me is the number one key to my success.

I have been doing the same thing for over 10 years now. Different arenas but the similar process and it is still working no matter what industry or type of business I have found myself in.

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