Don’t Focus on What You Can’t Control

There are a lot of things that you need to focus on to succeed in sales. You have focus on prospecting and opening new opportunities. You have to focus on nurturing relationships with your dream clients. You have to focus on making effective sales calls. You have to focus on finding ways to create value for your clients, and on developing yourself so that you can do even better in the future.

You can control what you focus on and take all of these actions.

Salespeople run into trouble when they focus on things over which they have no control. Nothing is gained by focusing on what you cannot control with your actions.

You Cannot Control Your Compensation Plan

Your compensation plan may not be perfect. It might have changed four times in the last three years. It may actually contain disincentives for doing the work that your company needs you to do to win deals and to succeed for your clients. Fine, it’s broken.

You wish it were different. You pray that someone recognizes the challenges and does something about it. To no avail; the only changes that have been made to your compensation plan have made it even worse and even more inscrutable.

You can complain. You can bitch. You can moan. You can make a logical case for change. But none of these things is going to do anything to help you obtain your dream client, to make you more valuable to your dream client, or to improve your results as a salesperson.

Your actions here don’t make any improvement in your results as a salesperson. Your time, your focus, and your attention are better devoted to higher value activities.

You Cannot Control Your Competitors

You cannot control your competitors. You can study them to learn their strengths and weaknesses. And above all else, you must respect your competition and try to learn from them. But you cannot worry about what they do; you cannot allow it to dominate your attention.

Your competitors are going to sell price. Some will be ruthlessly cutthroat when doing so. Some of your competitors are going to lie to your prospective clients and make promises they cannot keep. Some will make these promises with no intention of keeping them whatsoever. Your competitors will do all of this while unrelentingly calling on your very biggest, very best clients and customers.

You can’t beat their price, so you have to learn to sell the difference between price and cost. You wouldn’t dream of matching their lies with lies of your own because you care to deeply about your clients. It’s not who you are, and you don’t make promises you can’t keep.

Being honest, maintaining your reputation, and maintaining your integrity is within your control.

You Cannot Control the Economy

The economy improves. Then it declines. Then it improves again.

The economy is always going to fluctuate. It’s what economies do. The only thing that has changed is that the fluctuations are more frequent and more disruptive. Is it terrible when the bottom drops out? Absolutely! Is it wonderful when you have a rising tide and you get carried to new heights along with the rest of your market? Sure it is.

But neither economic improvements nor declines are within your control. The only economy you have any control over is your own personal economy. Salespeople who focus on the economy that they can control perform better than those who find a “they” to blame.

What You Can Control

To succeed and do well in sales you have to devote your time, your attention, and your energy to things that actually produce sales outcomes.

Spending hours, days, weeks, or even months worrying about your compensation plan isn’t going to result in a single new deal. There is no reason to focus on a greater compensation plan. A higher commission rate on the sales that you didn’t make while you were chasing that distraction amounts to nothing.

There is no reason to focus on your competitors because it does nothing to make you a greater value creator for your clients or dream clients. You do better by working on you.

And the big, nebulous economy isn’t going to be swayed by little you (unless perhaps little you is the Chairman of the Federal Reserve).

You control your attitude. You control what on what is that captures your focus. You control the activities that you take or don’t take, and you can control the outcomes you obtain or don’t obtain.

This is where you produce results. This is where you make a difference.

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  • Tim Mushey

    Anthony. You hit the nail on the head with this one! Attitude is everything, and it is so easy to let negativity start to affect how we perform day to day selling.
    Compensation, competitors and the economy have crept in to the heads of many of us at some point or another. If you do not admit this, you are probably lying. It is natural to think about these things, but counterproductive at the end of the day.
    A great attitude and the “nothing is going to stop me” mentality will help achieve our goals more often than not. I fought harder than ever in very difficult selling environments and still succeeded. It is obviously not easy, but a “tunnel vision positive attitude” will not let anything get in your way.
    Great stuff!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Attitude and focus, Tim. Both 100% within our control!

  • Joe DeGiorgio

    Anthony, my company changed our pay plan yesterday for what seems like the sixth time this year. In our meeting, a lot of my fellow sales peeps were going crazy. Not me…this is par for the course. Employees are expenses, and once you are comfortable with that mindset, you can live with a lot less stress. Share holders are number one. As an employee, hopefully you make the top five. Just my opinion…

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Joe: I hope to God that when you say the 6th time you are exaggerating! That said, your outlook is so healthy. Go make the next sale. Win the business. People who make sales always seem to make out already in the end . . . or they start making sales for someone else. 

  • Mike Mabe

    “Don’t focus on what you can’t control” reminds me of the quote about a pig.  The quote goes like this: “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time, and it annoys the pig.”

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