In your sales career or in life, is there a habit you are trying to create or a bad habit you want to eliminate? 

Yeah?  Me too. 

It may be a matter of not getting your reps in. 

In Atomic Habits, James Clear makes this point his first takeaway of his Third Law of Behavior Change.

Clear describes how too often we want to improve through creating better habits, but we spend too much time in “motion” planning the activities we will take, rather than “taking action.”  While putting together a plan is a good idea, many of us focus so much on getting the plan right and getting our heads right, that we fail to actually do anything, fail to start.   

If I search for a better diet plan and read a few books on the topic, that’s motion.  If I actually eat a healthy meal, that’s action. [From Atomic Habits]

If I search for what exercises will help me reach my fitness goals, start reading about workout regimens, google gyms near me, that’s motion. If I actually take a free boot camp class, that’s action. [my example]

Our failure at reaching our goals through better habits may be due to spending too much time in motion, and failing to take action.  

Clear references Voltaire’s axiom “The best is the enemy of the good.”  You may have heard it as “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Either way, Voltaire and Clear are both suggesting that we fail when preparation becomes procrastination.  The preparation feels good, but it doesn’t lead to any results.  Focus excessively on preparation, and we fail to practice (do), fail to take action, fail to get any results.

I recognize that we may spend too much time in motion and not enough – or any – in action because of a fear of failure.  I get it.  But sellers, if you have a fear of failure, I’m telling you now, you are in the wrong profession.  Fearlessness is a core professional requirement

Lately, this idea of motion instead of action has come up in my sales coaching engagements.  Consider these client claims all of which I’ve been told this summer:

  • I need to nail my Ideal Client Profile and messaging even though a draft or two or three are already documented before making calls and sending emails;
  • I am waiting for a response to my proposal, recap letter, request for a meeting, but it’s been a few weeks since last contact;
  • I’m still perfecting our sales demonstration and don’t want to roll it out to the team yet. 

In each of the above, the client is over-processing or over-preparing. They need to start getting their reps in, take action.  They can always iterate later.  

I also see “Too Much Motion, Not Enough Action” when coaching a subject matter expert on sales.  These clients are usually senior-level executives, Engineers, Lawyers, or Business Consultants who have come to the realization that they need to take on or have been thrust into a sales role. 

These clients are so often cast as experts – and rightly so – that “Expertise” has become hard-wired into their identity.   So much so, that they are afraid to act in other areas unless they’ve assured themselves or received confirmation that their “motion” is perfectly, expertly planned. Unable to receive this assurance, they fail to take action.  Failure to take action is one of the symptoms that leads them to seek professional help 😉.

So, how do we get out of motion and into action in our sales careers?  

For some, the recognition that they are doing too much motion, and not taking action is enough to get them started.  Time is going by and they are still planning, not practicing, paraphrasing Clear.  The timer goes off in their head and they take action. 

Others need to ask for or agree to accountability.  They should detail the actions they are about to take and create a deadline in the near future to take these actions.  Then, share their plan with someone else. A coach, a professional or personal partner, or a colleague can be this accountability partner.  Schedule a check-in at the deadline to report your progress.  

Saying out loud the actions you are going to take and granting permission to someone else to ask about your progress, creates a overt promise to take action.  No one wants to be seen as a promise-breaker. 

Please note: Repeatedly breaking a Taking Action promise may necessitate reconsidering a career in sales. Harsh?  Sure.  Fair? You tell me.  

Now, go get your reps in.  

SalesReformSchool: Food for Thought

Can the color of your clothes change your mood or remind you to change your outlook? 

After breakfast today, I decided to write this piece and then got dressed.  For this Food for Thought section I chose this Simon Sinek video:


This is what the color orange means to me. 🔸🔶

♬ original sound – Simon Sinek

I then looked down at myself. Well, would you look at that!

You may not know this about me – I won a small scholarship in high school from the local Optimist Club.  I guess all these years later I remain optimistic. 

SalesReformSchool: Extracurricular

Most of you know that Health and Fitness is a obsession hobby of mine.  I’ve recently become a fanboy of Dr. Peter Attia and highly recommend his book Outlive, the Science & Art of Longevity.  Attia first discusses how we are not making enough progress defeating the Four Horsemen of Death:  heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disease, and metabolic disease, specifically type 2 diabetes.  

He then explains with hard science and data the role diet, exercise, sleep, and mental health can play in ratcheting up the likelihood of a long healthspan not just lifespan.  And he’s an excellent story teller. 

May you live long and thrive. Sorry, Mr. Spock.  

Good Selling!