Save Your Sales Rookies From Being Benched

Originally posted on LinkedIn:

"When’s the last time you pitched”, my coach asked me. He heard that I was quite the pitcher a couple years prior. He didn’t hear how my ability went to shreds because of not being taught the fundamentals of relying on your fastball or proper mechanics while pitching; lessons you can fall back on when you experience a rough stretch. I was throwing curve balls and succeeding over early competition, but as I aged and the competition improved, I couldn’t beat them with my curve nor did I have the mechanics to lean on, which forced me to the bench many times dejected.

The conversation continued; “I don’t know, two years ago?”

“Well, do you want to pitch today?”


“Maybe huh, well never mind, I’ll find someone else who wants to.”

I think of that moment because I’m hiring for a sales position and many of the prospects have similar experiences. They found early success with large deals, but many lost their confidence and their skills eroded because they weren’t coached on the fundamentals of developing a client base then building a successful career based on that foundation when those big deals weren’t being closed. When the home runs weren’t being hit, they couldn’t rely on the process of hitting singles, catching small accounts, which eventually leads you around the bases, scoring the runs you need to win.

In both cases, the talent was there, but the coaching wasn’t. The potential was seen, but unfulfilled. As the saying goes; crawl, walk, then run. As managers, we have the tools to support our entry level sales force while they learn to stand on two feet then walk. They will trip and fall, but with encouragement and reliance on what they’ve learned, they’ll get back up and learn to run. The cycle continues, but they’ll always get back up to speed and maybe faster than before. Confidence breeds success and vice versa.

Finding Confidence

Mistakes; we make them every day. Being human means being imperfect, it’s something that we should know right? So why do some of us sit there and beat ourselves up instead of celebrating the gifts that we have to offer to the world?

I think it comes from a lack of confidence. People that are less confident will over-critique themselves because they'll never feel that they are up to par, so they strive for perfection, although it is impossible to attain. Why do I believe that? Because I was someone who struggled for years with low self-esteem and still have to remind myself that making a mistake isn’t a flaw on my character.

As a child, my teacher would ask me to measure lines aloud and because I had no confidence in my abilities, I would read the measurements wrong on purpose, although the ruler told me the right length! As I entered adulthood, I would make mistakes as anyone in their 20's would, and for hours, days, and weeks, I'd relive the situation throughout my mind and go through different scenarios where I could have done or said something different to make everything better. That is insanity.

Some people are perfectionists, but why is that? Are we trying to fulfill the need of impressing someone we love but who never cared for what we did? Are we longing for their or society’s approval? For me, it was about having a close knit family whose cohesiveness was built on love instead of drinking together. I felt the need to be perfect because I was surrounded by such dysfunction that I needed to make up for not only my inadequacies, but my family’s as well.

I watched a cooking competition recently, there were four chefs competing to make the best tasting meal based on three courses; appetizer, entrée, and dessert. During an interview segment, one chef discussed not having a close family that supported him growing up and his dreams to become a chef, which caused him to feel inadequate and lack confidence in his cooking abilities.

The unconfident chef presented an enticing course each round, but would critique his dish prior to the judges tasting it. Finally, one of the judges told him to stop beating himself up and that he was a very competent chef, which sort of snapped the chef out of his mindset. The unconfident chef won the competition, which proved that he had the talent within, but he just had to believe in himself, just as the judges did, regardless if his family did not.

How do we defeat this mindset? Each person’s solution is different, but for me it meant forgiving myself for the mistakes I made, as well as reconciling that I am not responsible for my family’s dysfunction or what people think about me. It meant realizing that I will make mistakes and that’s fine, they’re learning lessons for living. With that came a higher sense of confidence, my abilities, accomplishments, and no more sleepless nights over what shoulda, woulda, coulda happened or worry over being liked by strangers.