The Power of Inertia

Robert Terson

The Chicago Blackhawks began the 2013 hockey season by going 24 straight games without a loss, which established a new NHL record; twenty-one wins, 0 losses, 3 OT (overtimes), which gave them a league-leading 45 points when the amazing streak ended. The Chicago Tribune sportswriters are already drumming up excitement about the possibility of another Stanley Cup Championship; in fact, all of Chicago is excited about the possibility of another Stanley Cup Championship, especially my good friend Stu Pearl, who is going absolutely nuts over his team. I have to admit, I was going a little nuts myself during the streak, checking the Tribune the morning after a game to see how they did, walking around singing (to the tune of M.T.A) “Oh will they ever lose, no they’ll never lose, but their fate is still unlearned…”

All this Blackhawks’ hype brought to mind a streak of my own—a sales streak. It happened fairly early in my advertising career, before I went into business for myself. I wrote 17 deals in a row. With each new sale the energy kept building and building. By the time I hit number 10 I felt omnipotent; by number 14 I was Superman, and after number 17 I wanted to join the lions in the Lincoln Park zoo for a meal of raw meat. A fight promoter could have signed me up to take on King Kong. I went into presentation number 18 feeling invincible! When the man turned me down, I was incredulous; I just couldn’t believe it. The poor guy: I must have thrown over a 100 closes at him; I just refused to give up, walk out of there with my streak over and done with. Now, that’s a man I owe an apology to; he was amazingly patient with me as he stood his ground.

The point of this blog is this: there’s inertia in your sales career that you must be aware of. When things are going well, when you’re on a hot streak, you’re going to be buoyed by the same kind of energy I experienced during my 17-in-a-row streak, and when the opposite is going on, when nothing you’re doing is working, when you can’t make a sale for the life of you, you’re energy level is going to be so low that you’re actually in danger of walking away, of giving up, because it feels like you’re never going to make another sale, even if God Himself comes down to go on the next few calls with you.

See Chapter 16 of Selling Fearlessly. Yeah, I’ve been there, too. In fact, I’m going to do you the great favor of posting Chapter 16, so you can see what happens when inertia takes you in the wrong direction.

 

16

Persistence

“Persistence is to the character of man as carbon is to steel.” Napoleon Hill (1883-1970)

Persistence is the everlasting implementation of your commitment. Persistence is hanging in there against Herculean odds, for as long as it takes, no matter the hardship endured. It’s head butting against a wall of granite until finally it gives way and crumbles. Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States, said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Persistence is what will sustain you when adversity raises its jagged blade and stabs you in the heart. It matters not in the slightest how talented you are, or your track record up to that point—adversity will strike somewhere along the way to challenge you and your commitment, by and large when you least expect it. You must be prepared to face it with equanimity and poise.

Adversity Strikes

My time came in the spring of 1992, after being in the telephone-book-cover advertising business for 23 years. I was a master of my craft, but I wasn’t nearly tough as I thought.

I was working Nashville, Tennessee. It took me 15 workweeks—Monday through Wednesday—to complete a town in those days; adversity reared its ugly head in week number five. After two decades-plus of uncanny consistency, the losses suddenly started piling up like a stinking pyramid in a garbage dump. My 60% closing ratio nose-dived into the toilet. During weeks five through nine, I wrote a grand total of two sales. Three of those weeks I went blank; until Nashville, I’d had three blank weeks in 23 years.

I didn’t have a clue what was causing this unprecedented collapse. It was as if an earthquake had struck and smashed my career to smithereens. Fear, the great enemy I had always laughed at, and challenged, suddenly gripped me like a vice. Doubt, fear’s twin brother, crept into my psyche and poisoned my mind; I was consumed by the locusts of doom. My stomach in a constant state of upheaval, I began to have thoughts of leaving the business. The losses just kept piling up, burying me under an avalanche of baffling futility. I thought of myself as a .400 hitter; now I couldn’t get a hit to save my life. I started pressing, which no doubt made things even worse. When you become desperate, that desperation curdles into a stench of fear the prospect smells like a bloodhound; and it repels him, turns him off completely.

The stress was so overwhelming that I suffered severe angina and underwent angioplasty to open up a blocked artery. I’m sure I brought my illness upon myself; desperation can do that to us—hyphenate “disease” and you get “dis-ease.” I took nine weeks off to recover, grab hold of my sanity.

I went back into the field staring at six more weeks in Nashville. I made a commitment to relax and give it my all. I’d let the Powers That Be worry about results, I decided. I’d concentrate on proper execution, nothing else. I’d go back to selling fearlessly. The town soon would be over, and win, lose, or draw, I’d head to a new town and a fresh start.

It proved to be an excellent strategy: those six weeks were all highly productive, and although Nashville wasn’t one of my more profitable towns, my fear of leaving the business turned out to be nothing more than imagination temporarily run amok, an interim blip in an otherwise consistent career. I never again experienced anything nigh to those five bizarre weeks in Nashville. It’s true: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. After Nashville, I knew I could handle anything.

Was I embarrassed that I crumbled so? Yes I was; I still am. However, as my son Jake likes to say, “Stuff happens,” except he uses a different word. I know this, though: I would not have survived without the benefit of persistence. As President Coolidge said, it is omnipotent. And you won’t survive without it either.

Fear not the Storm

The negative emotions fear, doubt, and discouragement are hideous evils to be reckoned with. They’ll sap every ounce of reason and strength within you, eat you alive like the E. coli virus. The only antidote to fear, doubt, and discouragement are positive emotions: courage, love, determination, and persistence.

If selling was as easy as snapping your fingers, they’d be lining up to do it. It isn’t, though, and that’s why it pays the big bucks it does. If you’re persistent, if you hang in there during those tough times, you’ll be worth every penny you’re paid.

Have courage and fear not the storm, you’ll be fine. A rainbow will appear and the sun will shine again.

Inertia: it can take you to 17-in-a-row highs, or to the precipice of quitting. Be aware of its power, of where it can take you—to the illusion of invincibility or the illusion of failure.

 

Get your free Preview of Selling Fearlessly’s Chapter 1 here.