2017: Your Year of Tiny Tasks; Ginormous Gain

5 min read

It’s the first week of 2017. You’re jammed. Pumped. The New Year beckons. Your response?

Bring it.

Good for you. Killer attitude.

Now: How will you bring it? How do you guarantee you’ll grow this year? You want more money, more growth, more profit. How, exactly, will you do more in 2017?

An exercise for your imagination: It’s January 31st, 2018, five minutes before midnight. You raise your glass to toast … what, exactly? List the top three things you will toast:

  1. ______________________________
  2. ______________________________
  3. ______________________________

Now, for a hard question: how many new clients did you land last year? Take a moment to reflect and write down the number below:

________

If you’re like most in the promotional products business, you likely wrote a single digit number.

Why?

Two words: project management.

You spent 2016 doing everything you could just to keep up. You have a decent book of business, but you lacked significant growth. You worked hard (it’s not a question of your work ethic, your ability, nor willingness to put in the work).

How do you guarantee you’ll do more this year and not merely “more of the same”? Pure willpower alone is not enough, if it were, 90 days from January 1, we’d all be skinnier, happier, and richer.

Another exercise:

  1. Grab your sales numbers from each month last year. (Better yet, if you know the number of transactions you processed each month, add those as well. If you are a commonsku customer, your sales rep report will be helpful for this exercise).
  2. Populate your spreadsheet by month.
  3. Now, trace the top line curve (example below, in red).

calendar-with-red-line

What’s that red line?

That’s how busy you were last year. Those are the peaks and valleys.

Forget how you felt, If you are like most people, you felt busy all the time.

But the promotional products business is not like that; it’s rarely consistent. If anything, its only constancy is its inconsistency. Tight deadlines. Hundreds of projects. Dozens of clients. And constant crisis management. It’s maddening and exciting at the same time; we love it for its endless variety.

What happens in the psyche of the average promotional products professional throughout the year?

This:

calendar-with-emotions

You are so busy, that when business does finally slow, it’s quite natural to pause. Take a break. And, you should. You deserved it. (Sales peaks are a good problem).

Those low points, those valleys, seem to be your only opportunity to capitalize on proactive sales activity (like business development). But here’s the reality: If you’re a seasoned pro, you’ve been through cycles like this before, you know the bitter truth of what Tom Searcy once said, “Never hunt when you are hungry.”

Why?

Because you likely won’t. Not in this business. The constant demands on your psyche, your schedule, and your energy, will drain your willpower. Moreover, it seems an enormous task to suddenly start prospecting. Where to start? How to begin? Who to contact?

Most people take action by habit in small things more often than in important things, for it’s the simple matters that get done readily, while the more somber and interesting, taking more effort and being more complex, often must wait for another day.*

And what happens? January turns into March … into July … into October, and you’re back to December 31st.

No energy was spent on new routines, new rituals, and (the secret) tiny sales tasks. You experienced nominal growth (or, loss). We promised ourselves that we would focus on 2017 and grow, but the industry treadmill, that woolly-beast of deadlines and demands, swallowed our ambition whole.

This pattern repeats itself in newly minted sales reps producing only $75,000 a year and million dollar producers. It’s not a matter of revenue or the make-up of your clients, what matters is the type of activity you do, day-by-day.

Just as in dieting and exercise, on January 1, if we told ourselves we were going to change (for example: grow our sales by 30%), but we didn’t make tiny changes to our day-to-day behavior, we inadvertently lied to ourselves. And as the year progressed and business picked up, we (unintentionally) compounded the problem with more lies:

  1. When things slow down, I will call on new business.
  2. This client is driving me crazy, as soon as I get past this project, I’m going to prospect for new business.
  3. Once I get over this [fill in the blank] I’m going to spend more time merchandising for Client X because I’m leaving a lot of money on the table.

Here’s one secret the pros know: If you are going to hit your goals, you should focus more on shooting than winning:

When an archer is shooting for nothing
He has all his skill.
If he shoots for a brass buckle
He is already nervous.

His skill has not changed. But the prize
Divides him…
He thinks more of winning
Than of shooting
And the need to win
Drains him of power.

In sales, we think of growing by 15%, by 30%, by 50%. We dream of leaping from $100,000 to $250,000 or from $500,000 to becoming a multi-million dollar producer.

We think more of winning than shooting.

In this weekly series on sales, we’re going to focus on shooting: the activities that are going to lead you to more. Shot by shot. Drop by Drop. Little by little. You will accomplish new heights by a series of small tasks, for “a small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules.”** We’ll provide tools and tips that only the pros know, whether you’re a solo-preneur, a team of ten, or a large enterprise. And we’ll do it in a way that won’t exhaust you, it will optimize your strengths, capitalize on your nimble marketing mind, and energize you, moreover, it will be fun (commonsku style!)

This is a growth year for you.

Why?

Because you’re about to learn the secret power of tiny tasks.

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Our income, in fact, our entire lives are the sum of our tiny tasks.

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Photo credit: Wilfred Ivan
Quotes: *Mary Oliver, ** Anthony Trollope