Yes, we all start the year at zero, but let's not forget everything
There was a lot to celebrate last year at AWS. Despite the pandemic, the company continues to grow rapidly, we had a great turnout for re:Invent (our annual conference), and the pace of product innovation and releases is accelerating. It felt good to close out 2021 on a high note.
I was on a call with a sales leader sharing all of the great work and accomplishments done by the sales team over 2021. He gave a rundown of the numbers, mentioned a few notable wins and team accomplishments. Then he ended the call by saying, “And on Jan 1st, it’s time to forget about all of that and start the year over.”
Well is it now Jan 6th (if you are opening this up on Thursday), so you may not need help forgetting last year. You are probably back into the swing of things lining up the next batch of deals for Q1 and filling up the pipeline again. Or maybe not, experience has told me that the first month of the year can feel like a month long hangover.
How many of you have heard sales leaders and managers tell you to get “sales amnesia”? All that awesome stuff you did last year never happened and everyone starts at zero. I heard that almost every year regardless of the company or manager. The thing is however is they are right, we all have to work our way back up the board again, from zero to goal.
Of course, none of us forget the past year because it just comes up again during Sales Kickoff season. January and February are the months dedicated to sales teams coming together to kick off the year, set the goals and territories, learn the new products and strategies, and to celebrate last year’s wins.
It doesn’t just stop at the Sales Kickoff though. Then we have President’s Club season, where the best of the best get together in some fancy location to mostly celebrate the victories of the past year, tell war stories, and party for a few days. For tax purposes, you actually have to have some “business meetings”, but I do not think anyone ever remembers the meetings.
By the time March rolls around with your shiny sales award sitting proudly on your desk, you are ready to forget the past and start hitting your numbers. As you toil and push and prod your way to rebuilding the pipeline, that shiny award is almost taunting you, haunting your dreams as it asks you if anything is closing this month. Hopefully before the doldrums of summer hit in July and August, you have deals on the table, otherwise it might be time to fix up the resume.
Instead of trying to erase the past, perhaps it is better to reframe how we view the success of the previous year. Rather than develop “sales amnesia”, what we really need is a dose of “sales humility”.
Maybe you are thinking I mistyped something. What does humble have anything to do with sales? It’s true that being humble is not often a trait associated with salespeople, but humility is the best way to temper the excitement and hubris of overachieving and smashing your numbers.
In sports, one of the only things tougher to do than winning a championship is to repeat as a champion. The competition is gunning for you, they try harder to knock you down, and you are not as hungry to win. Many will deny this, but you can see it in the performance and results of the following year. What about the ones that do manage to repeat? They kept focused, stayed quiet, and buckled down to get business done.
Think about the great sports dynasties of recent years. What made the New York Yankees of the late 90’s, the New England Patriots of the 2000’s, and the Golden State Warriors of the last decade so special? They had a culture focused on getting the job done and keeping it humble. There are times to celebrate which are important. Then you pack it away, get ready to hit the next season hard, and learn what you can do even better for the year ahead.
This is why the best sales reps I have worked with and admire are always looking for their edge, the things that help elevate their results. It is not really about being unsatisfied with the past, but a knowledge and competitive spirit that drives towards excellence. You can sense this in top athletes, performing artists, entrepreneurs, and sales professionals.
The top reps are never forgetting the past. They use that base to build from. All that we learned over the past year to achieve success is the fuel that drives us to improve and iterate. It is the opportunity to sharpen the stick, try new things, get smarter about the competition and markets.
Your edge is in your ability to learn and iterate. That is what January should be for all sales professionals. On my newly created TikTok account, my very first video was sharing about how instead of resolutions, use the beginning of the year to focus on improving or learning “one thing”. This could be anything from acquiring a new skill, researching a new market, building something useful, whatever is something that can help you deliver better results.
So this month, find the one thing that you can focus on and build a plan to excel in that goal over the course of this year. And give yourself the time to get there, learning is a journey and it is almost always a challenging one. When you look back this time next year, you can be proud not only of your sales results, but also in keeping it humble and keeping the spirit of learning alive to give you the edge and the confidence to stay on top.
Happy New Year’s to all of you reading, liking, and commenting on this newsletter. If there are topics you would like me to delve into, or you want to share your ideas and lessons learned with the Enterprise Sales Forum community, write back and let me know, I appreciate folks wanting to contribute their insights and help others to excel!
Mark Birch, Founder of Enterprise Sales Forum
The Enterprise Sales Forum is a professional community championing the practice of sales through monthly sales talks at chapters globally. Our chapters provide an open, collaborative and diverse environment to share new ideas, network and learn actionable insights for professional sales development.