How a 4-Letter Word Dramatically Transformed a Sales Reps Career

The words we say can have a powerful impact on people – positively or negatively; not only to others, but also to ourselves. Read this story about how a sales reps career was instantly changed with a single word.

After several months selling for her new company, Jennifer was floundering. A sales reps career is not easy. Even after her sales manager put her on a performance improvement plan, she rarely exceeded 50% of her monthly quota. It’s not like she wasn’t trying—she was energetic, motivated, and likable. She was also failing. 

After a battery of sales assessments and a few simple questions during the sales training class, Jennifer’s sales performance problem became obvious. The assessment revealed Jennifer to be extraordinarily sensitive, an individual who highly valued relationships. In fact, she “over-valued” relationships to the point of avoiding conflict – even the idea of conflict. She craved validation and had difficulty accepting “No” from customers.

Combined with the absence of a proven qualifying process, Jennifer bounced from prospect to prospect attempting to sell to anyone who was nice to her – regardless if they needed what she was offering. She went to great lengths to avoid rejection. 

During our two days of sales training, Jennifer realized that her unwillingness to let go of unqualified prospects indicated that she had another struggle: letting go of a prospect – even when they weren’t going to buy. She had to find a way to move on from unqualified prospects and continue prospecting. 

We concluded during the sales training class that in order for Jennifer to break this cycle of over-sensitivity and willingly let go of unqualified buyers – she needed to learn a four-letter word. The word? Next. We taught her to say, “Next.” And not just to say it, but to shout it out loud. 

She was timid at first. On her first attempt, most of her classmates couldn’t hear her. She squeaked out a soft-spoken, “next?” “Louder”, I said. She tried again. Not much better. “Louder”, I said. “You can do this!” By now the entire class was encouraging her with a rhythmic chant: “Jen-ni-fer! Jen-ni-fer! Jen-ni-fer!” She took a deep breath and exploded with a thundering cry like an ancient warlord charging his enemy: “Neeeeeeeeext!” Everyone jumped up from their seats with rousing cheers and applause. She sank back into her chair like she had just beaten Michael Phelps for the gold medal in swimming at the Olympics.

Exhausted, frightened, yet somehow glowing, Jennifer’s face showed radiant confidence that no one had seen from her since she began work there several months before. Jennifer agreed that this new four-letter word was not for customers, but for her. If a prospect was not qualified, shout (to herself) “Next!” and move on.

There are other sales opportunities waiting. Go get them. To the customer, she said something very positive and professional: “Now that we’ve had a chance to talk and I understand what you’re looking to accomplish, it doesn’t appear that we’re a good fit for you. However, I do know some people in the industry who I can recommend to help you with what you’re trying to achieve.” The prospects loved it and their trust in her tripled instantly. But in her mind, Jennifer was silently repeating that four-letter word to herself – “Next! Next! Next!” 

Building on the sales training class with some follow-up coaching, Jennifer became increasingly self-aware of her sensitivity and learned to qualify customers without fear of loss or rejection. Her sales improved almost immediately and she began a trajectory towards her sales goal. A sales reps career can be rewarding.

Four months after the initial sales training class, she achieved her sales quota – 105%. Before the end of the year, she was the number two sales rep in her region. Jennifer had never lacked motivation or a desire to expand her knowledge and develop her skills. What she needed was a revelation; an experience as a tipping point to break the counterproductive program running in her brain. She needed permission to unleash her inner strength that she held back for so long.

The sales assessment, training class, and coaching program provided her with a diagnosis and solution to the problem. As a result, Jennifer transformed herself within months from a soon-to-be-terminated sales rep chasing low-probability opportunities into a trusted business advisor for her high-value customers. If she couldn’t provide a prospect with what they needed, she could still help them, allowing her to exit on a positive note. She loved that, and so did her customers and other vendors. A sales reps career can be life transforming.

If the prospect was not a good fit for Jennifer, she politely exited and went looking for new opportunities. Her reputation improved, referrals came flooding in, and her sales went through the roof. And it all started with a four-letter word.