From the April 2012 issue of Benefits Selling Magazine • Subscribe!

The No. 1 thing you need to do to succeed

The other day, I was talking on the phone to an old friend who was field training a new agent. Right in the middle of the call, he said, “Let me put him on the phone, and you tell him the No. 1 thing he needs to do to succeed.” As he passed the phone to his new agent, I heard him say, “This guy was our best trainer, so pay attention. This will be good.”

You ever have one of those moments when every muscle you have contracts simultaneously? It’s like being at a dinner party and your friend introduces you as “the funniest person I’ve ever known in my whole life,” and then says to you, “Go ahead, tell us a joke.”

I pondered it for a second. The No. 1 thing this guy needed to do… not the Top 5 or Top 10. Just the one. Of all the things you need to do to succeed in our business, which one would you pick? See lots of people every day? The value of following up? Work smarter, not harder? Always be closing?

Let’s be honest, for every person who says, “You must do this or you won’t last a month,” there’s another who says, “If you do that, you’ll be gone in a week!”

So, I opted for the only reply that made sense. “Hello? I’m sorry, you’re breaking up. Can you hear me now?”

I’ll be the first to say that our “need to do” lists are as unique as we are. There are no wrong choices, really. It comes down to what works for you.

The one that works for me? Don’t start the day until it’s finished.

For years, I’ve taught new salespeople the first discipline they must develop is the habit of making a cold-call list each night before their head hits the pillow. (And the second one is calling it “cold calling” because you can put lipstick on that pig by calling it “prospecting” or “canvassing,” but you’re walking in doors where you don’t know them and they don’t know you—that’s a call that’s cold. Those cutesy labels ain’t fooling anybody.)

Disciplines are interesting: Hard to develop, easy to drop. Sitting down to make your list for tomorrow is a pain. You’re tired and it’s late. It’s easy to say, “I’ll do it in the morning.” But what happens in the morning? We get bogged down with email or #wherewillpeytonplay or whether—after 16 tries—that girl on that talk show will finally identify her baby daddy.

But when we wake up with the list already made, we have a greater sense of purpose for the day, and we get to it right away—no matter the weather or how bad we slept last night. It’s a little game we play with ourselves to create urgency. “I’m calling on Prospect X today,” we say. “Wish me luck!” Isn’t that better than, “I’m cold calling today. Pray I don’t drive off a cliff in desperation.”

If you were asked to give a rookie your No. 1, what would you say? Are you still doing it, or did you drop it along the way because it was working so well? Let’s do it again today, just for old times’ sake.

And so you’re not distracted, I’ll go ahead and tell you. That girl is still looking for her baby daddy.

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