By Pat Henneberry
Pat Henneberry was just named vice president of global learning and development at Hearts on Fire. She also is founder of The Jewelry Coach, a sales training community for jewelers. Reach her at 512-203-3414 or
I am a competitive open-water swimmer and before any swim we “carbo load.”

The last open-water swim I did was a 10-mile swim for Colin’s Hope, a nonprofit organization that promotes water safety and education for children, parents and lifeguards on drowning prevention.

Each swimmer has a kayaker (water guardian) that follows you for six hours of swimming.

My kayaker is always my friend Joanna--she doesn’t take it personally when I start to have low energy and I get grumpy and start asking for things in a not-so-nice way, or I start yelling, ‘Why did I ever start this swim? What am I doing out here in the open water? I must be crazy.’

That’s when it’s time for a carbo load.

My energy and my electrolytes get low and my body, mind and spirit are acting in ways that, as an athlete, you try to prepare for but never expect. That’s when I have my water guardian Joanna, who carries my personal carbo-loading energy food, to help me load back up.

My carbo load of choice is mashed sweet potatoes (best complex carb and easy to digest) with maple syrup, a bottle of liquid electrolytes and dark (90 percent) chocolate.

Due to the long distance and time of the swim you need to stay away from the “quick fix” gels that only produce short-term results. It’s the same in sales.

As sales professionals, you know more often than not you are going to have to wait on many of your deals to close. Today’s customers take longer to make a decision, prolonging the sales cycle and increasing our stress. Or they are Millennials who want it now or they walk.

Selling and building relationships becomes a challenge because our customers are distracted, they are busy, they are worried, and they are fickle, all of which negatively impacts your ability to close the sale.

How are we supposed to stay in the game, keep our energy up and continue to stay in front of our customers without being annoying, rude and downright pushy?

Two of the biggest mistakes you can make in today’s economy is to try and force the close before a customer is ready, or give up before a customer is ready. Both will cost you big time in terms of customer relationships, reputation and your ability to achieve your goals and help your store to grow.

So what is the solution? How do we keep swimming when all we want to do is yell at our water guardian? Here are four simple strategies to ensure you and your team are in the best sales shape of your lives, and you have what it takes to go the distance.

1. Sell Emotion
Your products and services are not a commodity, so your relationship with your customers and how they connect, feel and how much they trust you are going to determine whether that sale happens. Both pushing them to make a decision or abandoning them before they are ready to do business will send a loud and clear message that you are not the person or store they want to do business with. Sell with emotion and you will be a leader. Have a “water guardian” ready to support you--someone in your store you can identify as a good team partner.

2. Follow-up system
We have all heard these statistics: it takes on average seven to eight sales calls to close a deal, and the average sales person gives up in three. Why do we give up? It’s because as sales professionals we hate to follow up.

If you are using a traditional follow-up system, I have news for you: you are pushing the customer to the point where they are not interested, and quite frankly you are irritating. You need to redesign your follow-up system. You need to design your follow up, so it is more about adding value than just checking in to see if the prospect is ready to buy. Follow up has one purpose--to continue to enhance the relationship.

3. Carbo load
Do you ever need a little something to get you through the day? Something that gives you the energy to make it to the end of whatever it is you are working on? Why not add that to your sales process? If you want to make to the finish line, if you want to have what it takes to wait out your customers, you are going to need a little something just to get you through the day.

You need to be calling on your existing customers, those people who already love you and want to do business with you. Your weekly sales calls need to include at least one or two “fun” calls, calls in which you are reengaging with your existing customer base.

Best-case scenario is you will hang up with some new business; worst is you get recharged remembering why you love what you do. Don’t call them to tell them you have something new in the store you want them to see; just call them to see how they are enjoying that new diamond necklace they purchased from you.

4. Do it anyway
Around four hours into my swim there is a time I want to quit. I think, ‘It doesn’t really matter, why am I here, this sucks,’ and then I think, ‘Do it anyway.’

When you get to this point, think about doing it anyway. That no matter how you feel in that moment, that you do it anyway. Everyone understands that some days will be good and some days won’t but no matter what, do it anyway.

Crossing the finish line is more about consistency than about skill. Now, don’t get me wrong, you have to be good at what you do, but there are plenty of great athletes and sales professionals who never cross the finish line because on those days when they don’t feel like it, they don’t do what needs to be done.

The days you “do it anyway” will be the days you cross the finish line and make a great sale … because you “did it anyway.”

Building relationships is not always easy in this economy, and it takes more than a little stamina to stay in swimming. But with a few adjustments to your approach and your routine, you can build your sales stamina and make it to the finish line a winner.

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