Driven and Distracted: The Secret Problem Many Salespeople Share

A career in sales can be exciting and rewarding. The admin work required? It sucks. CRMs. Expenses. Sales reports. They take away your selling time with little payback. Other tasks, like customer follow-through, are essential to a sales person’s success. Doing them requires discipline and neglecting them GETS you disciplined.

Do you struggle with any of the following problems?
1. Difficulty completing boring-yet-important tasks, like entering calls
2. Habitually turning sales reports in late
3. Not fulfilling commitments to customers-even the important ones
4. Forgetting to bring something crucial to a sales call
5. Doing twice the work of your teammates because of any of the above problems
6. Feeling as if you’re the only rep on the team with these issues

Are these symptoms of a careless sales rep? A manager may think so. Heck, you may agree. To a mental health professional, these are possible symptoms of ADD or ADHD. (Yes, they are two different disorders. For simplicity’s sake I’ll stick to ADHD).

As you know, in sales, effort does not always equal output. Have you ever worked your tail off on a sale only to appear lazy or disorganized? Therein lies the problem. Administrative difficulties can push you away from an otherwise likeable job. At the same time, they distract management from your true effectiveness as a salesperson.

Here are 6 steps to addressing and feeling better about those little problems that add up:

1. Get tested for ADHD/ADD. See a psychiatrist or other physician AND talk a counselor. Why both? One focuses on things from a medical perspective and the other works on how you think. Accept that ADHD is a real affliction. Although you won’t be forced to take medicine, most are proven effective and safe. Do you have a child or other family member that’s been diagnosed? It runs in families. To better understand the symptoms of ADHD and how it’s diagnosed click here.*

2. Get rational about the World. After a mistake, you need to pick yourself up, not beat yourself up. Yes, forgetting your power cord at home, can make you want to throw your company laptop out the window. Stop and think. What can you change about what happened in the past? Anger and self-torture only take MORE time away from doing a better job in the future. And, a supportive, non-manipulative manager won’t be impressed with your self-loathing. You control only your own actions and feelings, not those of others. To take responsibility and stop upsetting yourself, check out, “How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Anything”, by Albert Ellis.

3. Get rational about customers. Yes, you play an important role in the sales process, but, you’re not the main character. Your clients are thinking, breathing, human beings that act on their own freewill. You don’t truly control their decision-making. After losing a sale, you’ll always be able to find fault in your actions. Stop telling yourself a flawless sales presentation would’ve guaranteed success. You’ve probably made some of the same mistakes with the clients you’ve won. ADHD is not an excuse, but a fact of life. Focus on getting better, not on being perfect.

4. Get organized. This is step 4 for a reason. If you lack a rational view of yourself and your customers, no to-do list will save you. Before you rush out to buy the next killer new app or Day Planner, change your work habits. In, “The Power of Habit”, author Charles Duhigg explains how you can replace bad habits with good. When its time to add technology (digital or paper), check out “Taking Control ADHD” podcast for tips on the latest tech and coping strategies. Always keep in mind, if you have ADHD, you WILL make mistakes again, Being organized will help you reduce, not eliminate, them.

5. Play to your strengths. Many people with ADHD are highly creative. Despite forgetting to put your calls in, you may be the best on your team at answering objections or crafting new solutions. Use that strength and don’t be shy about having it. This also means reconsidering the type of product you sell and company you work for. Companies that offer more autonomy to sales people tend to require less reporting.

6. Measure yourself differently. Accept that you may never be the best at the mundane parts of your job. Nothing about ADHD is a death sentence. Making mistakes and continuing to move forward separates those who improve and those who stagnate. “You’re Never Going to Be “Caught Up” at Work. Stop Feeling Guilty About It.”, is the title of a recent Harvard Business Article by Art Markman.

Ultimately, all of us work for ourselves. So, be a good boss! When you support yourself win or lose, you find the strength to accomplish more.


3 Ways Salespeople Miss Out on the Gig Economy

It’s been in the news and it’s now being studied by business schools. Have you heard the phrase “Gig Economy”? It refers to the growing percentage of the US work force that works independently. Think everyone from Uber drivers, to high end consultants, and everyone in between.

In the past few years, I’ve seen colleagues, some with 10-20 years at the same company, move on to new ventures. Switching jobs is nothing new to us. Companies launch new products and staff up and others get bought out and lay off.

When you’re selling well, you ride a high of money and accolades. When you’re struggling, you drown in self-doubt and identity crisis. It’s the environment sales people have lived in for years. Gig economy workers share the same uncertainty of income, feeling of isolation, and risk of distraction that outside sales reps experience. At the same time, they receive several freedoms that corporate sales people can only dream of:

The freedom to define success
Corporate sales people are told how much to sell. Despite earnest attempts to make sales targets fair, there are always winners and losers. As we all know, the externallly imposed measurements, (see. ) directly affect our income, self-esteem, and motivation going forward. Gig economy workers have the ability to say when they have and haven’t accomplished enough.
The freedom to change directions
Corporate sales people are the first to know when a sales initiative isn’t working. At the same time, they are often pressured to stay the course. Gig economy workers are limited only by their own resistance to failure. They have no one to blame other than themselves. In contrast, corporate sales people are often blamed for “poor execution” when someone above them wants to avoid blame for a bad idea.
The freedom to define their product
Most sales people in corporations sell a product or service they do not produce or control. At most, they choose what to say about their product and what customers to target. Have you ever had to grudgingly acknowledge that a comptetitor’s solution was actually better than your own? Gig economy workers have the ability to throw out rules and craft their own solutions on a customer-by-customer basis.

In a recent Harvard Business Review Article entitled, “Thriving in the Gig Economy”, authors Gianpiero Petriglieri, Susan J. Ashford, and Amy Wrzesniewski, interviewed 65 workers successfully working in freelance occupations. They discovered these entrepreneurs shared four common strategies they used to cope with the highs and lows of their work. These included self-defining your place, routines, personal support network, and purpose.

A sales job in corporate America can provide you with the first three elements. That is, until you outgrow them. As for Purpose, if your sales job comes with a sense of meaning, consider yourself very lucky! Most of us attempt to substitute money for that.


What’s The Right Salary for You? Ask the Salary Happiness Calculator.

What’s The Right Salary for You? Ask the Salary Happiness Calculator.

You’re in sales and that means you’re money-motivated. You don’t shy away from challenges – you seek them out! After all, that’s where the big rewards are found! By rewards, I mean recognition, gifts, and most of all – money.
Given that you know yourself and what you want so well, I’m sure you wouldn’t hesitate to prove it by performing the following three-step excercise I call the Salary Happiness Calculator:

Step 1 – Beginning as early in your career as you like, add up your yearly salary up all the way up to today. Benefits? You can estimate their value or even leave them off if you like.
Step 2 – Ask yourself if you feel any lasting happiness as a result of all that money. Again, think about lasting happiness. You may remember how you felt the day you moved in your house or bought a nice car. I’m referring to how you feel today.
Step 3 – For Experienced Sales People: Are you surprised to see such a big number? Where did it all go? Kudos to you if you stashed a significant amount in savings. For most Americans, the lion’s share of the money in gone. Is it fair to say most of the things spent it on were intended to make you happy? Yet, they haven’t. Sure, you enjoyed them short period of time, but now you need more. In addition, your monthly bills have probably kept pace, limiting what jobs you can take in the future. Was it worth it? Consider letting go of your current lifestyle and pursuing something that you feel gives you a purpose.
Step 3 – For Newer Sales People: For you, this number may be no surprise. In fact, it may be an annoying reminder that you just aren’t where you want to be, yet. What may be a surprise is that even the older, more successful, sales people doing the same calculation aren’t any happier than you. Sure, they appear to be more confident. Inside, you’re both thinking the same thing: “If I could just make more…”. While you’re still young, consider replacing income goals with purpose goals. You will never have enough things or make enough money and you can find yourself feeling trapped by bills later on.

Should you be judged for wanting to have a comfortable lifestyle? Would being homeless make you happier? Of course not! The moral of the story: we blame our employers for not paying us more money while knowing, beyond basic comforts, the extra pay won’t make us any happier. We give our autonomy away by choosing the higher-paying, micro-managed sales job, over the interesting one.

But of course, none of this applies to you. A little more money is all you need. Feel free to lie to me, your friends, and even yourself. The number on your calculator tells the true story.


Ps. This post was inspired by the writings of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. They are authors of a book and documentary both entitled Minimalism. Learn more about the documentary by clicking on the following link:
Also, you can check out their website at

So You Want to be a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep? How Well Can You Prevaricate?

The pharmaceutical industry has taken much criticism, both just and unjust, over the years. You’ve seen the articles about dangerous side effects, insanely high prices, and bribery of doctors. These scandals make for good headlines. Fortunately for pharma sales reps, most of these issues are largely out of their control. Even the bribery, given current regulations, isn’t feasible any more to reps as a sales tool.

Many physicians don’t even accept rep-funded lunches anymore let let alone lavish trips or other freebies. No, the lie I speak of is internal to pharma companies. It doesn’t involve doctors or patients. Continue on and I will explain.

Not unlike other sales people, pharmaceutical reps are required to make records of their client visits using a customer relationship management (CRM) system. More unique to the industry is the practice of unscheduled visits to doctor’s offices. Medical professionals rarely schedule appointments in advance to talk to sales people other than lunches. Going back about 10-20 years ago, doctors used to allow reps to stop by during their office hours and allow them a conversation in between seeing patients.

Today, most offices either allow only rep access to the doctor at lunch time or prohibit it all together. Still, to this day, most pharma companies enforce strict requirements such as 10 physician calls per day.

Remember when I said this article was about lying? To make up the gap between “required” calls and actual face-to-face conversations, pharma sales often just put the required ten calls in their CRM system instead of the actual 1 or 2 (or none!). Often, because a rep may need to leave medication samples, they may need to wait in the office lobby while the doctor signs their computer screen.

Therefore, a REAL day in the life of a pharma rep consists of meeting with 1 or 2 physicians over lunch, visiting the waiting rooms of 8 or 9 others, and at the end of the day, recording all 10 visits as face-to-face calls.

Does all of this sound like lying? Of course it is! Right now, any non-salesperson reading this is asking, “What’s the big deal? All sales people lie don’t they?” Having been one for over 20 years working with hundreds others, I can say this is emphatically not true. Most of us do not lie – intentionally. So, what gives? Obviously, in this case, pharma reps know they are lying and are still doing it. Consider the following questions:

Who does this lie benefit?
The obvious benefit to the rep is staying employed. To this I ask, how many among us wouldn’t tell a white lie in order to keep their job? Is it believable that thousands of pharmaceutical sales managers accross the country are ignorant to the fact that doctors don’t see reps? More on this later.

In the absence of proof, I speculate that the management of pharma companies use this data for some reason other than evaluating sales people. One possibility is that the call data it is recorded in order to impress current and potential investors. Another is using call volume data to promote the sales force itself, as a partnering tool. In this scenario, I convince you that my sales force is so skilled and diligent (“Just look at how many sales calls they make!”) that you want to hire them to sell your products as well. A third possibility is that the FDA requires the reporting of sales call volume. I see no reason for any of these possilbilites to be mutually exclusive so any combination of them could exist.

Who does this lie hurt?
The quick answer would be anyone who relies on the information. If sales managers could truly claim ignorance they’d be a good candidate. But let’s be real. It’s never good to lie to investors or business partners. And, it’s REALLY never good to lie to the government! Still, I assert these are not the only possible victims of this lie. Most people want to feel proud of what they do for a living. Sales people are no different. Being forced to lie to keep your job is demoralizing and debilitating, especially over the long term. Consider the commonly used polygraph or lie detector test. It works by detecting the physical stress created when someone tells a lie. Stress, of course, has been proven over and over again to produce negative health consequences.

Who is really doing the lying?
Obviously the sales reps are doing the lying. Or, are they? It would be hard for any pharmaceutical sales manager to claim total ignorance. After all, they are going into offices with sale reps and getting the door slammed in their faces as well. It’s very hard to believe that knowledge of this reality doesn’t go far up the chain of command either. Repeatedly, I have seen fearful reluctance, on the part of reps, to bring this issue into the light for fear of repercussions. I assert, when you force someone to lie in order to keep their job, you yourself become the liar. Therefore, management, or whomever benefits from the lies are the true beneficiaries.

What can be done about this?
It’s about legitimacy and fear. If pharma sales people aren’t seeing all the doctors, are they really making all the sales? Doesn’t it then make sense to employ less reps who only visit doctors who allow them access? Finally, if less reps are needed, aren’t less managers needed as well? Selling to a doctor requires no less skill and effort than any other customer, but can we agree sitting in lobbies is not selling?

Nobody wants their job eliminated because we all want to pay the bills and feel fulfilled at the same time. Maybe the solution starts with us, the sales reps. When interviewing for a pharma sales job, ask specific questions about physician access and call requirements. Make the interviewer compare how many doctors you’ll need to see with how many are accessible. Perhaps if we all spend less time worrying about paying bills we gain a little more fulfillment in return!


For more info, check out this interesting article on the toll lying takes on all of us:
What Lying Does to Your Brain and Body Every Day

Are You in the Right Sales Job? Answer This Simple Question.

Are You in the Right Sales Job? Answer This Simple Question.

Are you in the right sales job, or is there something better out there for you? I think I can help you find the answer – provided you consider what happened to me.

Once upon a time, a large, global corporation stopped compensating its sales force on actual sales volume. My colleagues and I, working for this company, hoped the change would bring about a more utopian work environment. Maybe we would be paid a healthier salary? Maybe we would be empowered to really serve our customers and no longer have to sugarcoat the truth? Most of us on the sales force would’ve agreed that we sold first class products. Therefore, it wasn’t hard to convince customers to use them.

Such naive exuberance! The new compensation system, turned out to simply be a replacement of the tradional pay for sales system to a pay for sales metrics system. These metrics meant we were measured more frequently than ever on activities that had little meaning to us or our customers. I remember quickly resenting the loss of the old system. In hindsight, it wasn’t the money. I was still made around the same amount as before. What I really lost was the ability to craft the job on my own terms.

From this experience, I learned a very important lesson. When we complain about unrealistic quotas, we ignore the real problem – the concept of outside measurement itself. Any assigned sales metric, whether it’s sales volume or anything else, attempts to inspire the sale person into action. Yes, goals can be motivating, but only when WE set them. Taking on someone else’s goal is not the same thing. Be honest, when you accept a sales job, you’re not actually taking on the company’s goals. You don’t really care about selling over-and-above the required 10,000 widgets. Deep down, you are saying to yourself, “This job’s prescribed goal helps me achieve my personal goals.” More specifically, we accept that the money coming from the job’s achievements will lead us to our desired personal achievements.

Unfortunately, always doing (and believing) what you’re told can be the fast track to growing old. You wake up ten years later with a higher mortgage payment and no more happiness than you started with. In most salesforces, only a small percentage of sales people make the bulk of the compensation. For those lucky few who make it big and retire to a beach, there are about 1,000 of us who don’t. What’s easier to believe – only one of every 1,000 sales people really works hard, or measuring life fulfillment based on something so random is ridiculous?

Instead of focusing on getting rich, try being rich. I don’t suggest spending beyond your means, but taking a mean look at your spending. Your neighbor with the Porsche may be swimming in debt. That cruise that your teammate brags about may be collecting interest on her credit card. Real wealth is an equation:

What you make – What you spend = Real Wealth

Here’s what you really need to ask yourself: If your commissions (or other measurement system) where taken away and replaced with a comfortable salary and benefits package, could you still do your job? Are you truly inspired by the work itself? A job worthy of your time should do this. Keep telling yourself the money alone makes it worthwhile. At best, you will only ever tolerate your job. Still don’t believe me? Daniel Pink, in “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, says workers should be paid enough to take salary off the table. Research has proven, the more money you make beyond about 70k per year, not only fails to add hapinesss, it starts to take away from it. Are you in the right sales job? You now have the answer!


Ps: I doubt one blog post will change your mind about the futility of finding happiness from making more money. Have the courage to read Daniel Pink’s book if your belief in it is that strong. To find it on Amazon, click here.
Pss.: Are you instead wondering if sales is the right job for you, period? According to David Hoffield, you will likely be selling in your next job – even if it’s not in sales: