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  • Brett Zalaski

When It's Time to Panic in Sales


A couple weeks ago a tenured NBA sales rep, who sells premium, wrote into the site saying, 'I haven't sold in three weeks. I'm panicking. Is it ok to panic in sales?' This was a really interesting question. Why?


I've always been someone to say, 'It's not time to panic until it's time to panic.' Panic never serves leadership well, and panic rarely serves anyone well. Panic causes us to take rash actions, make more mistakes, and sound desperate in the way we communicate with our prospects and our peers. It's not a generally positive thing.


BUT panic for a sales person can be good. It's a statement of accountability. If you are panicking, it probably means that you care that you aren't doing your job. Whether that accountability is for yourself, or your manager, or your team...it can be 'ok' for panic to set in. In fact, I don't think sales reps panic nearly enough. Huh?


When I worked at CEB in inside sales, my goal was to set 7 meetings per week with CMO's at Fortune 500 and Global 3000 companies. As you can imagine, trying to reach these busy executives was really tough. So I made plans, had processes, created touchpoint campaigns, etc. to put me in the best position to consistently make the 1.4 meetings I needed to schedule per day. But if I hadn't scheduled a meeting by 2 pm each day? The best kind of panic set in...I was set on fire. I felt accountable to my company, I felt accountable to my manager, and, most importantly, I felt accountable to myself to go find a meeting. So I buckled down, picked up the phone, and attacked.


That's how you need to panic. Don't panic when it's too late. Panic when you can do something about it. Most reps panic when they don't make a sale over an extended period of time. Panic when you can't see your next sale. That's the appropriate time to panic. And panicking into action and creativity is the best way to panic. Panicking into despair, or panicking into blaming others/situation, or panicking into your own shell never helped. In leadership, not panicking until it's time to panic is critical. In sales, panicking before it's time to panic is critical. In leadership, you need to trust the plan and process and communicate that with your team. When you're the one selling, panicking early gives you time to make an impact and difference.


Love this quote from Deepak Chopra here. When you panic early in sales, you get to use your creativity to solve the problem. When you panic when it's too late, it's genuine panic and desperation. Creativity can create solutions. Genuine panic and desperation is never a place a salesperson wants to be. And I know, as a sufferer of anxiety, I've used it positively and I've used it negatively.


So when is it time to panic in sales? When you can't see your next sale...not after you haven't made a sale for a while.