The most important quality of successful people is self-discipline. Elbert Hubbard once defined self-discipline as “The ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.”

In sales, especially when you face a smaller market, greater competition, more customer resistance and greater failure and disappointment from your activities, self-discipline is the essential skill that will pull you through.

Zig Ziglar once said, “If you will be hard on yourself, life will be easy on you. But if you insist upon being easy on yourself, life is going to be very hard on you.” Jim Rohn once said that, “Discipline weighs ounces; regret weighs tons.”

Al Tomsik, the great sales trainer, said that, “Success is tons of discipline.”

Napoleon Hill, after a lifetime of studying successful people, called self-discipline, “The master key to riches.” He said that with self-discipline, all things are possible. But without self-discipline, all the knowledge, skill or opportunity that you have will be of no use.

Developing discipline
How do you develop the discipline you need to become the successful person that you are capable of? It is simple, but not easy. First, make a list of everything that you have to do the next day, and make the list the night before, before you finish work, or on a Sunday night. Second, go over your list and ask yourself this question, “If I could only do one thing on this list before I was called out of town for a month, which one activity would contribute the greatest value to my work or my life?”Whatever your answer to that question, set that as your top priority for the coming day. When you get up in the morning and get ready, the first thing you do is to go to work on the most valuable thing that you can do, and then work at it single-mindedly until it is complete.

Work on prospecting
In many cases, the most important thing you can do is to prospect. The fact is that very few people like to prospect. Why? Because prospecting is always accompanied by rejection, negativity, rudeness, frustration and failure. As healthy, normal human beings, we avoid these experiences as much as possible. But in order to succeed in sales, we have no choice but to prospect, to find new, qualified people to talk to.

The central focus of your selling activities must be “face time.” The average sales person in America works only about 1 to 1 1/2 hours per day, about 90 minutes out of an eight hour day.

This is the number of minutes that the average sales person spends face to face with qualified prospects who can and will buy and pay within a reasonable period of time. All the rest of the day is usually spent warming up and warming down, talking with co-workers, checking e-mail, reading the newspaper, coming in late, leaving early, and going for extended coffee breaks and lunches. Only 90 minutes a day is spent on actual selling.

If you want to take complete control of your sales career, focus on increasing the number of minutes that you spend face-to-face with prospects each day. There is a direct relationship between the ratio of minutes spent with prospects and your income. The more time that you spend with prospects, by the Law of Probabilities, the more you will sell, in any market. One of the great definitions of self-discipline is that “persistence is self-discipline in action.”

Don’t give up
It is normal and natural for you to want to avoid doing the things that are difficult and challenging, and often you think about quitting, or at least, not doing the hard, heavy lifting of selling. But you have to get over this feeling. You must discipline yourself to persist, to make the calls that you have resolved to make, to see the people, to do the work that you have to do to be successful.

In the months ahead, you will be tested many times. Every time that you think about quitting, or holding back, or wasting time on non-sales activities, you will be facing a test. The question is, “Will you pass this test, or fail it?”

When you can discipline yourself to do what you need to do, whether you feel like it or not, and keep doing that, over and over again, you will soon develop the habit of self-discipline that will carry you onward and upward for the rest of your career.

Resolve in advance that you will never give up, and then, follow through with your resolution every single day.