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Give your career some steam

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If you’re just starting out in your sales career, you’re probably struggling to get things going. If so, take heart. You just need some momentum, and momentum is always easier to perpetuate than initiate.

My friend Marv used to tell a story about being taken to see the steam locomotives pulling out of New York’s Grand Central Station. Though he was only five, Marv still remembers how impressive those engines were.

“Not those sissy diesel engines we have today. These were powerful steam engines.” He would pound on the table to give you a sense of the mighty machines rumbling along the tracks.

But the lesson of his story was this: “You could put a one-inch steel bar across the tracks when the train was starting, and as big and powerful as the locomotive was, it would not be able to move. But let that train get started and put the same steel bar on the tracks a mile out, and that locomotive would slice right through it as if it were made of butter.” 

Sales careers work the same way. In the beginning, no matter how powerful you are, it’s a struggle to get over that steel bar. Some of us don’t make it (and end up in jobs where someone else does the prospecting). But those who do make it learn to attract clients—first one here and another there—as the train gets going down the tracks. 

If you’re still struggling to get over that steel bar, try remembering these four success tips:

Look for the opportunity in every situation. Setbacks are chances to learn. Failure teaches you what doesn’t work.

Put 100 percent of yourself into what you’re doing. When you’re working, be 100 percent at work. When you’re playing, be 100 percent at play. And when you’re with a client, be 100 percent with that client.

Finish the day before you begin. Visualize how you want each day to go and spend the day making it happen. What you chase after, you will become.

Be a light in the lives of the people you serve. You’ll get much more traction from a genuine desire to serve your clients than from a focus on your own needs.

If you’re just starting out (and huffing and puffing down the track), keep it up. Eventually, you’ll get up a head of steam and be just like that unstoppable locomotive.

Sign up for The Lead and get a new tip in your inbox every day! More tips:

Your new salesperson is probably going to fail

Resolve to keep moving

A winner is a loser who doesn’t give up

Sandy Schussel is a speaker, business trainer and coach who helps sales teams develop systems to win clients. He is the author of The High Diving Board and Become a Client Magnet. For more information, go to