B2B Sales Mentors Book: 20 Stories from 20 Top 1% Sales Professionals. To learn more: http://top1.fm/b2b
In between the regular interview episodes, we’ll continue to release sample stories from the book like this one. You can either listen to the episode and hear Leila read her story, or read the full text below.
“You Can Have Everything”
By: Leila Mozaffarian
When I was a little girl, I was told by my parents, teachers, mentors, etc. that you can do anything you set your mind to. While I didn’t go into the WNBA, I did learn a very important life lesson and have always made sure to keep this concept in my mind. YOU CAN HAVE EVERYTHING.
You can have everything, but you can’t always have it at the same time. In life and in sales, some things are obviously outside of our control, but the majority of the basics are in our complete control. When it comes to sales, “controlling the controllable” is key. Without doing so, it is very hard to become a top performer and especially to be a consistent top performer. This is not a natural talent and there is no easy secret. Anyone can learn to work hard and take control – it is all about the mindset!
When did I achieve this mindset? When did I believe that I can have everything?
Well, growing up I spent a lot of time in the hospital for different family emergencies. As a middle school student, my parents taught me at a young age to keep up with my school work and extracurriculars regardless of what obstacles were thrown my way. There were no excuses. I controlled my time and effort in my work.
Fast forward to June 2016: I had just graduated from the University of Oregon. I wanted my first job to be at a tech startup that gave me the opportunity to learn how to handle all aspects of the business so I could learn, fail, and grow. Little did I know, Zipwhip was going to be where I created a family at work who supported me in every way from a business and personal aspect.
When I first started in July 2016, I came into sales without knowing that the stereotypical salesperson was a white man with experience – at least in my direct customer base. I was a young woman, with no sales experience, and Persian background. My specific target market was within the automotive industry (let’s be honest – older, white, men who were oftentimes born into the automotive family). This was very difficult for me at first – I felt underprepared, I felt like I had more obstacles to handle, and I didn’t know how this was going to play out. What if I failed? What if I was not able to learn how to sell innovative software (a tool that allows businesses to text customers using their existing landline phone number) to folks who don’t really focus on being “high tech” when it comes to their communications? What if I didn’t hit my quota? What if I was the worst sales rep?
In the back of my mind, I thought: “I have control over the basics. I can learn. I can succeed.” Let’s be honest though – in the front of my mind, I thought: “You are GOING TO FAIL.”
At the time, Zipwhip’s business model was the entire sales cycle: make your own leads, set your own meetings, complete the demos, generate new sales, train and support your customers, manage your own book of business based off of your own sales, and continue this cycle month after month.
We had a four-month ramp period. I hit my goals and requirements at a steady rate in my first four months. In January 2017, when I was on my full ramp for sales, I missed a quota. How could you miss? Why did you miss? Lack of effort? Needed more dials? Got too comfortable? Dried out your pipeline? What had I done?
Now to provide you with some perspective on my personal life at the time – January 9th, 2017 was one of the worst days of my life. I broke up with my partner of five and a half years. That evening, I found out that my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. It was a lot. I was broken in many ways. I couldn’t control what was happening. A few weeks later, my father was diagnosed with an incurable disease. Weeks later, I received a call that my mother had been hit by a tow truck and her car was totaled. I HAD NO CONTROL. I felt like I had the lost the game; I felt like my life was all coming to an end. I was trying to figure out how to handle everything at once as one of the primary caregivers for both my grandmother, father and focusing on not only my first but relatively new job.
Everyone goes through hardships – no one person has it better than anyone else, and we all have our own baggage and handle pressures in our own way. I could not fix what was happening. I could not cure diseases, I could not stop a car accident that had already happened, and sadly, I was very angry at the situation. What happened to no excuses? What happened to just working hard and seeing results? What happened to never being too busy?
Before we get too dark – this story does have a happy ending. I may not have had it all on a personal level but this entire experience allowed me to have everything I wanted on a career level.
At this point, I could only control a few things, and so I made a list:
1.) You know your time is limited, so spend time with your family.
2.)Your parents aren’t working now…. these types of medical expenses are expensive – make money!
3.)You have control of how much you make and how quickly you make it – make money!
I felt like I only had control of one aspect of my life – my job. How could I succeed and what could I control? I could control how many calls I made, how many emails I sent, and how many hours I worked. In February 2017, I put my heart and soul into the work I was doing. I went out of my way to learn about all the subverticals (i.e. new car sales, used car sales, Powersports, auto glass, RVs, etc.) in the automotive industry and the business model behind each department (i.e. service, sales, parts, BDC). I had different applications I signed up for that would notify me of big automotive company changes and send me newsletters, and I read B2B magazines focused within the automotive space. I had to appear as knowledgeable about the industry as the gentleman who was basically born into the automotive world that I was selling to on a daily basis. I had to prove myself to them if I was to earn their trust, respect, and business. I had to learn about salespeople who really knew how to sell.
After work I would read books on anything I could (i.e startups, tech companies, cold calls), I listened to podcasts, I interviewed thought leaders I found on LinkedIn, and I did anything else I could think of to just learn.
In March 2017, I had one of the best months and I know my mentors and leaders at the company were amazed. At the time, Zipwhip did not have a full support or marketing team. I had studied marketing in college so I tried to get creative – making infographics based off of what seemed to be successful online. I used LinkedIn a lot to try and connect with business industry experts. I did what the average salesperson is not told to do.
After achieving a very successful month and knowing this type of selling would allow me to help support my family, I knew that I had to do it again. I continued exceeding expectations by a lot. I built better relationships with our C-level team and constantly asked them to help guide me in the right direction as we were growing exponentially. I was creating a name and career for myself while also creating a name for Zipwhip.
In June 2017, I reflected and noticed that a lot had happened in six months:
1.) I had three consecutive months that shocked many people due to the amount of business I had generated and the turnaround time in creating that new business.
2.) I had set the highest software sales record at the company.
3.) I was asked to write in multiple magazines and articles TO PEOPLE IN THE AUTOMOTIVE SPACE!! I was becoming an influencer.
4.) I got promoted internally at Zipwhip, feeling as though I had earned the respect and recognition for myself.
5.) I was pushing salespeople who had been there longer than me to see and believe even more in Zipwhip and what we as a company were capable of doing.
At one point, my personal expectation was to be number one both on a monthly basis and for the year. Now bear in mind that my ENTIRE motivation was my family. I could control telling my father to not worry about treatment, to help my mom figure out her car situation, to help my grandmother pay her finances. Sales allowed me to have “everything” I wanted.
I had a lot of people doubt my success. I was told that I was lucky and that it “wouldn’t last long term.” This crushed me – but more so, it motivated me to prove the people around me wrong even more. I had so much going on at home, but I had to remember that I had control over my job. At the end of December 2017, when it was officially announced that I was number one for the year, I was ecstatic. I had what I considered “everything” – my family, my performance at work in both sales and growth opportunity, and my happiness.
In January 2018, I was promoted again and I took on the highest level of quota attainment through a new model we had put in place. I was hitting my numbers and things were going smoothly for the first quarter or so. In April 2018, things took a big turn for my father. We spent about a month in the hospital and we were not sure if he was going to make it home. I had to work with the situation and not against it. During his resting hours, I would run into the lobby or café and do demos remotely with businesses across the country. Every single day was a battle. Was today the day that he would be gone? Do I spend more time in the room with him or do I focus on making money? What if he does come home and we need financial backing?
While I was not following my normal prospecting routine, I had built incredible relationships with my customers. Side note – do that, ALWAYS take care of your customers. Provide them with a five-star experience and make sure you give them a reason to vouch for you.
Let me give you a brief example of how they make the biggest difference. On the last day of April 2018, I was sitting in the ICU and looking out at Lake Washington. I needed one more deal to hit my quota. There were 10-15 doctors in the room giving us advice on what to do about my father. I texted my current customer, asked for a referral, and he practically sold it for me. Within one hour, I had hit my quota without ever really leaving the room.
After a few weeks at the hospital, my father was getting sent home! Yet another miracle.
For the last eight months at home, I had many sleepless nights and self-care has not been a priority to me. I sent emails at all hours of the night and had the most random routine – which as many of you know, is not helpful when it comes to sales. Nonetheless, I have control of what to do with my family now, how to handle my customers, and how to maintain success.
We are now at the end of 2018. I am proud to say that my father and my grandmother have fought through everything that has been thrown at them and we celebrated entering 2019 together. I am also proud to say that I still was able to be in the top 10 of our sales team while being out for so much of the year.
My point to all of this? You can control your sales experience. Put the time and effort and hours in that those around you may not and work your way up. Have faith in yourself, no matter what life throws at you. Do not create reasons for your failures; but also know that every “successful” person has failed and struggled at some point.
My challenge to you? Write down what you can control based off what you want – both personally and professionally. Create a plan and go after it! You really can have everything but again, maybe just not all at once.
Want more from Leila Mozaffarian? She was the star of episode 50: Leila Mozaffarian of Zipwhip – Delivering 300%+ While Creating 5-Star Experiences