Starting the NFL season deep in the hole, in last place, is similar to being way behind your annual quota at the end of the first quarter.

At the time of this writing, the Baltimore Ravens had a 1-3 record and a home game against their divisional rival, the Cleveland Browns. The Baltimore Ravens were installed as 7-point favorites. No question that this was a must-win game in order to maintain a reasonable hope of making the playoffs. The Ravens started off strong, scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter, but in the end, they found a way to lose, 33-30. The details of how they lost are not relevant to this article. The fact is, there is no such thing as a “sure thing,” whether it is in football or sales! We have all had deals that we thought were a lock, only to find out that we lost them to the competition.

As a huge Baltimore Ravens fan, starting the season with only one win after five games does not bode well for our playoff hopes. In fact, according to the so-called experts, our odds of playing in the postseason are less than 10 percent. The more interesting question is how our head coach, John Harbaugh, deals with this reality. Regardless of his chances of making the playoffs, there is a lot of football left to be played. He doesn’t have the option of calling this a bad dream and starting the season over again. As the head coach, he must do his best to remain positive, and prepare the team to win the next game.

To make matters even more challenging for the coach, the Ravens have made the playoffs every year but one, including a Super Bowl victory, since he took over in 2008. So he is not accustomed to failure and, quite frankly, neither is the team’s owner.

From the offensive, defensive and special teams coaches to all of the position coaches, and obviously the players, all eyes will be focused on Harbaugh for his guidance and leadership as the Ravens attempt to dig themselves out of this hole.

In addition to his players and coaches looking up to him for positive influence and direction, you can bet ownership will be carefully observing how he approaches this challenge that he never had to face before.

This scenario that I just described is similar to beginning your sales year significantly behind quota. Perhaps you accelerated several large orders from the first quarter of 2015 to the fourth quarter of 2014 to make your bonus. Or maybe one of your larger clients does not have any money in the budget for 2015 and you were counting on them for a certain amount of revenue. Or maybe a long-standing customer moved out of your territory and you don’t know how you are going to make up the difference. Or worse yet, perhaps your product is simply not as attractive as it once was and you are having a difficult time selling it.

Regardless of the reason, you are woefully behind your number, but as a true sales professional, you must remain confident and positive and do your best to finish the year strong. Like the coach of the Ravens, perhaps you have exceeded quota every year and are considered a perennial top performer in your company. So this is clearly uncharted territory for you.

There is no value in portraying a negative attitude around the office, and most certainly not around your clients.

You can bet that sales management, and depending on the size of the company, ownership, will be paying close attention to the way you respond to adversity.

This will be your opportunity to demonstrate your character and integrity!

It’s easy to be upbeat and cheerful when you are ahead of quota and the commission checks are rolling in. But anyone who has been in sales long-term will tell you that there are peaks and valleys. Navigating through the valleys is what separates the true professionals from the rest of the pack.

Whether it is pro football or professional sales, how we deal with adversity, in my opinion, is one of the key components of long-term success.



Work Your Land

Proverbs 20:4

A farmer too lazy to plant in the spring
has nothing to harvest in the fall.

Proverbs 28: 19-20

Work your garden—you’ll end up with plenty of food;
play and party—you’ll end up with an empty plate.

Committed and persistent work pays off;
get-rich-quick schemes are rip-offs.