The Role of Adversity in Shaping a Sales Person’s Character

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, if we let it. |

By Dave Kahle

I still remember the worst sales call I ever made.  More than just remember it, I react to the memory.  I get a queasy feeling in my stomach every time I think about it.  It wasn’t just a bad sales call, it was a humiliating, embarrassing event.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

That’s the point.  There is something about adversity that has the power to linger forever in our memories, shaping our character and molding our behavior for the rest of our life.

Adversity can take countless forms.  It can be a gut-wrenching incident, like my worst sales call, or more poignantly, something like an auto accident or the loss of a loved one.  I’ve had them all.  Or, it can be a period of financial distress – yes, I’ve had that too, a couple of times.  Or, it can be a time of health problems and relationship conflicts.  Yep, you guessed it.  I’ve lived through both of those situations as well.

Regardless, the Encarta Dictionary defines adversity this way:

1.  misfortune (hardship and suffering)

2.  adverse happening (an extremely unfavorable experience or event)

One of the things that these experiences have in common is their impact on us – they create an intense, negative emotional response.  We become angry, embarrassed, humiliated, depressed, and hopeless.  Adversity produces a grab-bag of bad feelings.  It’s not fun.  As I reflect on my personal experiences, I have to acknowledge that the events mentioned above were some of the worst hours, days, and months of my life.  I never want to go through any of them again.

But it is that intensity of emotional response that contains the seeds that can bloom into a sounder character if we respond appropriately.  We’ve all heard the expression, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”  Sort of true, but not exactly.  That common expression would be more accurate if we tacked on the phrase, “if we let it.”  The real truth is: “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger if we let it.”

“If we let it,” is the secret.  There’s no guarantee that, by itself, without our active and appropriate response, adversity will make us stronger.  I’ve met, and I’m sure you have too, many people who allowed adversity to turn them into bitter or defeated individuals.  To them, life is a burden, the world is a dangerous place, and they can’t do much about it.  It’s easy, and tempting, to allow adversity to develop a “victim mentality” in us.

In order to prevent that from happening, in order to grow “stronger,” we must learn from those painful experiences.  And, in learning, we create habits that emerge as character traits, and thus we become better and more capable people.

My humiliating sales call, for example, taught me a simple lesson that has stuck with me for decades and has flowered into a broader character trait.  “Never speak badly about the competition” was the lesson.  I like to think that “Respect for all my competitors” is the broader character trait.  The periods of financial hardship have developed an empathy in me for those in similar circumstances and a very conservative financial perspective.  The death of my daughter is somehow pushing up buds of greater patience, empathy, and tolerance in my character.

While I never want to go through any of these things again, I am probably a better person because of them — and because of my response to them.

Now, I understand that some of you are being doused with a fire hose of adversity.  I wish I could make it go away. If only I could turn off the valve.

I do my best to help you weather the storm by the tips and practices expressed in this Ezine, on the blog, and in the products and presentations described on my website.  In the long run, however, it is what you do with your response to adversity that will make all the difference.

Here are a couple of practical suggestions to help you deal with your adversity:

Take the high road.

Don’t allow the circumstances to drag you down, to compromise your values, or impinge on your relationships.  I had a renter, for example, in a house that we own.  He was laid off from his job.  Instead of being honest about it, he made up stories, told lies, and eventually stuck me with two months unpaid rent and damages to the house.  While I have to deal with the financial damages, he has a significantly diminished character.  Because he took the low road, he’s less of a man today than he was before.

Don’t give into the temptation to take ethical short-cuts or to abandon your responsibilities.  Take the high road.

Learn from it.

At some point, you’ll have an opportunity to look at your adverse circumstances somewhat objectively.  That’s when you’ll want to ask yourself this question:  “What can I learn from this?”  Then follow up with a more pointed version of this question, “What can I do differently, as a result of what I’ve learned?”

The answer to “What can I learn from my embarrassing sales call” was, “Customers don’t like to hear you talk badly about a competing product or person.”  That would be academic information if I didn’t follow up with the second question:  “What can I do differently, as a result of what I’ve learned?”  The answer to that question was, “Never speak badly about a competitor.”

The emphasis must eventually rest on us and our response.  If we don’t change anything we do, believe, or think, then we will have learned nothing.

Eventually we must change what we do.  That’s the key to growing from adversity.  As long as we focus on other people or our circumstances, we’ll be forever locked in a victim mentality.  Remember, “if we let it.”

Our Creator put us on this earth to grow, develop and become more like Him.  Adversity is the fertilizer that stimulates that growth, if we let it.

At some point, this will pass.  At that point, the real measure of this set of circumstances will be the impact on your character.


About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and eleven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Good Book on Business.

Put the Phone Down

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.
Being on the phone all day or most of the day is robbing you of productive work time.

The Story:

Oh my God, thought Greg, it’s past eleven, and I haven’t gotten the preliminary proposal done.  Where did my morning go?

And for a moment, he realized that he had been on the phone non-stop since getting into the office at eight am.  Except for a quick dash to the coffee pot, he hadn’t left his desk.  In fact, as he tilted the mug, he saw that most of the coffee was still in it.

“Who did I talk to?” he wondered out loud.

Well, the last call was from my wife reminding me to take the car in tonight.  Ok.  The one before was from that vendor who wants me to attend the trade show.  Actually, she called me twice this morning.  Then there was that message from someone I never heard of.  Yeah, someone named William Bains.  Called him back and wound up with voice mail.  I called him twice.  Or was it three times.  Wonder if that’s a new prospect?

Just then the phone rang, and Greg’s arm shot out.  As the first ring was fading, he answered.  Turned out to be a call from one of the other salespeople wanting to know if he’d meet him for lunch.  As he put the phone down, he noticed it was now just past eleven-thirty.

“Couldn’t have been on the phone that long,” he said to himself.

Looking over his daily plan, he decided that there was no way he’d get the preliminary proposal done at the office.  Might as well collect all the stuff and take it home tonight.  At least then, he thought, I won’t be interrupted so much.

Better call Jim Williams, he thought.  We have that Rotary meeting set up for next Wednesday.  Want to make sure that it’s still on.  Good place to maybe do some business.  Then after lunch I’ll try this William Bains person again.  Never know with one like that where it will lead.

Just then the phone rang again.  For a second, the thought flashed through his mind that he was like some robot programmed by the ringing bell, but then the thought faded.

“Hi, this is Greg.  How can I be of assistance?”


Greg spends another day not getting done what he had planned on doing.  His daily plan of tasks to accomplish, which he makes at home before coming to work, never gets finished.


Unless your job is to make one call after another, in other words you are a telemarketer, then being on the phone all day or most of the day is robbing you of productive work time.

Unfortunately, one of the most popular myths of a successful salesperson is just that, being on the phone all day.  The phone has been surgically implanted in your ear.

Why do so many salespeople fall victim to myth?  Salespeople, by their nature, like to socialize.  The phone is a great way to do it.  Everyone likes to be informed and feel involved.  So do salespeople.  And if no one screens incoming calls, then every call is put through.

And perhaps the biggest reason why salespeople trip over each other to answer the phone whenever it rings is that you never know if this call is going to be a sale.  If you aren’t available every minute, you might lose the “big one.”


The first step in putting the phone down and making more money, is knowing how you use the phone.  And right now you have no idea!

For a period of five working days, carry around a little pocket-size spiral notebook and whenever your hand touches the phone, jot down the caller or the person you called, the purpose, and how long you were on.  On the sixth day review this record.  How many calls really had a direct relationship to making sales?  Probably less than 10 percent. Now add up the time you spent on the other 90 percent.  Frightening amount, isn’t it?

How many were purely social calls?

What to do about this?  Screen your own calls by establishing a pre-set time limit for yourself.  Buy a three-minute egg timer and use it.  At the beginning of the call, politely tell the other party you are limiting yourself to three minutes.  Now stick to it.

The second thing you should do is establish a “no phone time” every day.  Use this time to work on tasks and projects you need to accomplish.

Now keep track of your phone habits for another five days.  Look at how much more time is spent on sales.


Just because it rings doesn’t mean you have to answer it.  Just because you answer it doesn’t mean you have to keep talking.

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website and sign up to receive the free sales tip of the week. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development.

Commence CRM a Solid Alternative to Salesforce

The Honeymoon is Over

You wanted a robust CRM solution for your business and like many others bought into the hype and fanfare of  No one can blame you.  The industry analysts, review sites, and pay-to-play listing services all touted as the number one solution for Customer Relationship Management.  So, you selected them and paid a small fortune for use of the product and for their customer service. Now one year later it’s renewal time and you are a bit dismayed because you have learned that your staff is not in love with the product and have found it cumbersome and difficult to use. In addition, you have discovered that they are only using a fraction of the functionality you paid a premium to get one year earlier. Now what?  You certainly did not plan to have to change CRM systems after one year, but you are struggling to once again pay an exceptionally high price to renew a service that your staff does not like and is not fully utilizing.

Well here is some good news.  You don’t have to. There are several very good CRM solutions for small to mid-size businesses that are rich in functionality, easier to use and much more affordable than

One of these products is Commence CRM, recently listed as a Top 20 Most Popular by the Gartner Group’s Capterra review site.  Commence CRM is targeted at companies that need more functionality and flexibility than the basic, low cost, one-size-fits-all solutions can provide without the cost and complexity of solutions like  It’s a comprehensive offering that includes the traditional contact management and sales functionality you find in most CRMs, and additionally provides Marketing Campaign Management, Help Desk Ticketing with a Customer Portal, and a fully integrated Project Management application. This additional functionality differentiates Commence CRM from other offerings, and makes it an attractive alternative to for companies that may require this level of functionality.

If you have and are considering a change due to poor utilization and the high cost of renewal, Commence CRM would be a solid alternative.  To learn more visit

Commence CRM Automation for Nurturing Leads

If you are a sales representative you know that sales can be a tough and frustrating profession.  At times, you are nothing more than a pin on the map to the sales manager, a quota to the company, and an item called “cost of sales” to the finance department.  You call prospects every day, send out mailers and e-mails, and network on social sites to get new leads only to discover that as many as 50% of them are not ready to buy.  Sounds a bit depressing, doesn’t it? But that’s sales. Experienced sales people have learned to focus their energy on the qualified leads who are ready to buy and are taking advantage of next generation CRM software to nurture those prospects who are not.

One CRM product that does this very well is Commence CRM.  Commence offers a lead qualification feature that allows you to categorize leads based on specific criteria such as hot (highly qualified), warm (not purchasing for 3-5 months), or cold (no specific time frame for purchase.)  The system automatically color codes the leads so that you can immediately determine which category they belong to.

Lead Management

The drip marketing feature allows you to automate how you want to nurture the leads. Here is an example.  Warm leads will receive a direct mail or e-mail every 30 days highlighting your products, a case study in that industry, an invitation to a conference, or a call to action.  The program is set up and completely automated with future time frames for each action to be taken and triggered after the number of days has elapsed.   Cold leads for example may only get contacted every quarter after the initial introduction.

Drip Marketing Schedule

The objective here is to enable the CRM system to nurture these warm and cold leads while the sales team is laser focused on the most promising new opportunities. It’s an easy, efficient and effective tool that can be used by a marketing professional or the sales representatives themselves.  With Commence CRM, every lead is looked at as a potential opportunity throughout the year.  Just because they are not ready to purchase today doesn’t mean they will not purchase tomorrow. Keep your product, your service, and your company in front of them to strengthen your brand, ensuring they contact you when they are ready to buy. Commence CRM can make this happen for your business.  To learn more, see

Use Price to Differentiate CRM Solutions

CRM Buyers Guide: What to Expect from Free and Low-Cost CRM

CRM software is considered a commodity market today, especially for very small businesses that have basic requirements such as a need to manage contacts, activities, notes and e-mail history.  Most of the companies that serve this sector now offer their products for free because it’s simply too costly to market, sell, and provide service to customers for a few dollars per user per month.  They use their CRM solution as a loss leader because they often have other products and services to sell you; and now that you’re a customer they have your company name, contacts, phone and e-mail addresses. So, expect to hear from them as part of their free offering.

If one of these basic cookie-cutter solutions meets your business requirements that’s great, but if you’re thinking that ‘all CRM solutions are the same… why pay for one?’ you’re dead wrong. Many people differentiate CRM solutions by price alone. It’s not a bad approach because price does in fact differentiate the basic low-cost or freemium solutions from those that cost more. The key is identifying what you may or may not be getting for the price you are willing to pay. Here are just a few things to consider before making your decision.

Free and low-cost CRM solutions come with limitations

Traditionally there are limitations on the number of accounts and contacts you can have, number of reports you can generate, number of custom fields you can add, number of e-mails you can send, and no group calendaring. More importantly there is often no online data security, no permissions (so all data is visible to all users), little to no customization, no system integration, and no phone support.   If you do not want these limitations – expect to pay about $30 dollars per user per month for a good solution.

Data Hosting Service

If you are concerned about the storage and protection of your online data (and you should be), it is important to note that the top tier data storage companies like Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, and others are not free which simply means the following. If you select a free or low-cost CRM solution you are not getting the high level of data security and protection service that is provided by higher cost CRM solution providers. If you are OK with this, it is still important to ask the vendor where your data is being stored and how you can get to it if needed.

Security Permissions

There are times when you need to ensure that certain data is only viewed by specific internal resources. Perhaps you want to make sure a sales representative in San Francisco cannot see the leads or accounts being worked on by a representative in New York. Or maybe there is a major account in the system only accessible by the management team. This is simply not possible with low end or freemium products.

System Integration

If you need to integrate your CRM solution with a third-party software program chances are this is just not offered by low end or freemium solutions. This feature is in the higher cost products.

Customer Service

Let’s be real here. If you select a free or low-cost CRM solution, you have no right to expect that you can get on the telephone with a company representative and get free advice and counsel. The best you can hope for is the ability to send an e-mail and hope someone responds, or that you can get your questions answered via the company’s web site.  Higher cost products traditionally provide telephone support and have a named account manager assigned to your company.

There are, of course, other things to consider when selecting a CRM solution. My objective here is to ensure buyers fully understand that all CRM systems are not alike and that there are limitations associated with low-cost or freemium solutions.

About the Author

Larry Caretsky represents Commence Corporation a provider of CRM solutions for small to mid-size businesses. Commence CRM is rated as a Top 20 Most Popular CRM solution by the Gartner Group’s Capterra review site.  Commence CRM offers a robust set of applications for sales, marketing, customer service, and project management. The product is affordable and easy to use making it a popular alternative to higher cost programs like Microsoft Dynamics CRM and