Success is Just a Number

...and so is everything else.

Terrible Salespeople Westin Lagunamar

The Westin Lagunamar…where sales blogging gets done.

Greetings from Cancun!  The family and I are taking advantage of our kids’ summer vacation and living it up this week on the white sand beach and in the largest pool I’ve ever been in.

It’s exciting to have some leisure time to sit down and write about some things I’ve been thinking about for the past few months.

Today we’re going to distill what makes a successful career down to the simplest thing: one single number.

In his masterwork “Lead the Field,” Earl Nightingale describes our collective stations in life as locations on a pyramid. He states that anyone can make a plan to live at the top of that pyrmaid through a series of hard work and good choices.  Certainly not everyone has the ability to be at the VERY tip top, but he argues that almost anyone could, if they so chose, chart a course for the top 5% where the air is clear and the view is excellent.

To help you get into that top 5%, we need to start this post with a few personal questions.  Take a couple minutes and think about these:

1.) What is your annual “dream” income?

For some its “6 figures” (which is far too vague to be motivational.)

For others, it’s “$193,000.”

For still others, it’s a figure that makes mere mortal heads spin.  Something like hitting $1 million in earnings in one year.

Then there’s Taylor Swift, who likes to bring in a million every few days.

There’s no wrong answer here.

I just want you to refrain from reading on until you have your number in mind.

2.) If you attained that income figure, how many years would it take you to achieve financial independence?

I believe that for most straight commission salespeople, total financial independence could be achieved in a period of 10-15 years, and most definitely should not take longer than 20.

This means that if you are a 27 year old salesperson today, you could theoretically be “done” between the ages of 37-42 if you choose.  Then, if you continue to keep working, it will be because you truly love the work…not because you have bills to pay.

3.) What would life look like for you if you were financially independent?

How often would you travel?  Where would you go?

What experiences would you like to have?

Where would you live?

What kind of financial peace would you feel?

Most people have never even conceived of such a thing, and for the minority who have, most of this group assume their hair will be gray by the time this comes to pass.

As you ponder those questions, ask yourself why the 1% is called the “1%.”

Is it possible they’ve given more thought to questions like those above than the 99%?

So what does visualizing the financial pinnacle of your life have to do with attaining success?

It does 3 things for you:

1.) It allows you to chart a course.

2.) It allows you to break the end game down into shorter term goals to keep yourself motivated.

3.) It allows you to keep the dream in front of your face during the entire journey.

So how do you get from here to there?

The gap between wherever you are starting now….to wherever, and however grand that final picture is…is simply this:


Of course you can take a look at just about any category of your life and break it down into a number, whether its a repetition, a frequency, whatever.

Your health and fitness depend on how consistently you eat healthy foods and exercise.  Weight loss is literally a numbers game of calories consumed vs. calories burned.

Proficiency at playing a musical intrument would depend on how consistently you practice.

Everything you want to achieve can be broken down from it’s mastery filled end game into daily, weekly, or monthly progress goals.

The Realization

I came across this idea during a 1 to 1 meeting with one of my salespeople.  As we reviewed how many accounts he had opened in the first half of his successful rookie tenure, the simplicity of this dawned on me.    All he needed to do was open the same number of accounts he already had opened, in the same amount of time….and he would make it through the program, ahead of schedule in fact.

Therefore, the total path from the first days as a newly hired, “rookie” sales rep, to successfully graduating to a fully commissioned “veteran” sales rep a couple years later was, in its most distilled form, simply the successful opening and development of a certain number of new accounts.

That number is of course different for everyone.  It depends on many things like average account size, frequency of the account reorders, the salesperson’s ability to retain and grow the business, gain referrals, and a multitude of other factors.  Yet, the fact remains, despite all those variables, the thing that takes them to graduation is still a number: how many new accounts?

That number can be extrapolated further from merely graduating, all the way to earning that magical annual income you decided on above.  It’s another number.

What is the actual number then?  I don’t know.  It will be different for you than it is for your coworker, and different again for yet another coworker….but it is still going to be a number.

That is part of the magic and the mystery of life.

We don’t get to know our number until we’ve “made it.”

On the day you realize that you’ve “made it,” you can look back and count the number of transactions closed, leases signed, contracts written, or new accounts you opened and developed….whatever your unit of measure is, just total them up.  I promise you….it will be a number.  

The final number that represents your ultimate financial freedom exists right now….hidden from you, but it is there all the same.

You have only to work toward it.

Never Stop the March

It pains me to see a salesperson go a month without a new account….because I know that no matter what they’re telling themselves about the use of their time, they are not getting closer to the number they need to achieve financial independence.

This is why smart salespeople are always gaining new business…all the time.  They’re always working to raise their average account value and build their empire.

So what is your number*?  You won’t be able to nail it down precisely, but if you’ll look around there are people in your arena that can help you understand the range.  Then you can begin working toward it.

The biggest reason people drift in life is that they haven’t charted a course.  Millions go through life like a ship just drifting on the ocean.  Millions more never even leave the port.

Whatever it is you do, there are people at the top of that game, doing these types of things at a high volume year after year.  Figure out a way to spend some time with these people.   Buy them lunch.

Ask them if they know what their number is.  I guarantee the most successful ones do.

Then begin working towards your number.

Good selling!


*If you’re in full line packaging distribution sales, I believe the number is somewhere around 400 new accounts (give or take 50 for varying skills and luck) over a 15 year period.  The interesting thing to note about this is that when a salesperson achieves peak income they will only be carrying 80-100 of those 400 accounts, because they will have refined their account base over time to maximize the value of their time.

400 accounts in 15 years?  Thats only 27 new accounts per year.

That’s just a little more than 2 per month.  Not. That. Many.

Get after it.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.