The Sales Carpenter
I remember moving my family to Argentina as Vice President of Sales for Latin America. I was in charge of managing five regional offices, Argentina of course being one of them.
In the company's ten year history of selling into Latin America it had never exceeded $14 million (M) in annual sales. The Argentina office itself had never produced more than $400 thousand (K) in sales. My task was to increase the sales locally in Argentina, but more importantly throughout Latin America.
I remember sitting in my office one day, looking out the window and wondering, "How the heck am I going to grow this business with problems in Mexico, Brazil, Puerto Rico and other hot spots? "How can I grow this business beyond $14M when no one in the past has been able to do so?" Forget the movie Sleepless in Seattle, I was "Sleepless in Argentina," trying to map out a strategy. How would I make "sales" happen?! "
A confession to you the reader: I was scared! Please don't tell anyone!
One day while on the phone with a customer, I heard loud noises from across my office building. After getting off the phone, I opened the window and looked at the shorter building next door. On the rooftop, I saw several men using a scrapping machine to rip apart the flat roof the size of two tennis courts. This noise went on for days.
Then one day I noticed the silence. I looked outside and discovered that the men had finishing stripping the rooftop and were now laying small ceramic tiles. Given the size of the roof I remember thinking, "That's going to take them a very long time."
A few days later to my surprise and amazement I looked outside and saw that they were three-quarters of the way complete. "Amazing! How were they able to lay so many small tiles so quickly?"
Satori,? a moment of enlightenment.
At that very moment, a new mindset was born for building sales. Instead of focusing in on the enormous task of increasing sales for the entire region (the whole roof), I would focus on building the company's sales slowly (one ceramic tile or sales office at a time).
It was this paradigm shift, this Latin American version of eating an elephant one-bite-at-a-time that helped me maintain the patience and sanity needed to grow the business. I considered each country in Latin America a "tile." I set out to make sure that each tile I laid was positioned correctly in the marketplace. The result? First year, we hit $14.3M. Second year $45M. By the end of the third year, the region's annual sales had grown to $98M. The Argentina office itself went from $400K in sales to $5M.
Success, in sales and in life, starts when you break things up into smaller pieces; you begin to feel a sense of control. And as I began to take action, I began to feel a sense of momentum. Control and momentum became my engine for success. And every time I felt overwhelmed or anxious, I thought to myself, "Victor, let's just lay one tile at a time."
Confucius said, "It is not a matter of how fast or slow, but simply a matter of you moving." I learned that progress or success never happens overnight, but over time? one tile at time. I learned how to become a sales 'carpintero' (carpenter who builds things).