Army Lessons Applied to Sales

As a new writer for this blog, I’ll begin my first post by introducing myself. My name is Sergio Areiza, I’m 26 years old, and I recently started working in Business Development with Swarmsales. I’m, also, a recently transitioned military officer and Swarmsales is my first job in Business. At the age of 17, I joined the Colombian Army, so I never learned much about this business until now. Still, this new chapter of my life has been exciting and challenging at the same time. I’m frequently asking myself: How do I approach leads? How do I generate them? It didn’t take me long to realize that there are many similarities between my current job and my old one. This reminds me of some army lessons I learned as a Lieutenant.

Lessons #1: Methodologies, the SOPs of Business

I served as the 2nd in command of a company of 144 newly recruited soldiers. I’m talking about 17-19-year-old kids, just out of high school going into their mandatory service time. I was in charge of planning everything for these soldiers, from their training schedules to their meal plans. Thankfully, I had a good team of Drill Sergeants assigned to my unit and they brought me up to speed quickly. Out of all the lessons, I was taught, the lesson that made my life the easiest was organizing my processes into what we called SOPs (Standard Operational Procedures).

What did this mean? It meant that we, as leaders, had a standard plan for any possible situation. Someone got hurt? We had a plan; A soldier lost a piece of equipment? We had a plan for that too. Basically, we brainstormed what might happen in day to day life and prepared our solutions ahead of time. Through our company’s SOPs, we created a framework and an order of business for our day to day life. Today, I learned that this Army mentality is very useful for how we do sales, so I started to look into it. Sales methodologies exist, like MEDDIC and SPIN, that are very organized approaches to sales.

Lessons #2: Don’t Shoot in the Dark

There’s saying in the army: By failing to plan, you are planning to fail; There’s another saying too: No plan survives the first point of contact. It sounds counter-intuitive, but we still have to learn to work with it. The first saying, I learned, was the absolute truth. If you went into anything without a plan, it was more than likely going to go all wrong. I draw parallels to sales because in my learning process, I have seen some salespeople who approach business in a very fluid manner. This isn’t a bad thing, on the contrary, being fluid and adaptive is definitely a must in this world.  It is, however, useful to have some sort of structure to our approach. This structure lets us organize our thoughts and actions, which in turn, makes for a smoother process when generating and following up leads.

Lessons #3: Always Carry a Backup

The second saying, I learned, is only true if you are very lucky. A plan going perfectly in the first run is like seeing a shooting star, very unlikely but it might happen. Planning is a good thing but also the fact that plans tend to not always work isn’t meant to be a contradiction. It means that in order to make up for this fact, we need to plan a little more, not ditch planning altogether.

If you have some sort of structure set up and you feel confident about it, grab that plan and save it for later. Break out a new piece of paper and plan everything again from scratch, except this time, do it completely differently. These plans are called alternates, and they’re there for exactly that; Whenever the primary plan doesn’t work, just jump over to the alternate. This applies to sales because having alternate plans is fundamental to any planning process, no matter if you’re in the Army or in the business world, it still applies.

Things to Think About

The purpose of this post is to share some lessons I learned in my time with the Army and how they apply to my current job with Swarmsales. This doesn’t mean that they’re laws and absolutes.

It’s good to have a structure and to have a method but if there’s a solid opportunity that needs immediate action, jump on it, there’s no reason not to. Second, planning is important but it shouldn’t take so much time that you’re greatly limiting your time for other parts of your job. Also, create and follow your plan but also stay on your toes, don’t lose that flexibility that we all need in this world. Finally, create different plans for different solutions and keep working at it, but if it isn’t working no matter how many attempts you throw at it, move on. Again, time is valuable so don’t spend too much of it in one approach.

If you want to learn more about Swarmsales and what we do, you can visit us here.


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