I’ve been living in Berlin, Germany this summer. It has been an incredibly productive time for me and for Rethink Staffing as a whole, including finally building a real sales team that can deliver results.
My favorite breakfast place is two blocks from where we’re renting a flat, called Anna Blume. It was introduced to me by a Berliner friend 3 years ago upon a visit for business, and situated in the old East Berlin neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg. The coffee is good, and the bauernomelette (think of pickles, potatoes and eggs) is my favorite. When there alone, I find myself quite contemplative.
I go there weekly to write. My favorite table faces west, and right in front of this table on the street there is the most interesting old tree that has been transformed into a potent symbol of the communal and trustworthy nature inherent in German society.
But to me, it’s also a powerful symbol of how persistent, little actions can have such a large impact on people’s lives and the world at large.
This tree has been transformed into a book exchange. Some craftsman took the trunk of it, cut small shelves-cum-compartments into it, covered with plastic fronts to protect the books from the rain, and placed it on the street with a small note of instruction. The compartments contain no locks, there is no record keeping mechanism whatsoever. You can place or take as many books as you like.
I usually sit there any hour and half, eating, writing, and — like a shoddy Balzac — (at least in my mind) drink a few coffees. In that scant hour and a half of that day of the week, I see all manner of people come by, and with a frequency that astonishes. I’m there for just 90 minutes, but I must see 7 or 8 people come by in that time.
That one craftsperson, with this simple idea of a book exchange, has now impacted thousands of lives. Do the math: I’m there for just 90 minutes one day a week; how many weeks, months and years has the tree been delivering thought-provoking texts, giving pleasure to people as they read something fun, or providing much needed distraction to someone that maybe in some form of distress or crisis.
The enormity of the aggregate of instances of influences on those people using the tree, created by that one craftsperson who created it, can probably never be calculated or known. It was this realization that led me to interpret the value of the tree as a potent reminder to my sales people.
Progress is made in the aggregate. No great labor or achievement was accomplished in one isolated action of such instantaneous, conjured power. Rather, the passage of years and thousands of hours of work can be most consistently attributed to great achievement. Ask any professional athlete, superior craftsperson, or writer. It was the result of thousands or a million little actions.
So I remind my sales team (and yours): Progress is made in the aggregate. Every day, you must be laboring to get your message to as many people, through as many small, simple actions as you can muster within the energy that you possess for that day. You must always be meeting new people, reconnecting with old contacts, and telling anyone who will listen why you are doing what you are doing.
For you shall never know what little action you may have done months ago, when interacting with another little action (of yours or another), and how, when those actions combine, may finally be the spark needed to advance your goals. That spark is what results in your prospects finally sending the “let’s catch up” email or “It’s time for us to get serious about this” email. Or even, in this day and age, that rare phone call.
So, I say this to all those salespeople out there who maybe struggling with the day-to-day repetitive nature of sales (and to my sales team): You are that craftsperson. You are creating that tree where you and others come to exchange ideas. Your job is to help your prospects take a little idea from you, one from another, and combine them until those ideas create something of value for your prospect (which hopefully is what you’re selling).
Do that for people you meet, and for potential customers, and you will always be successful. But you must do that every day, and in a thousand small little ways.
Progress is made in the aggregate.