211: Conquering the Sales Success Hangover | Master Sales Series

You just had the best month of your career, but what often happens next isn’t pretty…

George calls it a “sales success hangover”. It describes the phenomenon where salespeople will have a record setting run, then crash immediately after… Learn why this happens and how to remedy this dangerous hangover, here, on the Master Sales Series.

Conquering the Sales Success Hangover

George: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages. Here we are again at the “Conquer Local Podcast,” headquarters. In the studio with the cleverly appointed sound lounge equipment all around me and producer Brock with his ridiculously hot lights, because he likes to videotape and watch my forehead sweat. It’s actually not a forehead anymore, it’s a fivehead. I’m sporting the George Clooney esque hair that my hairdresser. Funny Story, I went to him the other day with of picture Clooney. I said, can you make me look like this? He said, “No, but I can cut your hair like that.” Honesty, I appreciate the honesty.

We’re in the Master Sales Series, and I’ve got a great episode for you. Have you ever kicked it right through the uprights? You had a great month, biggest month of your career, and then the next month, just like you didn’t even know how to sell, I call it a sales success hangover. It’s not fun, it’s tough to get rid of. You can’t even hydrate your way out of that hangover. I’m going to give you what it is and how to recover from it, and how to actually make sure that it doesn’t happen when we come back on the “Conquer Local Podcast.”

What is it?

I’ve got to admit, when it comes to hangovers, I may be an expert and that is might be my Scottish heritage. Anyways, I like to have the odd drink. And we’ve all had a hangover, but the worst hangover I’ve ever had is after the biggest sales month I’ve ever had, and you’re like, oh, bottle of Dom Perignon. You had the bottle of champagne or maybe a big bottle of Woodford Reserve, you know, that’s my favorite bourbon right now.

No, I’m not talking about that hangover, although that was not fun. I’m talking about the hangover that you get after you have the biggest month of your career or the biggest month this year, or you set a really maybe it’s not even sales related, maybe you set this goal that you’re going to lose some weight or you’re going to earn a certain amount of money or you’re going to buy this beautiful car, and then you about a month later, you’re like, gosh, this is just like every other frigging car on the road and now I got to keep paying for it.

So, let’s talk about it. What this is, it’s an interesting phenomenon. It’s called the sales success hangover, at least that’s what I call it, where you have a top producer and it actually can happen to anybody. I’ve seen it happen millions of times over my career. It’s happened to me too, by the way. You have a top producer, they knock it out of the park and then the next month they’re the worst performer and they get this thing that’s like up and down like a yo-yo.

It just isn’t the way that we want to operate our business, no business can work that way. There’s no business in the world that can have record months, worst month, record month, worst month. There’s no way that you can cash flow that thing. It’s not going to work, and most of us in commission sales, are in commissioned sales, we need the commission check. So, you got one month where you’re hitting your targets and you’re getting all the commission and one month where you get no commission. It’s really tough to budget for and it’s just not good on the noggin.

Why Does it Happen?

You want to talk about pissing on your brain, sales success hangover is one of the worst cases. And the problem with the hangover is it might last for three months. You got to feed your kids, so how do we get out of this? Like what happened? Well, what happens is you knock it out of the park and you start to rest on your laurels a little bit, or you knock it out of the park and you empty your pipeline.

And what’s happened is you haven’t really been measuring the true health of your book of business. I have a very famous saying that I’ve used over and over and over again in training, and this is in my years in the radio business, in the newspaper business when I owned my own restaurants and nightclubs. And that is if you were a salesperson and that was, you know, bartenders, servers, salespeople, whatever it is, you’re running your own small business.

And I’ve got people that will still message me. Jamie Edwards, great bartender of mine that had in Lethbridge, Alberta. He’d see me on the street, and this is after he owned his own place and be like, I got my own small business. He remembered that line and he trained his people on that line. Here’s the truth, you want to be measuring your book of business to avoid the sales success hangover.

So, I’m here with a producer, T Bone. We used to work for the same company one point in time back in the ’80s, we worked for a company called Rawlco and T Bone had the privilege of working there for a number of years. Learned a lot of stuff from the Rawlinsons and their teams of managers the Tom Newtons and those folks, Craig Romanics.

And I remember they were going to an executive offsite and they all had these clipboards in the back of it. It had an acronym and it was ridiculous, like LNFWGUTF!. And, I said, “What the hell is that?” And it was an acronym for, let’s not forget what got us this far. Wow, that’s actually quite interesting. The reason that you get to the big hairy, audacious goal or the wildly important goal is because you had a formula to fill that pipeline so that you had a certain amount of deals to come across the line that would hit the target.

The Remedy: Prospecting

The greatest moment of your life where you achieve your highest performance could also be the beginning of the lowest performance that you’ve had if you don’t actually know what’s inside your pipeline. So, what I want you to be constantly doing is setting aside time to prospect and to put new deals into the pipe. And what happens is we’re pushing really hard to achieve that top line performance and that number, the BHAG, the big hairy audacious goal, the wildly important goal, the WIG  or just the goal, G-O-A-L, call whatever the hell you want to call it. And we’re not focusing on the things that got us there.

It’s football season again. I was watching some great football yesterday. Love Brady getting spanked by the Jaguars, that was fantastic. Although I don’t mind New England, but it’s, kind of, fun to watch them lose.

But here’s what those guys go through. So, now the Jaguars yesterday, great game, knocked off the immortal Tom Brady of the New England Patriots in front of their hometown fans in the beautiful stadium in Jacksonville, Florida. And now they got to start all over again, and they got to start doing the things on Monday morning. And you could bet your bottom dollar that their coach and general manager and all the people are watching tape.

They were watching tape from the minute the game was over and the players are back training, doing the pushups, doing the bench press, running the sprints, doing all the crazy stuff that they do to have that peak performance. We’ve got to keep doing the things during the week that get us ready to play football on Sunday, so next week, who knows who it’s going to be.

So, I like the sports analogy on this because what you want to make sure happens so that you don’t have the sales success hangover. And I’ve saw it happen so many bloody times, top performer one month is not it could be your top performer next month, it’s just not going to happen because they get the hangover and they’re like a week coming out of it.

And here’s the first part of the hangover, so we just wake up and you’re like, oh, gosh, it feels like somebody’s sitting on my head, that’s Monday after you hit that big number. Because you come to work and you look inside your pipeline and you’re like, oh shit, I didn’t prospect any deals. I haven’t talked to anything that was just starting out, I didn’t do any new presentations for two weeks. I was so focused on closing those last nine deals to get to my number, I forgot all of the things that I did to get me this far.

What we want to do when we’re running our small businesses is a sales rep, and as a sales manager, what we want to coach our teams on doing is doing those little things every day that get us towards the big hairy audacious goal, and to focus on the big goal this month and next month and the month after that and that we want to have pretty much a straight line of top performance, really tough to do.

It’s probably gonna be more like, oh, above the line, a little bit below the line, above the line, a little bit above it, oh, way above the line, now down below the line, because the pipeline has emptied out. If we continue to do these things that got us this far, we’ll have a more even line and we’ll avoid that sales success hangover.

Here’s the thing I liked to do when you’ve got a top performer and you’re a sales manager, and I teach all my sales managers this thing. I have the privilege with the Vendasta platform of being able to see performance of sales teams now. So, inside our CRM, I can see, actually we’re about to launch a great group of folks out in South Africa here in two weeks. I’m going to go out and meet all the sales managers and sales reps for the second time, have already met them once.

And I’m going to get Prashant on the phone, this guy’s like a digital sales ninja, he’s a fantastic manager. I’m going to be able to see how his team’s performing and when he’s got somebody that crushes it, I’m gonna phone them the Monday after and say, “Hey, how’s it going? I just want to help you here, let’s go back and look at your pipeline and see what we can do to move some things along. You see what I’m talking about?”

What we do as a sales manager a lot of times, is like, I don’t have to worry about Justin, he’s my top performer. That’s the guy you really should be worried about. Is keeping Justin your top performer, as he’s having a month and he’s just crushed a deal after deal after deal after deal, take them for dinner and say, let’s go through your pipeline.

Now, what Justin will want to do, or Justine or whoever it might be, that’s your top performer, is just talk about how they’re killing it, and what you need to do is acknowledge their success, but say to them, “Listen, I’ve been down this road before, I really want to dig into that pipeline. I want to see what other deals are in there that you may not be focused on right now because you’ve discounted them and helping you reach a goal today, but we need to apply a little bit of pressure against them. So, let’s look at what your day looks like over the next three or four days, can we find an hour or two or we’re going to just focus on some of these things right here that are maybe just in the middle of the pipeline so we can get them moved a little closer to the line.” You want to make sure that you’re aware of your sales team and where they’re at in their life cycle and their pipeline, and then you can avoid this thing. It’s really, really dangerous, it’s called the sales success hangover.

And I know it’s crazy, you’re like, why are you worried about it? The guy is a top performer, but what happens is top performer, low performer, you want to stay away from that and get that more even line. Remember back to Colleen Francis’s podcast here a couple of months ago where she talked about if she could train any sales organization on anything, it would be to always keep prospecting. Always keep putting new deals into the pipe so you can even that thing out it continues to perform at that high level.


The Master Sales Series has been one of the most fun things I’ve ever done, and I’ve done some fun stuff, but this has been fun today and we’re looking for your feedback. In fact, a few of these last episodes we’ve done here in the last four or five weeks have come directly from feedback we’ve been receiving at my LinkedIn channel, so it’s linkedin.com/georgeleith, and we welcome your feedback.

I get comments from salespeople all over the world, is such a privilege to be working with folks on the podcast. And maybe next time in your sales meeting, encourage your sales reps to join the podcast and become part of our thousands of listeners all over the world that are learning how to conquer local. The Master Sales Series continues next week. My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.

Subscribe to podcast


Introducing Conquer Local podcast for marketers, sales experts