How to Tackle a Sales Problem You’ve Never Seen Before

I cut a hole in my perfectly fine living room wall this past weekend. 

It all started when my wife and I decided we needed a dog door. After some research, I found the Hale Pet Wall Door and thought “I can install this.” After all, their website says, “Any person with a working knowledge of power tools and basic home construction can install the Hale Pet Door.”

How hard could it be?

I have a Sawzall, a cordless drill and rudimentary home repair experience. So, I ordered the dog door, measured everything twice and cut through the inside wall. So far so good.

Then I moved to the outside stucco wall. I attempted to drill a pilot hole for the saw. The drill bit bounced all over the place. I switched to a masonry bit. It drilled through the first half inch but then stopped. I switched to a metal bit. Then a wood bit. Finally after about 3 minutes I had enough of an opening so I could begin sawing.

I jammed my Sawzall into the pilot hole and pulled the trigger.

The blade moved back and forth, but didn’t cut the wall.

I thought, “It’s called a Sawz-all. It should cut stucco.”

I tried my wood blade – it bent.

I tried my metal cutting blade – it did nothing.

I even tried my “General Purpose” blade that cuts everything- everything but stucco, I guess.

Two hours into this project I was drenched with sweat, had a gaping hole in my living room wall with exposed studs and insulation peeking through, and had made almost no progress with the outer wall.

So I did what I always do when I get stuck on a home improvement project. I panicked, cursed a lot, and blamed my parents for not teaching me basic home improvement skills. 

After a 10 minute meltdown, I took a few deep breathes to calm myself and began to think clearly:

  • This wasn’t the first time a DIY project went awry for me.
  • Although I had no idea how to cut through stucco, I could probably find an answer using Google and then buy what I needed from the Home Depot that’s 10 minutes away.
  • If I cannot finish the project, the worst that would happen is I would need to cover up the hole with plastic, swallow my pride,  and hire someone to finish the job.

Six hours, one trip to home depot, 10 minutes of googling, a new angle grinder with a diamond tip blade, and many curse words later, I now have a beautifully installed pet door that Snickers is carefully avoiding.

“You can’t seriously expect me to go through this.”

As Sales Managers, we are going to encounter all kinds of issues we’ve never seen before too. 

It is up to us to figure out the best way to solve these issues. Here’s how I do it.

  1. First, I have to clear my head. If I am afraid, angry or panicked, I will not be effective. Sometimes, I can take a few deep breaths to clear my head. Other times, I may need to take a walk outside. In the worst cases, I may need to postpone working on the solution until the next day. If I am still struggling to get centered, I will ask myself, “Will this matter to anyone in 10 years? In 100 years?” The answer helps me gain perspective.
  2. Once I can focus on the problem at hand, I imagine two scenarios:
    • What’s the best that could happen?
    • What’s the worst that could happen?
  3. I make a contingency plan for dealing with the “worst case scenario”.
  4. Then I create a plan of action to lead me toward the best case scenario. If the project arrants it, I may even resort to using the Big List.
  5. I take action on the Next Step. I can’t worry about patching the wall before I cut the hole.  I can’t think about training my dog to use the door until after the door is installed.

Above all, use your best judgement. You were hired for this job because of the skills you possess and your ability to make things happen. Trust your judgement and take action.

Here are some real life examples that I’ve experienced and you will likely run into:

  • You Have to Hire an experienced Senior Level person
  • You Hire (or Fire) a Friend
  • You are Promoted to Manage your Former Peers
  • You Must Explain Why You Missed Quota to Your VP
  • You Blow the Forecast – badly
  • A Competitor Undercuts your Price & “Steals” a Committed Deal
  • A New Product Makes Yours Obsolete
  • Your Leads Dry Up
  • A Customer Complains to a Board Member
  • Your Boss Quits Unexpectedly
  • Your Top Rep Resigns
  • An Employee Complains to HR
  • Your Primary Supplier Goes Out of Business with No Notice

Once you’ve experienced a specific situation, it gets easier to anticipate and avoid the potential pitfalls that come with it.

But I’ve found the most meaningful challenges that bring me the greatest satisfaction in solving are the ones I’ve not encountered before.

I hope you find this to be true too.


If you want some help building your sales team or improving sales, contact me here. I’d love to hear from you. 

If you would like some pointers on installing a dog door, shoot me an email. 

And as always, if you liked this article, please forward it to a friend, send me a note, comment, or like it on LinkedIn. 








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