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Chop Wood, Carry Water: A Zen Approach to Sales Success

There is an old Zen proverb that is applicable to the sales process: "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."

There are several interpretations of the proverb, but the one that is most relevant is that many of us get caught up in the end results of what we're working toward or the way things will be when we finally achieve something. But the truth is that getting to where you want to go or being successful in sales doesn't mean that the work that lead you there goes away. You'll need to do the same things after in order to keep moving forward.


Doing basic sales activities, every day at scheduled times will eventually bring you success.  The key is cadence, and knowing which activities will give you the most bang for the buck. Identifying the most impactful undertakings and honing the skills that support those activities will yield the best possible, sustainable results—a product of both quality and quantity of activity.

  • Manage your time.
  • Test every activity for its importance and urgency.
  • Create an ideal schedule, and test your actual time use against it daily. Remember, just one hour a day used more productively adds up to more than six extra weeks of productive time a year.

The fundamentals of sales and life are constants.  It’s about momentum.  It’s about accomplishment. It’s about being mindful of each activity as you do it, knowing that in accomplishing it you move one step closer to the big payoff.  And it’s not done once you close a deal or hit your quota. Achieving your version of “enlightenment” is not an endpoint in and of itself—these activities are of a circular nature and continued, sustained success only comes about by engaging in the correct, most impactful activities every day in every deal at every stage.

A Bigger Bucket and a Sharper Axe

If intentional improvement is your goal, how do you change the game in terms of daily activities?  The answer is simple: better your skills. For each activity in your day there is at least one underlying skill that enables and determines the ease and efficacy of performing that activity.  For prospecting, for instance, you could improve your researching skills or your networking or discovery skills.

Examine your skills.  Most of us know where we are strong and where we could use improvement.  Actively seek to better your skills, no matter how long you have been practicing them or what level of your career you have achieved.  You will find that the smallest improvement yields exponentially better results.


One thing that can help with both activity selection and levelling up your skills is coaching.  Sales leader coaches can help identify which skills are the most relevant to your sales process and activities.  Mentor coaches can help by showing you the skills that have been most effective for them and in what situations. A good coach is like a Zen master—willing to show you how to better yourself and your sales game.  If you don't have consistency, you don't have coaching.  Xvoyant helps you transform infrequent and ad-hoc dialog to a series of consistent, scheduled and goal-centered conversations focused on rep growth and competency development.

 As Rob Jeppsen, CEO of Xvoyant and a veteran sales leader, says,

“Great coaches don't focus on looking back, instead they create a culture of forward-looking, individualized examination that identifies and quantifies the value of the “Next Level.”


Individualized and coach-led relentless self-examination is the hallmark of Zen philosophy.  It is also the key to improved sales at any level.  How coachable are you?  How committed to intentional improvement? How much success have you had?  Are you still doing the daily things that led to your success?

Cadence and coaching are two of the most important factors in sales success.  If you examine your sales processes closely, you will find this to be true.  And the best part of knowing that is you realize that your potential is limitless, defined only by your commitment and your desire.  Make the commitment that supports your goals, and when you achieve success, remember, “After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

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