Dispelling the Myth of Needing Booze for Success
“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”
― Adolf Hitler
I’ve been in sales for almost 14 years now. When I started back in 2006, I remembered that one of the first things one of my direct managers told me was that I needed to drink and schmooze my clients if I was going to be successful. I was also encouraged to do this with my co-workers as a necessary part of building good working relationships internally.
We had a pretty liberal expense account and were highly encouraged to use it to entertain our clients, as well as connect with each other. Our industry was one that was SUPER competitive (which one’s aren’t’ these days?), so you had to use whatever advantage you could to gain leverage over the competition.
Therefore, I would do like most of my peers and spend nights at alcohol-filled dinners and happy hours with my clients, as well as weekend get-togethers and sales trips with my co-workers.
While this did turn into some strong relationships that yielded results, I didn’t realize the opportunity cost of what I was giving up by using alcohol as my main means of building these relationships.
It was only after I quit drinking and again had to build my sales career from scratch after my failed entrepreneurial endeavor (you can read a little bit about that here), that I realized the truth. Not only could I build relationships without drinking, but I could build them stronger than before.
There is the underlying belief in business (especially in sales and marketing) that if you don’t drink, then you are putting yourself at a disadvantage when it relates to servicing your customers and being successful.
I believed this for the longest, and it was (partially) one of the reasons that I thought that stopping drinking wasn’t something I could truly consider doing until AFTER my career was over.
Considering this, you can imagine my surprise and delight when I realized how I had been misled for so long and the numerous benefits this decision would add to my business career.
MORE CREATIVITY TO BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
This was the biggest fear I had, and I hear people talk about all the time. Salespeople are known for their big expense accounts and abilities to “hang” with their customers as it relates to drinking and showing them a “good time.”
If I wasn’t drinking, then how would I do so?
Having committed to not drinking, I had to break down what was a dinner or a happy hour really doing that I needed to emulate in another way. Thinking through this, I came to the realization that it wasn’t about the alcohol at all that made the event a relationship-building activity but rather the act of doing something NOT related to work that made the difference.
While we may discuss a deal or project that was work-related, the more important thing was that we were connecting outside of normal work hours to truly get to know each other better, and there were a number of different ways I could do that without alcohol.
So then the next question became, how do I figure out what type of activities I should do with my clients?
The answer was much simpler than I thought: Just ask.
Many of my clients/co-workers had a number of hobbies they enjoyed other than drinking, so if I was willing to ask questions related to their passions and what drives them, I would inevitably stumble upon some activity that was unique and special to them.
Then I would just ask to learn more about it and see if there was a time that we could connect that would give me a chance to experience this to understand them better.
And funny enough, not only did it give us something to do other than drinking, it actually made me stand out more because I was taking time to do something that was important to them specifically and not just some general task.
There were numerous other co-workers or salespeople asking them out to dinner or a bar to spend some time with them, but how many of them were asking to go horseback riding or to a painting class?
This would lead to much deeper and intimate conversations since neither of us was intoxicated and could actually remember some of the things we discussed. This allowed me to continue to grow many working relationships into true friendships over time.
CLARITY TO PROVIDE MORE VALUE
Contrary to some people’s beliefs, our employers don’t pay us just to build relationships (while that is part of it) but to provide true value to our customers or back to the company in general.
As shared in the article, Three Things That Get Better ALMOST Immediately When You Stop Drinking, one of the quickest benefits you’ll experience when you stop/moderate your drinking is that your mind will clear up tremendously.
By “clear up,” I am referring to your ability to think more holistically and creatively as it relates to identifying solutions to complex problems.
Because alcohol can shrink your hippocampus over time, your cognitive reasoning and memory can be greatly impaired. This makes it much more difficult for you to identify creative solutions to problems for your customers or at work.
One of the many benefits of stopping drinking is that you’ll give yourself access to numerous more neurotransmitters and synapses that will begin to rebuild when you stop excessive drinking. These additional connections allow you to process information faster and remember things much quicker.
This should directly lead to you being able to come up with novel and creative solutions to problems that your alcohol-impaired self would not have been able to see through the haze covering your brain from before.
MORE TIME TO BECOME GREAT AT YOUR JOB.
This is the one that will provide the most immediate benefit and should yield the quickest return on your investment. Read any of my fellow Medium writers like Chelsey Flood, Benya Clark, or Belle Robertson, and I’m sure one of the first things they will share with you is the TONS of extra time you get when you stop drinking.
In the nonstop world of business, in which competition is fierce and there is always “something” that needs to be done, any extra time could give you an extreme competitive advantage. When you stop drinking, the amount of extra time you will find will be striking.
Gone will be sleeping in until 10 am because you are still hungover from last night binge drinking while out watching the latest UFC match with “the crew” at Top Golf.
Gone will be those late nights staying out until 3 am hopping from bar to bar because you want to keep that good buzz feeling going as long as possible.
Gone will be those Sunday Fundays that start with 11 am brunch mimosas and end with you passing out at 8 pm, having just finished a Dominoes Deep Dish pizza and watching the latest episode of Rick and Morty.
You’ll basically find yourself not as excited at doing these things as before since there is no alcohol involved and either passing on them all together or ending your participation in them much earlier.
This will lead to boatloads of free time that you can then use to read to improve your craft, research information to know your industry better, or just knock out some things on that “seemingly” never-ending to-do list from your boss in a much faster time frame than some of your peers.
This increased acquisition of knowledge, as well as quicker execution on various strategies and tasks assigned to you, will eventually be noticed by others and put you in a much better position as it relates to getting promoted or winning that big deal from your client.
As with most things habit related, these increases in your performance will eventually begin to compound, and you’ll start seeing success at much greater levels than you previously may have realized.
Over time, you’ll begin to be known as the person who is able to somehow find the time to do “everything” and your co-workers will marvel at your ability to fit so many hours in a day.
All this from one decision to be different and not believe the myth that alcohol is needed for success — a decision that takes courage but will produce great results if you’re willing to take the challenge.
The question is, “Are you?”