From the October 2000 issue of Entrepreneur

You're not alone if the following scenario sounds familiar: You're making a few sales-enough to keep you happy for the time being-but every day seems the same as the last. Or maybe the big sale you've been going after fell through, and you start thinking, "Why am I trying to sell anyway?" Whatever the reason, feeling disheartened and unmotivated happens to every salesperson at one time or another.

Here are four steps you can take to get yourself back on track:

1. Cultivate positive influences. Harvey Mackay, sales guru and author of Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive (Ballantine Books), insists he won't have any friends who are negative, because those people would drain his energy and drag him down to their level. Positive, action-oriented people, however, bring you up to their level of success. Their passion and enthusiasm will rub off on you-and you'll probably pick up some valuable sales techniques from them, too.

2. Monitor content input. There are so many resources available these days, it's important to get the best information possible. One successful sales manager I know insisted that every single day, 15 minutes before his reps went out into the field, each one had to read something inspiring, something that would remind him or her that the day ahead offered hundreds of unknown opportunities-or, as Shakespeare once said, "Every day is a king in disguise."

3. Take a step. Every journey begins with just a single step. If you're depressed, disillusioned or unmotivated, the best thing you can do for yourself is to take an action. Write that letter you've been putting off. Make that phone call. The longer you wait, the harder it gets. If a task seems overwhelming, don't look at the job as a whole; instead, break it down into small steps. Once you get started, momentum takes over and you'll find it easier to focus on your goals and objectives.

4. Set goals and go after them. I recently met a multimillionaire who was at one time a very successful television personality. He was fired when new management came into his organization. After going through an agonizing period of depression, he turned himself around and became incredibly successful in an entirely different field-sales. When I asked him about the secret of his success, he told me it was because he kept his eye on the oak tree.

"When I was growing up in the country," he told me, "we used to plow the fields. We'd never look down at the ground we were plowing. We'd look at the oak tree, shoot for that and plow a straighter furrow. If you look at the adversities-there's a rock, or a tree stump, or a small ravine-you'll be wandering all over the place. But if you've got an oak tree in your sight and you're heading right for it, you'll get past the [obstacles] and accomplish your goal."

It doesn't matter if you're plowing a field or plowing a trail to new business; you want to get to the other side. If your goal is fuzzy and you're not sure where you want to go, you'll bump into every stone and stump in your path. If, however, you have that goal in front of you, firmly planted in your mind, it will act as a magnet and draw you to it.

Unfortunately, motivation has become an overused word in our society. Everyone is telling you to make yourself feel better by walking on hot coals or taping positive affirmations to your bathroom mirror. Those techniques are fine for the short term, but their effects fade away pretty quickly. Motivation works best when it's based on concrete, practical steps that can be used in the real world. Follow the tips mentioned above, and you'll head straight into the arms of success.