When I was recently preparing a speech to up and coming sales reps, I realized that I had compiled a list of selling tips that I wanted to share today. Here are the best of the best:
#1 Consult, Don’t Regurgitate – better to listen to your prospect and find out what they really need, rather than “barf out” everything you know
#2 Share, Celebrate and Support – be a fantastic teammate!
#3 Manage Time, Plan and Prioritize – not the “sexy” part of selling, but crucial to success
#4 Fly Under The Radar, Don’t Be “On It” – if your boss does not have to follow-up with you about things not getting done, that is a good thing!
#5 The Path of “Most Resistance” Pays Dividends – anyone can do the easy stuff, but tough it out and do the difficult (or less desirable tasks) day in and day out
#6 Customers And Prospects Are Human Beings Too – get to know them on a personal level, make notes and show that you care about them as people too
Keep these close by and refer back to them when you need a gentle reminder of what it takes to succeed in sales!
All I have ever known is hard work. It started as a kid when I was:
- attempting to perfect songs at piano lessons to prepare for recitals and/or exams
- playing sports
- washing dishes at a buffet restaurant, or working at a golf course
I was never the most talented at any of these things, but my hard work, dedication and commitment set me apart from others over the years.
My wife and decided to rip out our old flooring on the main level of our home in the spring of 2012, and replace it with new hardwoods. In the kitchen, the old hardwood came out rather easily, but underneath was a bit of a surprise! There were two layers of linoleum, with an unimaginable amount of staples still stuck in to the sub floor. As I hummed and hawed about actually getting down on my hands and knees to take out the staples, I had to take a moment to reflect and remind myself how I had completed many other undesirable tasks in the past.
There have been many projects that I have completed over the years, and during each journey wanted to quit many times. Below is some of the “fun” that I have engaged in:
- I shovelled my two-story roof over a period of three days in hip deep snow. I would be up there for long periods of time, and even had to call my wife on a cell phone to pass me up food and water on occasion!
- We decided to get smaller pieces of sod once when we cut down shrubs in our back yard, rather than the traditional long strips. This tripled my effort, but saved some money.
- I tried to salvage my poorly finished basement ceiling, by scraping off very old stipple, and then tried to repaint it.
- I removed a large flower bed of 10 to 20 lbs rocks to landscape the front of my house.
- I painted the interior of my 900 square foot condo & the interior of my two-story 1700+ square foot primary residences, both in short turn around times.
Being in the sales profession for well over a decade now, things like call reporting (and using CRM software), forecasting & handling services issues were certainly not things that I jumped out of bed to do over the years. Early in my career, I was lucky enough to wrap my head around the fact that this was all part of the process. Keeping up with required tasks allowed me to focus on more enjoyable parts of the roles like engaging customers and making sales.
I suspect that you don’t want to be on your boss’ radar for becoming known as somebody who does not keep up with reporting and other administrative tasks. Make this part of your daily routine. Trust me from experience. DO NOT wait until Friday afternoon to do all of your administrative work for the week. Use it as a time to tie it all together.
Oh yeah, back to pulling out an “endless supply” of staples from my kitchen floor last spring. I just kept my head down, and pulled those staples out, no matter how much my body hurt, keeping the vision in my mind of how awesome our home would look when it was all done.
You can read all the books, and study all the theories about what motivates people to do what they need to do to be successful in life. But it all comes back to you – you and your will to get through the “not so fun tasks” is the key so you can look forward to the fun parts of your job and of your life.
Accomplishing a task is the satisfaction, and that is my primary goal every time I work towards completing something that I really do not want to do.
- How do you motivate yourself to complete professional and personal tasks that you don’t like to do?
- How deep do you have to dig when all you want to do is lie on the couch sometimes, and avoid all the undesirable things on your “To Do List?”
I planned a Saturday golf game with my friends last spring. I was very excited because it was my first game of the year, and I really needed some time to unwind with the guys.
I ended up shooting one of the top 10 games of my life. I reflected that evening on why I had done so well, and there was a very simple answer. I was relaxed. I had only played two rounds of golf all winter, so my expectations were low. I just wanted to have fun, and did not think about scoring.
I started well, and kept the momentum going throughout the entire round. Typically (due to my infrequent play) I will have a great front nine, then a rough back nine, or vice versa. But this game was consistent throughout. I still had some bad shots, but was able to recover quickly.
With my golf game, relaxation and good shots breed confidence. I heard a humorous golf analogy many years ago and I often think of it when I am struggling.
- Pretend the golf club is a tube of toothpaste. What happens when you squeeze the tube of toothpaste too hard?
- Well of course too much toothpaste comes out!
- If you are squeezing the golf club too hard, inevitably you are going to make more bad shots than normal.
What happens if you have a bad day of sales calls, or perhaps a bad week or month in general? We all have confidence and feel great when things are going well; that is the easy part. The true test of character is how we respond when things don’t go our way.
Sales people and golfers need to have short memories. If you are “squeezing the tube of toothpaste” too hard on your sales calls and during the sales process, things may not go according to plan. If you feel under pressure to close more sales, you may “squeeze the entire tube of toothpaste” out on each call! You press, you are not yourself, your presentations and discussions have no flow, and you are off your game in general.
I asked my friends about their golf game that day last spring, and they said that it was not uncommon to have 10-15 stroke swings from one nine-hole round to the next. It proves that we have the ability to bounce back if we stay focused and regain confidence.
As usual, I watched the Master’s Golf tournament in April of 2011, and it was more exciting than normal. There were 7-8 golfers in the hunt until the last few holes. I am always amazed how golfers can keep outside distractions to a minimum and just focus on the next shot. Their focus is superhero-like, and they handle pressure remarkably well.
Rory Mcllroy was in first place after three rounds, the proceeded to shoot the worst final round in Master’s history. After the last round he said that he will learn from the experience and knows that he will be in the running for many more major championships down the road. His positive attitude was impressive.
To show his resilience, he came back at the next major tournament (US Open) and destroyed the competition by nearly 10 shots. That is an incredible example of putting a negative experience in the past, learning from it, and moving on quickly.
Sales and golf have many similarities which I look forward to exploring more in the future. Relaxation, confidence and a general sense that you will excel are all keys factors while “working” on the golf course and in a sales territory.
- Do you find that you are squeezing the tube of toothpaste too hard in your sales or business role?
- What factors contribute to these feelings “invading your body”, and making things more difficult in the field than they should?
If you are struggling right now, reflect back to when things were going very well, and you were full of confidence. Make some notes about those times, and do more of that!
I love to talk. I used to talk anyone’s ear off who would listen to my long-winded babble!
The best man at my wedding described me to a “T” in 2005:
“Tim is like a remote control. All you have to do is say hello to him and he is off to the races. He changes topics quickly liked changing channels on a remote control.”
But I had to change. I had to change big time! People in business and personal lives don’t want to hear you blow hot air all day. They want to be engaged and get talking. They want to talk about themselves and feel like others are really listening to them!
That was me for the longest time. I still struggle with this every day. But I am getting better, and certainly focus on others taking the lead in conversations now with my open-ended questions.
Every time I get off track I think of Frank Tyger’s fabulous quote,
“Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble.”
I was attending my first trade show with a company many years ago. I had just committed to move to a new city and was very nervous. Everyone was friendly, but I felt alone, and was unsure if I had made the right decision.
A fellow sales rep then approached me unexpectedly late in the first day, and took me under his wing for the rest of the event. He made me feel welcomed, and instantly put me at ease! For the next four days I had somebody that I was comfortable around, and could ask them any questions, no matter how silly they seemed at the time.
That event inspired this list, and I have always remember my colleague fondly for helping me out!
#1 Ride-A-Longs With Top Performing Sales Reps – I was just there to observe, nothing more. I once flew across the country and spent one day each with the top two performers in an organization.
#2 Working With A Mentor – It was great to have somebody to go to when I needed them, and not feel like I was being a bother. Helping me when necessary was part of the “mentor-newbie deal”.
#3 Joints Calls With A Sales Manager or Senior Sales Rep – I may have taken the lead on a call, but it was comforting to have them there if I needed any “back-up”. In the event a call was more complex, they would take the lead, and I would be there for support
#4 Guaranteed Salary and/or Commission As A New Rep – This was a game changer for me! It took all the pressure off at the start of a new role, and I could focus on learning the complete job for the foreseeable future. I had a guaranteed salary in one role for the first year and my results far exceeded budget!
#5 I have several other thoughts, but wanted to leave this one up to you. In your experience in sales, or what you have witnessed being involved in business, what else has assisted new sales reps to get acclimatized in their role?
When I was selling in a retail market many years ago, it became common knowledge that one of the chain stores had a simple selling strategy:
- “Make sure that you sell to the first person that walks through the door every morning. It will set you up for the rest of the day.”
Really think about that for a minute. How different would their mindset and attitude be if they had a great start to the day? Don’t get my wrong, I am not asking you to beg for the sale, or hang on to their leg as they try to leave the store. But you get the idea!
For sales reps, business people and anyone trying to sell “Widget XYZ”, listen up….
You should have laser focus from the moment the calendar changes to a new month, and start that selling period with a “Bang”! A strong first day or two (or even a week) sets you up for the rest of the month. You will feel more confident, have a bounce in your step and presentations will flow more naturally. Heck the challenges won’t even feel as painful! You won’t feel as much pressure to sell, because you are already well on your way to reaching the monthly goal.
Think back to those months that you had a fantastic start vs. a poor one. One felt great while the other one felt like the weight of the world was on your shoulders. I can vividly recall having both types of feelings, and one is obviously better than the other!
Sales is a lot like sports, and when you are “feeling it”, good things happen.
Try “feeling it” when you have only achieved 25% your monthly goal with three days left in a month. OUCH!
Get in the mindset that NOTHING will get in your way to starting a month with a “Bang”!
Don’t get distracted in the office doing busy work and returning email. Focus on a detailed sales plan for that first week and don’t deviate from being in front of customers unless absolutely necessary.
I would love to hear if a very focused sales strategy for the first week of every month helps your results. Keep me posted – I would love to hear from you!
My son played his first season of baseball this past spring. For many other kids on the team, it was their first season playing as well. It was a much different experience for everyone as compared to the kid’s first go-around with other team sports like soccer or hockey.
With those other sports, the concepts were pretty simple in theory as the kids could get out and chase the puck or ball and just spend time familiarizing themselves with the games and being part of a team.
Baseball was a totally different story. Batting was mostly straight forward for them, but fielding was an adventure! All of the parents and coaches were doing their best to help out, but the poor kids were always very confused from the moment the ball was hit. Although quite funny on the surface, you had to feel for them when they all froze in place. Their “memories seemed to erase” and never knew what to do when the ball came their way. At one point or another, most of the parents wished they could get out on the field and make plays themselves!
As I reflected back after the season, our expectations for the kid’s performance on the field was way too high, especially early on. We were asking them to complete very difficult tasks with many people trying to give them directions in pressure packed situations. I did not even start playing competitive baseball until I was 9 or 10 years old.
The first coach was unable to handle the anxiety of helping the kids get up to speed. The second coach was awesome! They stepped right up and said that the kids needed “one voice” to listen to. From that moment on, things ran much smoother for the rest of the year, and the team won a bronze medal at the year-end tournament.
That story inspired this post, as I related it to being new to a sales role or the profession in general. Most of the parents were guilty of expecting more from the kids then they were able to give early in the baseball season. Many sales managers and executives are guilty of doing the same with new reps.
I am a firm believer that the pressure to perform should be minimal for new reps as long as possible. Three months should be the bare minimum that a rep focuses on learning everything about their new role, and not have a manager looking over their shoulder and expecting immediate results.
The “learning/training phase” should be even longer for new reps to the profession. Sales can be generalized as an easy job where you can make a lot of money, but new recruits need to understand that a lot goes on behind the scenes to be able to do “fun stuff” like take customers out golfing, or have long lunch meetings!
Product knowledge is typically the focus for new reps, but there are many more aspects of being a territory manager that need to be analyzed before being “thrown into the wild” and expected to come back with orders. It is not realistic, not fair, and is one of the biggest reasons that new reps quit in such a short time.
Most companies are continually under pressure to put up numbers, and that unfortunately comes at the cost of giving new reps the training and support that they need from the day they start the role.
I would rather sacrifice sales results in the field while new reps gets their feet wet, and properly equip them and held grow their confidence so when they hit the road, they are ready.
The most common words coming out of a sales manager’s mouth should not be,
“How can I help you close that order?”
That makes them a one-dimensional leader.
If a manager wants a rep to prosper and succeed long-term, they will help them dig deep in to all aspects of the role, understand their territory, customers, support staff and company. Then, AND ONLY THEN can they start talking about getting in to the field and securing business.
- What training have you received for a new role (other than product knowledge)?
- Have you ever quit a sales role and realized later that you did not give it enough of a chance?
- When should new reps start focusing on actually closing business?
It was near month end, and I had just returned from dinner during a product training trip. I opened my email to a note from my boss titled “DO NOT Be Just A Professional Visitor!”
I had never heard this phrase before in the context of a sales role, but I knew exactly what he meant. I forget the exact content of the note, but I am sure it was very colorful based on how he typically corresponded with us.
What he was basically saying was it was close to month end, and we needed to secure orders. A sale rep’s job description did not include going to just visit accounts. Clear goals needed to be made and achieved on each call. I heard him loud and clear.
Going to see accounts just for the sake of seeing them and not moving closer to securing business was rarely, if ever a good idea. Certainly build rapport with customers, and get to know personal details about them, but always have a “moving business forward” component of the call.
You don’t have to complete 10 objectives or something drastic like that on every call, but aspire for at least 2-3. When I had limited time with an account, I may have only had one goal, but I made sure it was a worthwhile one.
The sales profession can seem complex on the surface, but at the end of the day systems can be simplified to insure success long-term. Make achievable goals for each call, and do whatever you can to not stray from the plan. Anyone can go in and just visit people, but the real success stories come from those who plan and organize ahead of time, and are always thinking about closing business!