Selling has always been in my blood, and I became a sales rep for the first time in 1999. Since then, I have learned a “couple” lessons along the way performing several different roles. Sales reps sell products and/or services, and can make a good living. In addition to the standard responsibilities, true sales professionals achieve more success by taking their game to another level and have long, prosperous careers. Which one do you want to be?
Having a complete understanding of sales cycles, and mastering product knowledge is imperative for success. Most companies only focus on product training, because that is what everyone does. While others also give insight on sales processes from first greeting/meeting all the way through closing the sale.
That is where things get scary! Many reps get a false sense of security that this is all they need to know to become successful. In reality, this knowledge only equips them to be “run-of-the-mill” sales reps. The world is full of “status quo lovers”. The following information will give you the potential to become a true sales professional and exceed goals for years to come.
#1 Consult, Don’t Regurgitate
Your job is to sell products and/or services, but people don’t like being sold to. How weird is that? The faster you learn that listening during a customer/prospect interaction is more important than speaking, you will be well ahead of the curve. When you become a consultant providing solutions to their current situation, success will follow shortly. Anyone can regurgitate information and spew it out. Just ask the student who memorized textbooks and got straight A’s, but could not cut it in their chosen profession.
#2 Share, Celebrate and Support
The “relationships” aspect of a sales team is critical to its overall success. You need to give unconditionally, and not be afraid to share ideas and concepts with each other. I always love to share templates for presentations, bulletins that I distribute to customers or various ideas that help improve my territory. If you can make your co-workers lives’ easier, why wouldn’t you? The good karma will come back some day. Celebrate each other’s victories, and don’t you dare get jealous if your colleagues get better results! Put together recovery plans to improve ASAP.
Things don’t always turn out the way that we want them too, so be there to support each other when failure occurs. Keep communication lines open to move past bumps in the road. And last but not least, treat inside sales and support groups with the utmost respect! They are pivotal to the team’s overall success, and are not personal assistants.
#3 Manage Time, Plan and Prioritize
I underestimated the power of being exceptional in this area for a long time, and it affected my results earlier in my career. Planning a schedule as far ahead as a month or more makes things flow better. Putting emphasis on getting out of the office regularly at scheduled times keeps you on track. Paperwork and other less urgent items can be handled before or after prime selling hours. I once worked for a manager who stacked the sales rep’s desks in the warehouse to emphasize that he did not want them in the office for very long in the morning! An extreme action, but he made his point loud and clear.
I always make the disclaimer that priorities over-ride schedules with the following example. If you have a lunch booked with a prospect where the potential is unknown, and your largest customer has a crisis shortly before the appointment, what would you do? You have to understand who your biggest customers are, and the level of service that they need. By the way, do you spend 80% of your time with the 20% of your customers who buy the most? If not, it is time to adjust your schedule and give them the attention they deserve.
#4 Fly Under The Radar, Don’t Be “On It”
Early in my career I had a Sales Manager tell me that one of the best indicators if a rep was doing a good job, is if they rarely heard from the rep’s customers. Be very responsive to your customer’s needs, and take care of them in a timely fashion. If you need help, get it. Never blame others in your organization if they do not respond to you and a customer is left waiting. It is your responsibility to get things taken care of, no excuses!
Keep up to date on everything that your manager requests. It may be weekly call reports, inputting of sales calls and/or opportunities in to a CRM (customer relationship management) program, or general administrative items. Successful sales people always do what is asked of them, even if they don’t like to.
#5 The Path of “Most Resistance” Pays Dividends
Anyone can take the path of least resistance. It is easy to only deal with customers who have great relationships with you and your company, and only sign up prospects that there was little effort involved. But what about handling those difficult customers in your territory, or bringing on prospects where things were more challenging? From those clients, huge growth can occur. In one role I had, the previous sales rep stopped calling on a long-standing account because he was not getting along with the staff. Sales plummeted. From the time I came on board, it only took two years for the account to become the largest in my territory.
Over time, you will acquire “street-smarts” and know when to walk away from business, but more importantly when to move forward when the potential is right before you. Don’t hide behind email or text messaging when problems arise. Face-to-Face is still the best way to communicate, and sometimes you “have to take a punch” to make things right.
#6 Customers And Prospects Are Human Beings Too
It is easy to see through reps whose only agenda is to close sales as quickly as possible, with minimal effort. But the secret is to really get to know customers on a personal level, and make them feel important. It is common knowledge that people like to deal with those they like, know and trust, so take steps to solidify relationships as soon as possible. Get to know special details about customer’s families, their hobbies or even what they take in their coffee. Take notes, keep files and refer back to them before each meeting. I guarantee that they will be impressed with what you remembered, and there is a very good chance that your competitors did not take those lengths to learn about them.
Becoming a true sales professional takes time, and long-term commitment to grow and learn every day. Sales reps tend to be negatively stereotyped, but those that stand out from the crowd, truly care about their customers and can be counted on at a moment’s notice will always be in demand.
Are you in this for just a job, or a long, prosperous career? You make the choice.
Life is busy, chaotic at times. One of the biggest challenges we face daily to get everything done is time. If we can barely get the things done that we NEED to, how can we possibly find time to get everything else done that we WANT to?
For me, the things that I want to do are:
- Working on my blog
- Connecting and growing my network via social media
- Working out / staying active
- Playing the piano
Jeb Blount from SalesGravy.com discussed a concept on his podcast Quick and Dirty Tips last year and I still think about it .
“A LITTLE BIT EVERY DAY”
Would I love to block off large chunks of time every day to get everything done that I WANT to do? Of course. I do it when I can. But on days when things go sideways, and I cannot stay on track, every little bit helps.
Take a moment and think about fitness and health. I have never purchased a gym membership, nor wanted one. The industry thrives on people committing early on, and most never following through long-term. There is a preconceived notion that “If I don’t work out for at least an hour, there will be no value”.
Before our son was born, my wife and I had a personal trainer come to our home. She taught us to use the equipment we already owned, and we could work out in the basement at our convenience.
As life got busier with a new-born, it became more difficult to do full workouts. But with the reminder of A Little Bit Everyday in my head, I still get down there as often as I can to work out. I have a pact with myself to do at least 15 minutes of push ups and sit-ups every morning. Anything in addition is a bonus.
I power walk in to meetings, take my dog for short brisk walks, and run after my son as he gets comfortable on his new bike.
AND NO DRIVE THRU coffee shop windows! (unless you have one or more screaming kids in the car). Get out and walk! And please take the stairs to meetings instead of just hopping on an elevator.
With respect to my blogging and social media work, the short 15-30 minute segments of activity are still very valuable, and inch me closer to my goals. A few of those sessions and I have still put in your two hours of work that I was hoping for. It becomes a mindset, and the theory of “anything is better than nothing” helps inch me closer to my goals than doing nothing at all.
I love to get up early in the morning to work, or stay up late at night. I sacrifice watching some of my favourite TV shows, but it will be worth it in the end.
Google “Gary Vaynerchuk Stop Watching Lost” and see what comes up in the search if you don’t mind an in your face take on this, with a few “bad” words. His philosophy on the phenomenon of wasting time is a powerful wake up call for the couch potatoes.
- Do you feel overwhelmed and just cannot get everything done during the day?
- What can you change now to subscribe to the “Little Bit Every Day” theory?
If this post has inspired you to take action, please leave me an update in the comments section over the next few weeks discussing how you are now getting more done that you WANT to.
A Little Bit Every Day… A Little Bit Every Day… A Little Bit Every Day…
(I hope it is in your subconscious now too.)
It has been a while since I have had a guest post on Sell Lead Succeed, but I am very excited to introduce Robyn Davis today. I have followed Robyn’s awesome content on trade shows and marketing strategies for well over two years now, and love what she is doing.
Many people can relate to the stress of business travel, as they leave the comforts of home, and still need to perform their roles at a high level.
In this post, Robyn outlines 12 tips to cope with the most common causes of travel stress.
Just click on the link below and enjoy!
Trade show expert, Robyn Davis of When I Need Help (WINH), advises executives and their teams on the specific trade show sales and marketing strategies that they need to generate more quality leads, strengthen relationships with key industry contacts, and make money while exhibiting. Contact Robyn at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her free resource website, www.HowToTradeShow.com, for more information and advice.
Shortly after I started my first outside sales role, I traveled 9 hours from my home office to see a small account. I continued to see them on a semi-regular basis even though growth potential was limited. I made that nasty trip two more times in the first year.
In some warped sense of reality, I thought I would impress my boss by doing the extensive travel.
The two other painfully long trips and lack of growth in the second year gave me an “ah-ha” moment!
I realized that these trips were not productive uses of my time. I ended up dropping them altogether the year after when sales diminished to almost nothing.
I would sign up any account early in my career, because that is how sales people are wired right? When you are on commission, every sale counts, so you have even more incentive to bring on new business. True, but only to a point.
What I soon realized is if negotiations with a prospect are difficult and time-consuming, there is a real possibility that they will continue to give challenges as a customer in the future. This is not true all the time. But I have “broken up” with prospects before we have had our “first date”.
I learned a very valuable lesson from an ex-manager several years ago. He stated,
“The best business deals occur when both parties give something to the deal”
Rarely do business relationships work when one party gives, gives, gives and the other party gladly takes, takes takes.
I have dealt with customers who were always upset and/or angry with myself and the organizations I was working for. Although these occurrences were rare, I ended up letting them go too. There was negative energy, and since they were smaller with respect to revenue, it was an easy decision based on the value of my time.
I serviced the occasional account who did not support my companies at all, but were more than happy to ask for pricing when a customer specifically requested our products. Eventually they were dropped too. Those were very sad relationships!
Selective = Success
Once I realized that every company is not a suitable business partner, I gained much better perspective on my account base and territory in general. Some tough decisions were made, but at the end of the day I focused my attention on the accounts that had the most growth potential.
- When was the last time you looked at your customer base and identified troublesome relationships?
- Can you scale back the time you spend with them, or drop altogether?
- On the flip side… Do you spend enough time with your largest customers?
Tom Petty was right. The waiting is the hardest part!
We always seem to be waiting. On the surface waiting sucks, but why not take advantage of the down time? Waiting can equal learning while you are:
- Waiting for, or riding public transportation
- Commuting to work and/or driving to meetings
- Waiting for an appointment
- Waiting in line at a store
- Waiting on a golf course between holes
… You the idea. There are many other examples.
- When you are on public transportation or waiting anywhere with respect to your role, have some “catalog time” with your company’s literature. It is incredible how much more comfortable I became with catalogs by focusing on them as little as 10 minutes per day.
- When you are commuting to work in your vehicle, or driving to appointments, listen to podcasts or audio books that will help you with business and/or personal development.
- When you are waiting for a business appointment, go over your notes to prepare and focus before the call. Don’t get distracted by email or phone calls. That can wait until later
- When you are in line at a store, always be in engagement mode (check out earlier post here http://bit.ly/KAcGXS )
- If you are golfing with customers, take time to really get to know them when you are waiting between holes. You have their undivided attention.
I used to get VERY frustrated with all the waiting that goes on in everyday life. But now I embrace it, and get as much done during business hours when I have time to spare. If I have put everything in to my work during the day, it gives me more time to devote to my family out of “office hours”.
- Do you make valuable use of your “waiting”, or do you just waste time?
- If not, what improvements can you make going forward?
Remember, waiting can equal learning if you use your time wisely!
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Presenting in front of colleagues, prospects or customers can be very difficult if not terrifying. But it does not have to be. As a Toastmaster for 18 months now, I am continually looking for ways to improve my presentations.
It is a work in process, and thankfully each time I get up in front of an audience is a step in the right direction.
Here are five things that I focus on each time I present:
- Preparation – I know; sounds crazy but it really does make a difference! Practice ahead of time and make sure audio-visual equipment is working before you start
- Timing and organization – Be respectful of people’s busy schedules and don’t go over time. Always have a question and answer period near the end, but close with your own summary
- Less is more – NEVER put too much information on a PowerPoint slide. Information overload tunes people out!
- What is your value – Smile often, be engaging and limit dead air. These speeches tend to get monotonous and boring. Stand out!
- Information gathering – Have a sign in sheet. This is a great way to confirm contact information and follow-up at a later date
If you want specific information on any aspect of public speaking, stop by http://www.toastmasters.org and check out the library of resources!
– Wondering why a presentation went so poorly?
– Bewildered by the lack of success of phone cold calls?
– Amazed that a sales call was less than well received?
– Frustrated by the difficulty catching up on paperwork at the end the week?
– Have you thought about what time of day you are typically at your best?
– Do you know when you should not be attempting high level activities?
Take some time to think about this as you plan your next week. This is often overlooked as schedules are planned.
– If you are not a morning person, is it reasonable to expect to hit a presentation out of the park at 8 am?
– If your body and mind is starting to wind down after 3 pm, is that a good time to be starting to phone cold call and expect to be energetic and engaging?
– If you tend to feel sluggish right after lunch, should you be scheduling a sales call shortly after you eat?
– If your organization skills need work, should you be putting off cleaning up all of your To Do’s until late Friday?
I can do a presentation at 8 am because I am a morning person, but I try to avoid them later in the day. Certain people are much more effective well in to the afternoon. Cold call when you are at your best for maximum results.
Lunch affects people differently, so plan your afternoon calls accordingly. I am guessing few people look forward to cleaning up their To Do’s late in the day Friday. Put systems in place to keep up during the week, so you don’t end your week on a bad note!
– When are you at your best?
– Are you working to your body and mind’s strengths?
– Is it time to make adjustments to your schedule?
One of the first rules that I learned as a parent was infants and toddlers thrive on routine and consistency. As adults we tend to lose our way much of the time, and planning and scheduling becomes a dirty word.
Sales professionals can get lost without planning and scheduling as well. If we thrive on routines early in life, should the need for “the expected” not extend throughout our lives? Think about how much more efficient you would be if you stuck to a schedule even 70, 80 or 90% of the time?
A classic story that I heard during my career involved an executive and the sales team at his office. He walked in to the “sales bullpen” mid morning one day, and saw all the reps sitting at their desks. He asked his manager if he could “reorganize” the sales area when they left for their territories. The reps were very surprised the next morning when they found their desks stacked on top of each other in the warehouse! He did it to prove a point, and strongly believed that by mid morning, they should be out in the field making sales calls and getting orders.
As often as possible during my career, I have operated under the system of a “Daily Powerplay” for 4 days each week. Many sales experts have their own theory on this, but somewhere between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm is the ideal time to be in front of customers.
This is a sample of my schedule:
7:30 am – 9:30 am
- Return emails and phone calls
- Complete any outstanding follow-up To Do’s
- Phone cold calling (if applicable) & setting up appointments
9:30 am – 4:00 pm
- Sales Calls, lunches with clients/prospects, training sessions or golf (and other relationship building time) with clients
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
- Similar to the morning, clean up as much as possible by the end of the day
The key to a good schedule is to know yourself, and when you are at your best. If you are “in the zone” first thing in the morning, then conduct important cold calls or face to face meeting then. If you gain momentum later in the afternoon, conduct these activities then instead. I colleague of mine was not functional until around 10 am, and he was still one of the best reps in that organization. He worked later than most of us, and our boss was comfortable with that. It was all about the numbers, and it would have been counterproductive for the company to expect him to do a big presentation at 8 am.
If you expect to leave the office every day at 9 or 930 am, do so when possible.
There should be very few excuses why you cannot leave the office when you intended to. Less important things than face to face selling can always be dealt with later. Speaking from experience, issues come up from time to time, but they should not derail your plans very often. Go sell!
The key to the “Daily Powerplay” is the fifth day each week is an office day. I typically use Mondays as the day to catch up from the previous week, and plan the next four days. Some people prefer the office day to be on Fridays. Be careful though, there is always the temptation to start your weekend early.
- Do you have a daily planning and scheduling system?What changes do you need to implemented in your daily activities to start a schedule and/or follow one more closely if you don’t already?
- Do you stick to it?
- If so, how often?
Do more of what is working for you, and stop doing what is not. Evaluate your processes and planning regularly, and tweak systems as you go along. The pain of spending the time making a plan and sticking to it, will be much less in the long run than being disorganized, without focus, and becoming frustrated by the lack of results.
Eben Pagan is one of my true inspirations from the internet marketing space. I could listen to him speak all day!
A couple of years ago he launched a program called “Wake Up Productive”, and some short videos are posted on YouTube. I absolutely love the message in this series, and I have included his video on “Focus” for your viewing pleasure today.
It is only a little over 3 minutes long if you skip the promotion of the series at the beginning and end.
If you would like to see the series of videos, click this link to the “Wake Up Productive” channel on YouTube.
Have a great day!
Within the sales function of organizations, an individual or group of people go about their business day after day, and in many cases, without a lot of respect from their colleagues. It is the Inside Sales team.
If you haven’t taken the time recently to think about how much easier your job is because of them, take some today. When was the last time you bought them a coffee, took them out for lunch, or phoned/emailed to say thanks?
Our team always pitched in to get inside sales Christmas gifts with one company that I worked for. The group knew how much we appreciated them, and always loved the surprise!
Have you been guilty of using inside sales as your personal assistant?
Be honest with yourself!
Inside Sales’ role is typically clearly defined, and if you consistently dump tasks on them that you did not feel like doing yourself, you are just being lazy! Work with them on moving activities towards closing sales like quoting price and delivery, handling customer questions etc.
One concept that really helped me get on to the same page with one of my Inside Sales teams was establishing “Rules of Communication”.
The goal was to communicate on their terms as much as possible, not mine.
- Currently, are you calling or emailing inside sales for every situation that arises during the day?
- Do you even know if they prefer to be phoned or emailed?
Our agreement included the following clauses:
- If something was an emergency or crisis, I called immediately
- If something needed to be completed as soon as possible a detailed email was sent. They were always monitoring their inbox, and would respond as soon as possible
- For non urgent requests – follow-up notes, general questions and other important items were put on a Daily To Do List. It was sent to Inside Sales at the end of the day. In my case, there was a two-hour time difference, and I typically had my answers waiting for me by the time I got to my computer the next morning!
The less nagging, disruptive phone calls the support team handles internally, the more they can focus on booking business. Call when needed, but always take a moment to think, “Does this have to be dealt with immediately?”
The more you strategize with them as teammates, and respect the job that they do, the smoother the sales function should run in general. Who do you think they will give priority service to when they are in a time crunch? The rep that treats them like gold and respects them as people and colleagues of course!
And always remember, they are not your personal assistants!