Most people think top salespeople are born, not made. I am proof that’s not the case. When I started high school I was tall, skinny, and shy. I’m still tall but that’s where the comparison ends. I learned to be a top salesperson in every company I have been with by consistently doing the following ten things.
1. Plan every sales call. I have a written plan for each sales call I make. I review my CRM system, note what was discussed the last time we met, review any personal topics that came up, and list my objectives for this call. It never ceases to amaze me that most salespeople have only a vague idea of a plan for their sales calls, if any. Most are what I call “industrial tourists”;i.e., a company pays them to drive (or worse, fly) around “visiting” customers, and the occasional prospect, buying lunches, playing golf, or similar things. Most salespeople don’t have a written “game plan” for every call. They just wing it and hope for the best.
2. Have a written plan to grow your top ten accounts. When I was in sales I always had a plan to add to my sales to my top accounts. Marketing 101 teaches you it’s easier to sell more to your top accounts who already know and like you than to prospect for new accounts, so you should always have a plan to sell more to your top customers. No one gets 100% of the business from any account so always be planning how to grow sales to your best customers.
3. Review your “value add” frequently with customers. I am always looking for “value adds” I can use to get more business from my customers. A value add could be providing labor along with your products to take this headache away from your customer, selling products pre-assembled, customizing products, providing financing, etc. Without a “value add” you are often times reduced to selling on price.
4. Prospect for new business even though you are doing well. Most salespeople don’t prospect until their business falls off dramatically. Not prospecting for business when you’re doing well is like not buying life insurance until after you’ve had a heart attack. Top salespeople are always prospecting and preparing for a rainy day.
5. Begin your day with a list of things that you need to do that are both urgent and important. Most people either fritter their day away doing “fun” tasks or they take care of the urgent at the expense of the important. Make a list of things that you need to do that are both urgent and important and stick to that list, at least for the morning. I move on to other things on my “to do” list in the afternoon but I reserve the morning for tasks that are both urgent and important.
6. Become a serious student of the selling profession. When I do seminars on selling I always begin by asking who has ever been to a seminar on selling before. Almost always only a smattering of hands go up. Next I ask how many have ever had a golf lesson, shooting lesson, swimming lesson, or any other type of lesson related to a leisure pursuit. You guessed it! Almost every hand in the room goes up. If you sell for a living and don’t regularly go to seminars, read books, and listen to recorded programs on the art of selling you aren’t serious about selling as a career.
7. Build strong personal and professional relationships with customers. The best way to keep your competition from taking your best customers away from you isn’t by constantly lowering your price. It is by taking the time to build strong personal and professional relationships with your customers. By this I mean socializing with key customers and joining professional groups to which they belong and then being active in those groups. If you do those two things you make it infinitely harder for your competitor to take your key customers away from you.
8. Don’t waste your time on customers who pay slow, constantly complain, and who buy little of what you sell. As a professional salesperson, time is money and you need to spend your precious time in pursuit of big volume, good pay, and professional accounts that can buy millions of dollars from you over the years.
9. Develop your personal brand. By this I mean what are you known for in your market? How have you “branded” yourself? What do you do to set yourself apart from your competition? I used to do my own newsletter back in the days when I had to type it myself, take it to a copy shop, and mail it out. It wasn’t great but no one else I competed with did a newsletter so I won by default. In today’s world with e-mail and other technology tools, doing your own newsletter is much easier. This is just one idea. What else can you do to set yourself apart from the competition?
10. Outwork the competition. When I was in sales I started earlier and quit later than anyone else I knew of with whom I competed. When I couldn’t get an appointment with a workaholic who was always “too busy” to see me I would get his attention by asking for an appointment at 6 AM or on a Saturday. Workaholics were always impressed when I would propose appointments at such odd times. Back before cell phones I gave my customers my home phone number and encourage them to call me 24/7 whenever they needed anything. I’m always amazed when a salesperson who calls on me doesn’t return a call from me on Friday afternoon until Monday morning and then gives me the excuse that they turn their cell phone off over the weekend. You can be sure I never bother them again… with an order, or anything else.
In summary, selling isn’t hard, but properly done, it is hard work. Always keep in mind the old adage, “There is never a traffic jam on the extra mile”. The type of customers you want to sell will recognize that you are doing some or all of the above and, if you do it consistently, it will pay off. Take it from this tall, formerly skinny and shy guy.
© Copyright 2012 by Jim Sobeck. All rights reserved. This information may be reproduced as long as full credit is given to the author.