Here’s some advice. Take it or leave it. It’s simple advice. Before I impart it, I’d like to say that I am not currently in sales but spent the last 30 years (until March ‘11) in sales or sales management. I’ve done everything from inside sales (prospecting) way back when to managing $50 million accounts to managing sales teams selling high-end software and/or services for the largest software and consulting companies in the world with combined quotas in 9 figures.
Why am I not doing it now? Tired of travel. I wanted something different. I got tired of having the same discussions over and over. I enjoy sales quite a bit but as I climbed the ladder, it became more administrative and contractual and less meeting people to solve problems.
Anyway, here you go.
1. Make more calls: Prospecting calls. Checking in on your customers. Whatever. Reach out. Before you go to lunch, before you go home for the day, make one more call. Talk to one more person. It’s so easy to have internal meetings about crafting your message, social networking strategies, etc. I promise that you will not sell one dollar’s worth of anything to a co-worker unless it’s your daughter’s Girl Scout cookies and that doesn’t count.
2. Time is your only currency: If you’re really serious about your career and you are sitting at your desk reading my Tumblr or insanely funny tweets right now rather than following rule number one noted above, I don’t want to hear that you’re serious about rising to the top of your field. Your time is finite. Yeah, you’re not a machine and blah blah blah but certainly you could be a little more focused.
3. Add value: When you do call customers or prospects or even go to internal meetings, engage your brain and be a business partner. If you think your job is to “be available” if someone in your territory wants to buy something but you don’t think it’s your job to understand their business or your product, go do something else. You’re just annoying everyone you come in contact with.
4. Be pleasant to every single person in your company who supports you: You probably don’t build the product or process the orders or do the dishes in the break room but someone does. WIthout these people, you’d have nothing to sell. Be nice to these people. Know their kids’ names. Buy them small (or large) gifts at holiday time. Kiss their asses. Hard. You want them to want you to be successful and they won’t if you’re an ass. You want them to work harder on your deals and for your customers than they should and you want them to leap on the grenades you leave lying around. They’ll make you better than you are.
5. It’s not a “sales cycle”. It’s a buying cycle: I know “nothing happens until something is sold” but nothing is sold unless it’s bought. Understand the buying cycle in ridiculous detail so you can to tweak it in your favor. Qualify relentlessly. If there is a difficult question you are afraid your prospect will ask, ask it yourself just to get it out of the way. It’s uncomfortable but you gain control of the situation and have a better chance of overcoming it. Or you can waste three months of your time just to get blown out of the water by something obvious.
That’s it. It’s not rocket surgery.