While talking to a friend last week about sales training programs, he mentioned that it often seems that they contain little more than basic information. He mentioned that he wishes they would teach “the hard stuff.” It reminded me of training programs I’ve been a part of and how, in my experience, the hardest part about sales is forming the uncompromising habits that take you from good to great. While there are certainly some components of the sales process that are more difficult; you might have trouble getting the lead or getting the close for example, honestly more people struggle with getting, and keeping, the motivation.
Speaking from experience, I find it difficult to put myself out there, most likely out of fear – of rejection, of awkward conversations, of failure. And really, until you can get comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable, you won’t be ready for Sales Level 2.0. Most people have killer skills in some of the basics, but not all, and while you should play to your strengths, it’s important to work on weaknesses as well. The way to do that is to conduct a thorough self-assessment of your current sales abilities and hone in on any shortcomings. Here’s an assessment that can help you determine where you might need to focus some attention.
Directions: read the statements and rate yourself on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being you hit it every time marvelously.
- I have clearly defined sales targets including one or more of the following:
- Number of prospects/outreaches
- Number of networking events attended
- Number of events (or reservations or season passes) sold
- Amount of Revenue achieved
Having clear sales targets is a step that is often overlooked. Oh, don’t get me wrong, people set targets, but before long, they start letting themselves get away with not meeting those targets. Creep happens. You get pulled into another meeting, you have to do an inventory order, etc. Sustainability is hard; It’s why people who lose weight often gain it back and how fitness regimens start out strong in January and slide a bit come March. Rating yourself a 10 in this area means that you both have the targets and that you meet and/or exceed those targets consistently. The key is to set goals that you can achieve if you work hard enough. They should challenge you, but not kill you. There is a lot of conflicting advice out there about setting “stretch” goals and whether or not they motivate a person. In my opinion, I don’t think they do. Instead, draw your line about what’s negotiable and non-negotiable and make the non-negotiable happen. Think of it in terms of what’s “nice to have” vs. what you “must have.” The only way you’ll get items in the “nice to have” category is if you decide you must.
- I set an objective for every possible sales interaction I have.
Many people think that any conversation they have is a sales conversation, and that’s true if you have a clear objective of acceptable outcomes for the conversation. It’s not enough to chit chat with someone at a networking event. You must have an objective for the number of people you want to meet, what you’d like to learn about the people you meet, what you want them to know about you, and most importantly, what you will do with all of that information. That doesn’t mean that you push your way into an event and dominate all conversations or shout “buy from me” from center stage. It’s simply about understanding that you have to determine what a successful event looks like, and how you plan to achieve it.
- I invest the time to get to know my potential buyer.
Great sales people do their homework. They’re equipped with background information. They know things like what a buyer purchased from them in the past, what a particular organization is all about and what other organizations like theirs have enjoyed at their facility. Additionally, they don’t get sucked into the research phase and forget to get into the conversation phase.
- I genuinely like people.
John Maxwell said “you’ve got to like people before you can lead them.” The same holds true for selling to them. You know that guy you hate talking to at an event because he is pushy, aggressive, and makes you feel oily just by being in his presence? He doesn’t like you either and he’s trying, unsuccessfully, to fake it. You must like people, you must care about their needs, and you must take interest in the ways in which you can help them meet those needs. This will shine through in all of your interactions, and in turn, you’ll get what you need too. I didn’t make that up, Zig Ziglar did.
- I almost exclusively use open-ended questions vs. yes/no type questions.
Some methods will tell you to get your buyer saying “yes” throughout the process so that when it comes time to close, they’re predisposed to say “yes.” I say that puts a lot of pressure on that final question and, what, do you hope to trick them into accidentally saying yes at the end? The philosophy around the yes method is simple; the buyer understands that yes the product is a good one, and yes they want it. But yes doesn’t provide enough information and relying solely on it leaves you with uncertainty. I mean, yes, I think we would all like to be healthier, move more and eat a balanced diet, but asking questions like “how will your health impact your future plans with (travel, grandchildren, family, etc.)?” or “what prevents you from eating the healthy diet you desire?” would go a lot further in your buyer’s mind and reveal more about what objections you’re likely to face than if you’d asked a yes/no question.
- In every sales conversation, I spend no more than 30% of the time talking.
When I was a trainer for English teachers, we rated teachers on the time that students spent talking in proportion to the teacher. Why? Because students have more fun, are more engaged, and learn more when they get to do a lot of talking. In sales, if you’re doing all the talking, your prospect is probably not having fun, is likely to become disengaged, and you will be unable to learn what you need to know to effectively recommend a product that will meet their needs. “But Sherry, don’t I need to tell them about what we can do for them?” Yes, but even during the education phase of the sales process, you’re tying your offer back to something they’ve already told you and you’re asking follow up questions to get buy-in.
- I religiously ask for the next step.
Are you asking for the next meeting? The booking? The timing for their decision? Rating yourself a 10 in this area means not only that you’re asking for a next step, but that you’re asking for the right next step. Being flexible and knowing when to go for the close and when to go for the follow-up can be difficult. It takes time and practice to develop that skill.
These are some of the basics and yes, I know that you know many of these. But be honest with yourself about how well you’re actually doing them. Which 2-3 focus-areas would make the most impact on your sales? It is my experience that getting back to basics often gets me on the fast-track to the results I want. What do you think?
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