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January 13, 2017

The One Decision You Must Make to be Successful in Sales

There are lots of factors to being successful in sales.  But it starts with one decision and that one decision is to become masterful, not average, in sales.

Sales is a really lousy profession in which to be average. An average salesperson experiences the constant stress of hitting quota one month and missing it the next because they haven’t mastered business development and selling skills. An average salesperson winds up working only with average clients. They don’t invest time to become an expert in their industry or business. Great clients work only with great salespeople. Average salespeople earn enough but not ENOUGH.   

This year, decide to become masterful at sales and influence.

Here are a few steps to help you become masterful.

1. Apply the emotional intelligence skill of self-awareness. Conduct a personal SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)   analysis on yourself. Take inventory of your current skills, both soft and hard ones. Conduct a win-loss analysis and identify patterns of how and where you are losing sales. Ask your boss or trusted colleague to share what they see as your strengths and weaknesses. Research shows that people think they are better at things than they are.  Illuminate your blind spots with outside perspective.    

2. After taking inventory, take action. Look at everything!

  • Time Management – Nothing happens unless you get control of your time. But how? Sign up for a time-management or productivity course. Ask your highly productive colleagues how they set up and manage their week.
  • Lead Generation — How clear are you on your ideal client? Without clarity, you probably are meeting with and talking to anyone. This is a major waste of time and a surefire way to create a sales pipeline full of prospects that are never going to buy. 

Look at your value propositions. This basic selling tool is used with any type of prospecting activity. Do you have value propositions customized for each industry and buying influence that you call on? Do you have value propositions developed around each of your lines of business?

Here’s a simple fact:Generic value propositions put you in the not-relevant, you-don’t-get my-business vendor bucket. Game over.

  • Sales process – Let’s start at the beginning. How well do you score on the likeability factor? A basic skill in likeability is connecting with a variety of personality styles. If you aren’t able to read who you are in front of and adjust the conversation, it’s going to be a one-time sales call. Prospects have too many choices and don’t need to work with someone that irritates them.

Maybe you’ve got likeability down, but your questioning skills are weak. Improve your pre-call planning process. Better questions lead to better answers. Thought-provoking questions position you as a trusted advisor, not just some sales robot running through a list of logistics questions, i.e., how many locations and employees do you have? Or worse, a product dump that is disguised as a sales call. And please stop asking, “How does that make you feel?”

  • Presentation skills – I don’t care if you are presenting your solutions in a one-on-one setting or in a formal one. A lot of salespeople screw up this step of the sales process. Their presentations are boring, generic and self-centered. 

Let’s say you’ve done a good job of discovering the problems of a prospect, as well as their goals. It’s now time to present your creative solutions. You come to the closing meeting and start boring your prospect with details about your company that have nothing to do with solving their problems or achieving their goals. “We’ve been around for 100 years. We have a deep bench of expertise that will be working on your account.” The prospect is sitting there thinking, ”How does that help me eliminate my problem or achieve my goals?”

A great solutions presentation is comprised of stories that support the solution. For complicated solutions, the presentation includes analogies and metaphors to increase understanding. If you have an analytical buyer, you have infused meaningful statistics and research to support your recommendation. 

In 2009, Warren Buffett told Columbia University business students that they could improve their value by 50 percent by learning communication skills, such as public speaking. 

Those are just a few areas to examine in your personal SWOT analysis. But let’s go back to the start: The first step is to decide to become masterful at sales and influence. It’s time to leave behind amateur-hour average skills and step up to the big leagues.

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