Many people start a career in sales thinking that they will rise to the top of the industry quickly, and that their income earned will be high. If only life was that easy.
Professional selling is a specific career that requires a high degree of personal development and practice; that process should never stop. Those people that are very good at selling are particularly so not through luck, but by the specific actions and choices that they take. They work really hard. They have systems to underpin the actions that they take every day, and they look for ways to improve their processes. They actually do what they say they will do.
The averages of performance therefore apply to most people in a ‘career of sales’. Less than 10% of salespeople in any industry are truly the ‘high performers’. This number should say to you that there is a massive opportunity for most to improve and grow their business if they apply themselves to the tasks required.
Daily actions and results should be tracked and ratios monitored when you work in sales. In this way you will know when things are improving. New sales skills take time to develop; but develop they will do so if you practice your efforts and take the right action every day.
The core sales skills that are important to us are usually a combination of all of the following and some of us are better at some of those things than others:
- Meeting generation
- Sales pitches
- Client service and communication
Some of these things are very important but only you can decide what they are for you and your business. For example, if you lack a lot of clients and prospects then you will need to do some prospecting. If you are getting the meetings but not the business then you have an issue with presentations, and you will need to improve in that way.
Understand this; most of us are not good at everything, but we are good at some things. Understand your weaknesses and start to improve them. Practice every day the skills that will help you rise up in your market.
Know where you are now
To understand if you are growing your business and market share, here are some numbers to track on an individual basis. Assess and tally the numbers at the end of each week.
- Calls outbound
- Calls inbound
- Meetings arranged with prospects and clients
- Meetings to new business ratio
- Business generated by volume
- Business generated by $ value
- Seasonal sales trends
- Enquiry rates
- Average sales
- Database growth
A top salesperson is not ‘lucky’; they win the business because they are very good at understanding what to do and how to do it. They then take the actions to improve their skills in the right things for their market and locality. Does this help your sales career? I think it will if you take the actions needed.
Working in a professional sales position, you will find many pressures occurring on a daily basis. Sometimes it is tempting to take the ‘easy’ way out when it comes to issues and tasks. It is not unusual for most sales people to take the ‘road of less difficulty’. Unfortunately this does not always bring in the best results in new business and income.
When you look at your career, your industry, and the competition, it will be very obvious what needs to be done if you are to rise to the top of your market. Are you doing all of those things now? Could you do more of them? What would happen if you started working on those difficult things that you have been putting off for so long?
Here is a list of the common ‘matters of avoidance’ for most salespeople:
- Contacting clients in an ongoing way
- Paperwork and reports
- Key performance indicators
- Database entries
- Following up on business and transactions
Just about all of these things will have a big impact on the business activities of the average salesperson. Some of these things will be more important than others.
The rules here are quite simple:
- Look at the list and decide what you could improve on.
- Get the knowledge that you need to build your skills that may require more work.
- Start practicing your skills.
- Take action to a plan.
It is not easy being a salesperson in any industry. You must rise to the market and the pressures of the day with a great attitude and a momentum to take your business and market share forward. Developing a plan for the process is a good thing, however the start of any day should feature the things that are hard and that you have been putting off. Get the ‘hard stuff’ done first and the business will start to move ahead.
When you work as a professional salesperson, your time is your most valuable resource. How you spend your time will impact on your income.
It is a fact that the the greater your success in sales, the greater the pressure will be on your daily activities. For this reason you do need a plan of control.
Here are some tips to help you with managing your business activity and your sales opportunity.
- Each weekend, review the activities of the last week to identify the current opportunities moving forward. They will need to be carried into the next week with the correct amount of focus and commitment.
- Plan the week ahead so that at least 1/3 of each working day is under some form of personal control. In that time frame, you can do the things that are most important and that will have impact on your growth of market share and client connection. When you believe you are under some control, you make better decisions and take the action. That is why at least 1/3 of the working day is so important to your momentum.
- From the previous point, the other 2/3 rds of the working day can be set aside for those reactive issues and pressures that arise each day. Clients, fellow staff members, and managers will impose on your time so move them into the remaining 2/3 rds of the working day.
- Spend 15 minutes at the beginning of the day planning the activities that you need to get to. Write them into a written diary as a process of organisation. Prioritise the main and important issues that must be done on that day. This has been proven to be highly effective as an organisational tool in business. The success of the process has a lot to do with how the human brain deals with pressures and time.
- Allow for some slack time in the day where you can relax and regroup. The best time to do this is around the middle of the day as part of your lunch break.
- The circadian cycle is part of the biological clock of human performance. It shows that you have two peaks of effectiveness during the day. The first peak is between the hours of 7.00 AM and 11 am. The second peak is usually between 2.00 PM and 6.00 PM. Use these windows of time to do the most important things in your business day.
- When you get involved in a complex and time consuming issue, it takes about 20 minutes to get deeply into the task and committed to the process. Keep people away from you so that this 20 minute momentum is not broken and reset. After the initial 20 minutes, you are good for the next 2 hours of focus and dedication to the task.
- As you achieve things during the day, cross them off the list in your diary. This single process gives you the feeling of momentum and completion. At the end of the day you will have a number of things that have been crossed off the list. This is a success process and valuable to the mind as you struggle with work pressures.
Don’t equate being busy with being efficient. They are totally different things. In professional selling, efficiency is far more important than anything else. Don’t attempt to do more than you are capable of in the time frames available. Recognise the time has to be used wisely.
In business and in sales today, things change on a regular basis and you need to see that change. For this reason you need a personal business plan and a process to keep you on track. High performing salespeople develop a plan that keeps moving them forward.
Here are some tips to help you develop your business model and plan.
- Once every quarter, it pays to review your market for changes and pressures. Look at the opportunities of change that can provide you with more clients or sales. Compare each quarter to that of the previous quarter. Look for the trends over time. Pay particular attention to the seasonal sales activity and patterns in your town or city. Generally most salespeople have a window of 10 months each year as a core selling period. That is the time frame where you really need to work hard and with focus. That is where your plan will be most important.
- Your product or service will require knowledge, skills, and market updates. That should be an ongoing process of tracking and improvement. The clients that we serve like to see confidence and relevance when we do our sales pitch or presentation.
- Considering the current market and your services, ask yourself the following question. Why do people need you? The best answer to this question will be your unique selling point. The answer that you give needs to be quite specific and all of your marketing efforts should be centered on those facts.
- Determine where you are right now when it comes to market share, clients, sales, and income. All of these things should be part of your business plan and improvement model. Targets should be set when it comes to each of these categories. The target should be realistic and yet also optimistic. Set the rules so that you know exactly where you are headed with your sales targets this year.
- The targets that you set should be established on a timeline given your core 10 months of market activity. If you are starting your selling career in a new area or business, you will need to stagger the growth of sales over the 10 month period. The first three months of the period are likely to be devoted to the establishment of market share.
- From all of the above items, you should be setting your action plan in motion. That action plan will require resources to support the systems that you create. A database will be part of that process. The client connections that you make should be tracked in the database so that ongoing customer relationships can be built. In many respects, the success of a salesperson is largely based on trust.
- On a final note, always track your progress on a weekly basis. In this way you will quickly know when things are improving or slowing down. Your plans and actions can then be easily adjusted. Pay particular attention to your prospecting processes, conversions to meetings, meetings to sales, and customer service. Providing everything moves well, you should have the opportunity for ongoing referral business and repeat client activity.
The results that you get as a professional salesperson are largely driven by your mindset and your actions. Protect and support both of these processes with the right attitude and consistency. Over time you can build your market share and income.
Many people think that sales and a career in sales is a ‘cushy’ job where you do not have to work hard. Many administrative or office based ‘backroom people’ will frequently question what the sales team or key account team are actually doing for their salary.
The fact of the matter is that the sales team and individual salespeople work differently. They are creators of opportunity; they look for the next sale and they push towards it. That being said, there are great salespeople, and there are ordinary salespeople. In every industry you see the ‘greats’ and you see the ‘not so greats’.
A salesperson without action, drive and vision is like a car without wheels. It has an engine, makes a lot of noise, but travels nowhere.
If you have chosen sales as your career, you are in a good spot, but you are also in a hard place that will require real work and effort. Great sales specialists are self-motivators and drivers of their business. They know that the business will come in if they get out the door and into their market.
Here are some ideas to help you move into your industry and sales career with greater success.
- Define your focus so you know exactly who your market is and where they are. Every prospecting effort and client connection should be to a plan and strategy of approach. Your vision should be specific to what you sell and how you do it. Practice will help you improve as you move ahead. It should be remembered that this is very personal and in that respect you and the motivator to get the job done.
- Connect with clients each and every day. When you open the door with your clients, ensure that they know you well and that you connect with them on a frequent basis. Client contact should be a process in your diary. It has to happen every day.
- Grow your database of prospects on a daily basis. Devote about 2 or 3 hours each day to regular prospecting; that is talking to new people that are not clients at the moment. It is a fact that many clients will disappear over time, given that their situation will change. You must fill the pipeline of opportunity with new people.
- Practice your craft and your dialogue. Connecting with clients and prospects will involve a number of situations such as presentations, sales pitches, product updates, negotiations, placing orders, and service requirements. All situations require practice and very good dialogue. If you practice what you say and do with the most important parts of client connection, you can lift your conversions of sales.
- Believe in yourself and sell yourself at every logical opportunity. You are the best person to do this. Self-promotion is all part of being a salesperson. You promote with relevance, style, and professionalism.
- Look for new ideas and people to connect with. Read papers, surf the internet, and ask for referrals. There is always a new client just around the corner if you know how to find them.
If you have chosen ‘sales’ as a career you are at the start of something exciting. Take charge of your day and your actions. Start driving yourself into your market. Get to know lots of the right people. Be a professional.
There are plenty of challenges when it comes to sales and sales teams today, but one problem is far bigger than everything else and it sets the scene for overall personal results and income. If you understand the problem you can do something about it.
In simple terms the problem goes something like this:
‘Your daily habits determine your outcomes, and most salespeople cannot or do not modify their habits to lift personal performance’.
It is a simple issue, but it has huge impact across sales teams and also individually. Your habits in business can hold you back or change the future.
So what is the Problem?
We have had many years to develop our habits and focus. When it comes to modifying those habits for our business and personal income, the challenge is beyond most salespeople. The personal discipline of most salespeople will shift on a daily basis, and all good intentions become lost in a ‘sea of inaction’.
If you work for yourself or work on commission, there are all sorts of tools that can help you with bringing about the changes that you require. You hear of them in many different ways. Depending on your industry some will be more important than others.
The list of processes and tools that are available to lift personal performance are typically:
- Scripts and Dialogues
- Cold Calling
- Sales territory
- Contact plans
All of these things can strengthen your market and your personal brand. The real fact of the matter is that they are all personal issues. The results that you get back will only come from the results that you put in.
When a salesperson is well paid they become complacent; the motivation to lift performance is just not there. However, when a salesperson is rewarded by effort and commission, they can see what they have to do, and they know that they are the key to getting habits and challenges sorted and strengthened. It is the small percentage of sales people that then rise to the occasion and get active on the tasks and systems to build their business.
You have a choice here. You can accept your habits and keep doing the same old things that have got you to where you are today; or you can challenge yourself to lift your focus and skills with new effort and focus. The rewards are many for those salespeople that can make the change and lift their performance.