Are You the Kind of Sales Professional You Would Want to Work With?
There is no better time to sharpen your sales skills than now. Whether your business is booming or struggling, now is a perfect time to reflect on how you are doing sales and look at ways to improve.
I believe that you can be successful in sales without feeling like you are constantly selling to people. We have all met those people who we felt were constantly selling to us, and most of us don’t like it. So why would we want to be like that? My guess is most of us don’t, but it may take some reflection to really make sure we are being our best, most authentic selves and not just selling.
Here are a few areas to consider how you do things and what you can do better.
This is the area that has the most room for improvement for most sales professionals. Think about the salespeople who sell to you—how do you feel when they don’t do what they say they are going to do? What about when they leave you hanging without responding in a timely manner? No one is perfect, although I have some supplier reps whose communication skills are practically flawless. But being aware that you can improve is half the battle. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to have better communication.
- When you make a commitment to your customer, do you meet that commitment or at least tell them when you need more time?
- When an order has an issue, do you let your client know so there are no surprises?
- Does your client know when an order has shipped?
- When a client asks to order something, is it 100 percent clear that their order is placed and what the process will be?
I suggest these questions because I have heard them over and over from actual clients in my 20-plus years in this business. Do you really want to chance losing a client now (or ever) from something as simple as these things?
I am passionate about follow-up, and I think it can make or break a sales professional. It is a fine balance, because you don’t want to come across as pushy, but it is also important that a project you proposed doesn’t fall through the cracks. The reality is that your client has a lot more on their plate than the projects you proposed to them, so it is very possible it slipped their mind. If we don’t follow up, they could decide there just isn’t enough time to make it happen, and you miss out. A few pointers here:
- Have a good follow-up system for projects that helps you do it consistently but not too frequently. I use Excel, but you use what works best for you.
- Be honest with clients and tell them that you just want to help take something off their plate and put it onto yours. I also suggest you tell them that you aren’t trying to be pushy, you just want to help.
- Don’t give up, but you may have to get creative. Maybe you suggest another idea or a new product you saw, so it feels less like follow-up and more like you thinking of ways to make the project even better.
I have had a project take six months of consistent follow-up before it happened, and it was a fun and great project. But, who knows—it may have gone to someone else during that time if I haven’t had good follow-up.
It may seem counterintuitive to list this as one of the main things that makes a great sales professional, but hear me out. If you are constantly thinking about the big picture and the success of your client, you will win in the long term. People can tell when they are being sold to, and even if they can’t tell when you are not being honest, they may have a feeling in their gut that you are just trying to sell them something. A few pointers to help you stay honest with your client:
- Don’t try to sell them something just because you can. We all want to make the sale, but if you really think it won’t work or you have a better suggestion, tell them.
- Tell them your opinions on ideas, because you are the expert. It doesn’t mean they will go the way you suggest, but it helps build your credibility. I often tell people I don’t think XYZ product will work well because of this or that, and I think it helps them see when I say I love a product that I am being honest and not just trying to sell them on something.
- If you can’t do something for a client, tell them. That way, when you say you can do something, they believe you, because you have a track record of being honest.
I have experienced this with pricing, lead times, product quality, etc. My clients know that I would never tell them I can make it happen for them if I don’t think I can, because for years I have been honest with them. I believe very strongly that my client and I must win, so I do my very best to provide them with what they need and the service they deserve.
In the end, an amazing sales professional is someone who cares about the relationship with the client, not just the sale in the moment. That’s what separates the good from the great. Think about how you interact with your clients and how you can be just a little better. This is about progress, not perfection. I even look at other people who are trying to sell to me and the communication that feels authentic to me (and what doesn’t), so I can learn from that as well.
We all do things differently, and that’s great. But if you are honest with yourself, you probably have areas you can improve on to be the kind of sales professional that you’d want to work with—and that your clients will want to work with, too. Best of luck, and keep on being the best you!
Stacy Garrett is senior account executive for Ideation Creative Brand Management, an industry distributor. A promo sales professional for over 20 years, Stacy has seen some amazing growth and challenging losses, but through it all has taken a stance of continuous improvement. In 2020, she started a podcast on sales called “Sales, NOT Selling” as a way to continue to share knowledge with sales professionals on how to be their best selves.