Fight Sales Terrors With Eight Fundamentals to Sales Success
Over the course of a sales career, you will experience landing the kind of humongous account that will make you feel like you’re standing at the top of a mountain, thrusting your arms to the sky, and taking a victorious stance while sounding a barbaric “Yawp” that would make Walt Whitman proud. You have “bagged the elephant” by landing a large account, and there will surely be more to follow. For streaks of days, it will rain business. Every phone call is returned. Prospects pick up, and the resulting conversation looks positive. A record month is followed by another record month. Everything is clicking and it seems like it will never stop …
And then it does.
Whether it’s inevitable or the universe balancing itself against the high highs, you will fall back to Earth and experience weeks of low lows, as well. We all experience bad days. That’s a given. It’s a part of life, and you don’t have to be in sales to have that can’t-wait-for-this-day-to-end feeling to hit you.
But here’s the thing: Normal (non-sales-type) people experience only one bad day. A sales rep’s bad days can turn into bad weeks, which can turn into bad months.
Now what you do? You’ve tried self-help books. You’ve called the happiest, most annoying people you know in the hopes that they would cheer you up. But like Groundhog Day, your losing streak continues. It’s terrifying. But unlike a horror film that you can walk out of and recover from, this is your job, and fighting back sales terrors is a part of it. Like anything else, you need a strategy.
This is when you need to return to the fundamentals. The fundamentals are a series of basic sales truths that, when followed to the letter, ensure your success. By focusing on these truths, you can return to a mental state that will allow you to regain your footing, control what you can control, and do the kinds of activities that are proven to result in a return to the top of the sales leader board.
Here is a list of eight questions, a combination of the four keys to sales success, and elements of Don Miquel Ruiz’ Four Agreements. Think of it as a kind of, “Which personality are you?” Facebook test, only the Russians aren’t behind this one. Most likely, comrade.
1. Are you making a high-value, well-researched sales call? If you are not happy with the result of your sales calls, the first thing to consider is what’s coming out of your mouth. That is, are you “selling print” or solving problems? The lowest form of sales call—“I’d like to speak with the person who buys your print”—can only end one way: badly.
2. Do you have the right target market? Every printing company has a sweet spot. Every sales rep, too. Your “yes” answer to the first question means nothing if it was aimed at the wrong target. Rethink your sales prospects. In addition, refine your search not only to companies or vertical markets, but personality type, age, and other more subtle answers to the question, “Are you my customer?”
Each Sales Step Matters
3. Do you have a prospecting process? If so, congratulations. You are automatically in the top 10 percent of all print sales reps. Go ahead and take the rest of this question off. Nine out of 10 sales reps do not. It might be that your step-by-step, week-by-week approach needs a tweak. Consider your initial point of contact. There is only one chance to make a first impression, so make it strong.
Perhaps your email is getting lost in the mix. Maybe that voicemail got deleted because of its low (read: “I can save you money on your printing”) value. Individual sales activity steps matter, but not all that much compared to the next question …
4. Are you making enough calls? Ask any successful sales rep, “What is your secret to success?” and you are bound to hear some version of, “Make the calls. Make the calls. Make the calls.” Diligence is omnipotent, stated Calvin Coolidge quite correctly. You can sell yourself out of any problem, but you need to be diligent and repetitive in your sales approach.
5. Are you making any assumptions? Let’s say you spend 30 days making calls and leaving voicemails. At the end of that time period, you consider yourself a failure since you have no sales nor appointments. The truth is, you have moved the sales needle. It’s just that you can’t see the results.
By following your prospecting process with diligence, you are building sales momentum. Don’t make the assumption your efforts are not working. Instead, make a positive assumption: They will buy from you, just not today.
6. Are you taking something personally? You can’t be a passionate salesperson without bringing your feelings and personality to the equation. Whether it’s losing a bid or losing an entire customer, it’s easy to feel personally responsible. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, either way you’re right.”
Similarly, if someone says something negative to you, don’t take it personally. You need to know who you are. You need to have faith that you are following the keys to sales success. You need to believe in you. Yours is the only opinion that matters.
7. Are you doing your best? As the saying goes, the best you can do is the best you can do. Wait, is that not a saying? Well, it is now! Following these fundamentals to the very best of your ability is your challenge and your goal. Failure is only disappointing if you’ve done anything less than your best.
8. Are you making the best use of your time? This is a question you should be asking yourself several times a day, starting with right now. What time of day is it as you sit and read these words? Is this the best use of your time?
A couple hundred words from now when you are done, ask yourself the question again. This does not mean that you should always be working and always be selling. It means you must be conscious and deliberate about the choices you make.
There are far more down days than up days in sales. You will hear, “No,” 50 times more often than, “Yes.” This is a big reason why sales is not for everyone. There is no instant gratification. There is no way to know your selling efforts will pay off. Sales offers no such guarantees.
But regardless of the economic outlook, the fundamentals never change. By sticking with what is historically proven to be correct, you will find success. Your Groundhog Day must consist of well-researched sales calls made with diligence to the right target markets, all the while beating back doubt and making good time management choices.
Follow these fundamentals consistently, and you will be “Yawp-ing” in no time.
Bill Farquharson is a sales trainer for the graphic arts. Email him at Bill@AspireFor.com or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault are available at BillFarquharson.com.