The Eagle Blog

Everything You Wanted to Know About Sales Success

Over the course of the last four years I have written about 200 blog entries that had some relevance to the sales profession. Today I collected the best advice I could find in there to compile one blog entry with advice on how to be a success in the sales profession.

In February this year I found an entry in CPSA magazine listing the Ten Attributes of a Super Successful Sales Person. Here they are …

1. A strong work ethic … focuses on work during the work day (not cooler chat or personal stuff) and works a little longer than the competition!
2. Empathy for people … likes to listen, wants to hear.
3. Excellent communication skills … written and verbal.
4. An interesting person … well read on a variety of subjects, reads a lot.
5. Self motivated … requiring very little pushing to achieve success.
6. Ability to accept rejection and not get de-motivated.
7. Excellent organizational skills.
8. Plans and sets goals.
9. Wants to learn and keep learning … about the product/service they sell, about the way clients use those services, about selling, about their industry, about everything.
10. An ability to focus all of these skills where they will generate the best return … doesn’t get side-tracked by time wasters, low return projects etc.

In January 2007 I wrote a blog entry called 7 Lessons of Great Sales People. It was an article from Kevin Eikenberry and once again I found it through the CPSA … a great organization for Canadian sales people.

1. Listen more talk less. How can a salesperson know what you need unless they listen? If they don’t listen they are making assumptions as to your needs, wants and desires. The same is true for us. We will get much further much faster when trying to persuade or influence others when we talk less and listen more.
2. Ask more and better questions. One of the ways to talk less is by asking more questions. Great salespeople are masters at asking questions. They collect and use questions intelligently to learn more about our needs. They use questions to understand us better and to strengthen their relationship with us. Questions are one of our greatest learning tools and one of the best ways to further relationships. Whatever your work, being more skilled at asking questions will make you more successful.
3. Focus on the longer-term, big picture. The best salespeople aren’t trying to sell one car today. They are trying to sell you your next 5 (or 10) cars. They know Rome wasn’t built in a day and that they won’t reach their goals – or best serve you – by pressuring you to buy now. So it is for you in your interactions. When we think about the longer term we will make better decisions and behave more appropriately.
4. Build relationships. Business success is about relationships, and great salespeople know that. One of the fastest ways to become more successful is by building more and stronger relationships. One of the fastest ways to lose your job is by neglecting relationships. Take it from the best salespeople – business is based on relationships.
5. Follow-up and follow through. One of the ways to build relationships is to follow-up and follow through. Ever had a service provider call you and check on your satisfaction? How did you feel about that provider and his/her organization after that? How do you feel about people who send you handwritten thank you notes? How do feel when people go above and beyond to stay in touch with you and make sure you are satisfied? You feel good about them and their services, right? Apply those approaches to your work. Send a note. Remember a birthday. Mention the article you read that they would be interested in. Do what you said you were going to do. Follow-up and follow through.
6. Lose the techniques – focus on the other person. There are many helpful techniques that we can learn from training, from watching others and reading. We look for a magical formula or approach. While it is important to learn the techniques, they will only help us if we integrate them into who we are and what we stand for. For example, there is a difference between practicing active listening techniques and actively listening. When the focus is on the result, we relax and use the techniques in support of the end goal. Great salespeople learn the skills, but focus on their Customer. In an almost paradoxical way, by focusing on the Customer (remember your colleagues and your boss are your Customers too) and being sincere and genuine, you will gain the advantage of the techniques you were trying to use to begin with.
7. Help them buy. People don’t want to be sold, but they do want to buy. Just like a master salesperson, help people be persuaded to your position. Help them see the value. Help them own the decision. Help them remove the roadblocks – real or perceived.

In March 2006 , very early in my “blogging career” I wrote an entry titled Sales Success – A Secret Formula. Of course there really is no secret formula, its a common sense guide to any sales person …

1. Know what you are selling! Whether it is a widget or a complicated solution, the sales person needs to know and understand their “product” and how to answer the common questions that are raised. This comes down to basic training from their company – good training breeds the confidence to succeed.
2. Work hard! Probably the biggest failing of most sales people. This is a tough job, and to succeed you MUST have a good work ethic. Long lunches, golf days, short days on Fridays are habits to avoid.
3. Work smart! Good time management skills, good organizational skills and an attention to detail will get great results.
4. Listen! The client will tell you everything you need to know to answer their concerns … if you shut up long enough to listen!

In February 2008 I wrote Six Resolutions for SalesPeople, refering to an article by Robert Kowal.

Here are those resolutions …

1. Service. Make servicing customers your number one priority in 2006 (even if it seems your company’s priorities lay elsewhere). Let your customers know you truly care. If caring about your customers doesn’t come naturally, or if you are in it only for the money, then maybe you should consider another career.
2. Provide Fanatical Follow-Up. Provide your customers, suppliers, partners and your management team with thorough, proactive follow up.
3. Connect with your customers. You can’t provide great service and follow up without connecting with your customers. Teach your customers everything you know. Question them until you fully understand their needs. Spend time and build trusting and lasting relationships. You need to entrench yourself in their culture. Before long they will be calling you and you will become a valuable resource to them. The sales will follow.
4. Commit t
o Training
. Keep yourself in continuous education mode. Company won’t train you? Train yourself. Invest in yourself. Enroll in seminars, continuing education courses and read books! Regardless of the circumstances around you (company politics, your boss, etc.) you have a responsibility to yourself and your career to learn, grow and achieve great things.
5. Technology. Still not comfortable with technology? Still not using technology as the powerful tool that it can be? Admittedly, the pace of technological change is hard to keep up with, but this is no reason to avoid it. Change is constant, progress is optional. Your company won’t buy you a notebook? Invest in one yourself. Good notebook computers can be purchased for under $1000. Get yourself connected. Isn’t you career worth it?
6. Set Goals. You have heard this many times. Still not planning your career goals and objectives? Engage in the discipline of goal setting. Not sure how? Take a course. Set daily, monthly and yearly goals. Make sure your goals and objectives are in line with the company you work for.

The last entry I will reference was written in January 2008 and I called it The Successful Salesperson. This entry listed 6 Dos and Don’ts for successful salespeople.

The successful salesperson WILL fill their days by talking with clients and prospects, understanding their needs and working to solve their problems. They will invest their time on any activity that will generate sales.
The successful salesperson WILL NOT spend time on activity that is not focused on generating business … busy work, personal activities, excess paperwork etc.
The successful salesperson WILL be organised, have good time management skills, be a master of the CRM and religiously commit to their “to do” list.
The successful salesperson WILL NOT float through their day, waiting for things to happen, waiting for the phone to ring and an email to pop into their inbox.
The successful salesperson WILL always be looking for ways to get better at what they do.
The successful salesperson WILL NOT rest on their laurels, expecting that success to date means success tomorrow. They know they need to invest in themselves.

One last piece of advice if you are a salesperson in Canada … join the Canadian Professional Sales Association (CPSA) and subscribe to their newsletter.

There is some duplication in the above advice, but that just demonstrates its importance. If you can understand and execute on all of the above you WILL be a successful salesperson.

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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