In my journey coaching and training salespeople for over a decade and observing salespeople up close for more than two decades, there are really three actions that are often neglected by salespeople. I have never met a salesperson who didn't become a top level salesperson when they applied these three actions in a consistent manner over time. The truth is you should begin these actions day one of your sales career and never stop.
1. Personal development
The books that we read, seminars we attend, audio training we listen to, and videos that we watch all dramatically influence our level of sales and success. There is so much to read, listen to, watch, and learn for a salesperson to reduce their time invested and increase their sales.
I remember like it was yesterday, almost twenty years ago, my first success seminar. I was fascinated with the speaker's vast understanding of how to become more successful; how he broke success down to a simple series of actions. One of the actions was personal development. He asked the question of the attendees, "How many books have you read in the last year?" I quickly realized that my number was a goose egg. Scanning back the last few years of my life since college the number of books I had read would be less than the fingers on one hand. I again understood those were not good numbers. I realized the low numbers in my bank account aligned with the low numbers in books read, seminars attended and self improvement audio trainings listened to.
Maybe you are having the same type of lightning bolt moment I had some twenty years ago. Let's fast forward twenty years. The numbers of books, audio training, and seminars, as well as the hours invested in DIPA to devour them are almost uncountable. The personal bank account, while not uncountable, has achieved the definition of financial independence for most people although, I have not quite achieved my wife's definition based on her shopping habits.
Wherever I have found you today in your formal education journey, whether you're a college graduate, you have a graduate degree or just a high school diploma doesn't dramatically influence your level of success in sales and the management of your time. Your formal education, whenever it ended, enables you to make a living. Your personal education gains you access to your fortune. It's the investment of time you make toward that personal education that matters most.
Turning your car into an audio university:
Most of us spend an extended time of our lives in our cars. The natural habit for most of us is to turn on a CD or the radio and listen to music or talk radio. My view is; "What a waste." I rarely listen to these mediums. It's more likely that I am listening to "Wheels on the Bus" because of Annabelle my young child than "Wheel In the Sky" by Journey. It's most likely that I am listening to something that will expand my learning on CD or podcast. With the hours we spend in our car annually we could achieve the equivalent of a college degree in a few years. Turn your car into a learning center for sales skills, financial wealth, relationships, attitude, success, motivation, religion, or any other topic you desire.
2. Role-play and practice
The need for salespeople to role-play and practice their craft is essential. If we invest our time to role-play and perfect our scripts and skills of delivery we will improve our sales. Salespeople do not invest enough time as a whole in role-play and practice.
To improve the quality of your message, you can rely on the two following theories:
The X Theory of Success:
Becoming proficient at anything always takes people a certain amount of time, which I call X. X is different for each person based on your innate talents and previous experiences and skills. The more innate and previous experience you have, the less practice you need.
For example, perfecting your presentation may take you 100 practice sessions, in order to deliver it with power and conviction, handle objections, and persuade the prospect to sign the contract. I may have a tougher time perfecting my message. I may need to practice 200 times before I get it down pat. However, the issue isn't that I take twice as long as you to achieve success, but that I have an idea of where X is, and I'm working toward it regularly.
The Y Theory of Choice:
I now have a decision to make. Because I know I must practice my presentation 200 times, I have a choice of how long I will take, which is the Y theory of Choice in action. I can take ten years, five years, two years, one year, or perhaps even just six months. If I only conduct my presentation live, in front of prospects, and don't practice, it'll take me a long time to reach my 200. For example, say I'm in front of prospects three or four times a month, I may need more than five years to complete my 200 presentations. This is where too many salespeople miss a critical opportunity to make a positive choice. They don't factor in greater frequency of practice in their equation.
Your success in improving the quality of your message is determined by crossing the finish line (X) and using the shortest amount of time (Y) to get there. A top salesperson uses a combination of presentations to prospects and a larger number of practice or role-play sessions to advance farther faster when striving to improver her message quality.
3. Performance Evaluation
Successful salespeople are most honest with themselves and where their performance really lies. They are able to look at themselves, their skills, and performance in the moment in an objective, real, honest, and evaluative fashion.
The time you invest in evaluating your personal performance I put in the DIPA category. The time you evaluate others on the sales team or administrative team I put in IIPA. The reason for this distinction between the two, in my view, is that your individual personal productivity produces the greatest results for a salesperson. What you do with your time, how you invest it, who you call, what skills you possess, how you work to improve your skills all effect your personal productivity.
As salespeople with aspirations to improve and increase our income we have to be willing to personally evaluate our performance on our prospecting.
- How was our opening statement?
- Did it create a high level of connection and interest?
- Did we harvest a viable lead?
- How effective is my lead follow up sequence?
- What's the conversion rate of leads to a sales presentation?
- What's the conversion rate from leads to sales?
- What's the choke point to improvement in this area?
- How well do I present my sales presentation?
- Do I give myself high marks in confidence, conviction, enthusiasm, and assertiveness?
- Did I listen or speak more than my prospect?
- How well do I present benefits aligned with the needs of prospects?
There are also sub-level evaluations for a sales presentation in the area of objection handling and closing. These two areas really separate the top level salespeople from the middle of the pack.
- How well do I know the objection scripts furnished by my company?
- Do I practice them weekly?
- Can I deliver them under pressure in a sales presentation with eloquence?
- Can I shift at the end of an objection a prospect raises to closing?
- Do I ask for the order in closing more than four times?
The ability to invest time to take an honest look at yourself and your deficiencies takes guts. It's not fun to evaluate problems, mistakes, and faults. While most salespeople would rank prospecting as their least favorite activity, I would say that personal evaluation that is done objectively is really the most difficult. In prospecting we might get rejected by someone, but it's someone we don't know or someone who is barely known in most cases. Personal evaluation can open the door to potential personal rejection by oneself. If you never look in the mirror or check your bank statements you will never know what you look like or what you are financially worth. You have to be willing to know the truth in personally evaluating your performance.