I am often asked to speak to sales organizations, partly because of my long experience in the field and partly because I am always ready to say why I think sales is one of the most rewarding and exciting professions. Many of the things I tell these audiences probably strikes them as old-fashioned, but I believe these principles are timeless and essential to anyone working in sales.
Unfortunately, these maxims have been largely forgotten or neglected by salespeople who should know better. Too often sales managers are called upon to conduct sales training seminars and leave out the fundamentals essential to any salesperson's success. Quality selling at any level is a tough business, and it takes a lot of fortitude and desire to be the best. The big hitters in sales (or any other profession for that matter) don't give up easily and they spend every minute available to them learning all they can about their clients and prospects. They sometimes know more about a company than the people who work there. They do this so that when they call on a customer or prospect they can carry on an intelligent conversation and not sit there bewildered by what they are being told.
When I address a group of peddlers, I always start off by telling people to keep things simple. I do that because I often see salespeople who haven't been grounded by their bosses on their day-to-day responsibilities. Salespeople are hired to sell products and services and are given a sales region or sector or list of companies to sell to, but that's about it. Many develop bad habits such as forgetting to follow up with a client if they have promised to send them some material. Others fail to get out into the field, relying on the phone, or worse, e-mail, which has all the personal touch of a billboard.
Face time is where the action and money are, not sitting around a cubicle slurping coffee with colleagues or browsing the Internet. For a real salesperson there is no greater thrill than making a sales call. It's not just another way to sell; it's what sales is all about. But unfortunately, too often I hear salespeople who should know better say they haven't made a personal call on a customer because they've had a hard time making an appointment. That kind of excuse reveals a lack of initiative and desire on the part of the salesperson.
So my first principle of sales is no matter what your title is, get out there and make a personal call on every single client. Do it now. It will pay all sorts of dividends, and your client or prospect will have the opportunity to hear you present your product and services in detail and with the personal touch.
The second principle is to be a great listener. Listening is the most effective selling tool you have but one often neglected by salespeople who are concentrating too hard on their own song and dance. When we shut our trap and listen properly, it's amazing how much our interlocutors-be they colleagues, customers, family or friends-start to get a positive feeling about us. People want to feel that they are respected and admired. Listening to another person with focus and attention is one of the greatest compliments any individual can pay to another person. In a selling situation, it's the tool that wins results.
You need to listen with more than your ears. Eyes can tell you a lot. For instance, if the other person has his or her arms crossed when you are talking, it usually means they are less than enthusiastic about what you are saying. Eyes also can tell you if someone is having a bad day. One day I called on a prospect who seemed distracted from the moment I came into her office. It appeared to me she was on the verge of tears and, even though it had taken me months to finally meet her I simply suggested that it might make sense for me to come back at another time. She smiled and said thank you for my patience. I did see her again a few weeks later and she gave me some business, but the thing she remembered about me was my display of manners when she was having a difficult time.
The third principle is to use good manners. You would be surprised at what happens when you are solicitous of others. In sales, good manners are imperative for success. Little things such as opening doors for ladies, knowing how to behave in a restaurant or at a party, and ensuring that a client is enjoying him or herself are all important.
Another principle is to learn how to ask for the sales order. Years ago a major publishing firm did a study that showed most of their own senior salespeople didn't ask for the order because they were embarrassed to ask their customers and clients for money. Sounds absurd but it's true. Salespeople-no matter what their level of experience-need to be comfortable when they ask for an order and that's where management has to take an active role and train their people properly.
With these and a few other basics, you can succeed in sales, which after all is vital to any organization's success.
It starts with attitude,
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Lauer is the author of two books, Reach for the Stars and Soar with the Eagles, and is an experienced guest lecturer available for public speaking engagements. For more information, visit www.chucklauer.com.