Challenge Yourself

I doubt Janet Jackson was thinking about salespeople when she wrote, “What Have You Done for Me Lately.” But the title of her 1986 single sums up the month over month sales race.

Unfortunately, being a sales professional can be monotonous, causing even quality sales professionals to fall into patterns that zap them of their potential. This month, I’d like to help you fight the monotony with five ways to keep you fresh and operating at your best.

  1. Break Patterns: We all have patterns that we fall into. They can range from what we say to customers during the meet-and-greet to how we respond to objections. We may even fall into a pattern when we explain features and benefits. It’s as if we operate on autopilot sometimes, right? Problem is, you limit your ability to adapt to situations or customer behaviors when you do. My challenge to you is to commit to trying different approaches. So, next week, I want you to try two to three new word-tracks to explain a process, feature or benefit to a customer. To prepare, start looking for new stories and analogies on which you can base your word-track. Then conduct some “A/B testing,” a cool term used by marketers to describe a method of testing different approaches on a targeted audience to see which garners a better response. Hey, the key to getting a few more deals every month could be a simple change in approach, so give it a try.
  2. Be Likeable: Being likeable is like “relationship glue,” but you have to stay likeable from the first interaction to the last. Being likeable means you have to be nice, respectful, enthusiastic, confident and, most importantly, authentic. The age of salespeople just being actors is either dead or dying, so be yourself because everyone else is taken. You also have to be there for your customer. Just make sure you’re doing it with a smile.
  3. Deliver More Value: You can never deliver too much value. Many sales professionals believe that sharing information is a bad thing. Their belief is based on the idea that the more information you provide a customer, the more they’ll shop you and buy elsewhere. If you share this fear, then you are probably locked into a pattern that is preventing you from being likeable, which probably means you’re not creating enough value to make a prospect feel obligated to do business with you. Remember, the key to sales is to provide more value than what the prospect is expecting.
  4. Understand Competitive Perceptions: In my opinion, one of the great opportunities you have to build value and close business is when a prospect brings up competitive products or services. We could probably agree it’s silly to think a prospect isn’t looking at products or services other than yours. So, what sources are your customers using to get their information? You have to believe the salesperson at the company you’re competing against is one source. The internet is another obvious source of information. But let’s focus on the information coming out of the company, because that’s where excitement is created or killed. During my time selling cars I remember selling the Geo Prizm (yes, I am dating myself a bit), which was basically the Toyota Corolla for about $1,300 less. I also remember watching as salespeople tried to sell the car without finding out if the customer had looked at a Corolla. If they had, they could have used that knowledge to sell them on a vehicle that touted Toyota-like reliability but for $1,000 less. I wasn’t the greatest salesperson back when I was a green pea, but I was smart enough to sell a bunch of Prisms by understanding the competitive landscape and selling for and against consumer perceptions.
  5. Follow Up: The mind-boggling thing about follow-up is we all know the benefits, yet many sales pros fail in the consistent execution of this critical sales-generating practice. Hey, there is something to be said about being the last man (or woman) standing. Without even working on the quality of your follow up, you can win additional business every month by simply not giving up on a customer. See, long-term follow-up creates obligation, and obligation can sell you a bunch of additional products and services. The key is to focus on staying relevant. Just make sure you have something to say other than asking the customer if he or she has made a decision yet.

Everybody talks about game changers in our business, but you don’t need a game changer. What you really need is incremental business that is predictable and sustainable. So challenge yourself to make it happen.