I get it—you’ve done your homework. You’ve sat through sales training sessions, read every sales book on Amazon, and can’t go a day without visiting SalesHacker.com. Chances are that if you’ve been in the sales profession for more than 2 years, you’ve been bombarded with “ best practices” and strategies on what it takes to be a successful salesperson.
I have a some questions for you: Have your efforts paid off? Are you performing? Have you stuck to your sales-related New Year’s resolutions?
We’re all human. No matter how much Silicon Valley would love to turn us all into androids, we’re still a few years away from singularity. We must remember that habits take time to develop and, once formed, must be maintained or they’ll wither away.
It’s like going to the gym for the first three weeks of January and then calling it quits. A quarter of us give up on our New Year’s resolutions within a week. Are you in this cohort when it comes to your sales resolutions?
Just as your physical health requires regular practice and maintenance—a lifelong commitment—so too does your success in sales. You must develop successful habits, practice them, and sustain them for the duration of your career. I would actually go one step further and allege that succeeding in sales requires succeeding in life in general.
As we near the end of the first month of 2016, I urge you to get back to the basics. Here are some tips to keep you on track to make 2016 your best year as a sales professional to date.
Be mindful and self-aware
It’s important to take the time to monitor patterns of thought. When you develop an awareness of your surroundings, you’ll be able to understand how to control your mood and emotions much more effectively. This is critical to staying focused while dealing with the emotional ups and downs involved in any sales career.
If you are in sales development, you deal with constant rejection on a daily basis. Typical responses to your well-intentioned emails are riddled with aggressive and rude responses like “unsubscribe,” “don’t ever contact me again,” or “NOT INTERESTED!”
As humans, we don’t like rejection and it’s tempting to take these kinds of responses personal. It’s important to remember that it’s not personal—it’s merely part of the job description. Keep in mind that no matter how much research you’ve done on a prospect, you actually have little insight into what that prospect’s life is actually like. Be cautious about not being rude back or judging them.
Take a minute to monitor how you react—both mentally and physically—to these uncomfortable situations and work to develop immunity to them. This will go a long way in reducing the negative impact they have on your day. You must stay focused and have a positive attitude while selling.
Although it’s been over a decade, I can still vividly recall a day when I was a door-to-door salesperson back in graduate school. I remember knocking on a door and encountering a very aggressive prospect who was not happy to have a stranger knock on his door and, needless to say, didn’t purchase from me. After being asked to leave the property, I walked to the next home and knocked on the door. The home belonged to an elderly couple who weren’t good prospects. I asked them who in the neighborhood had kids and might be a good fit for the product I was selling. The elderly couple proceeded to point out a few houses I should try.
One of the homes they pointed to was the house that I had just come from. Before I could mention that I had already visited the house, they informed me that the homeowner’s child was dying of cancer and that, although they were a good fit for my prospecting criteria, due to the circumstances they would probably be in no mood to talk with anyone.
As you can imagine I was taken aback, immediately regretting all the hateful remarks I had said under my breath while walking away. It was a lesson that taught me to never judge and never take rejection personally. You cannot possibly know everything that a prospect is dealing with in their personal lives.
Develop good habits
This can be tough. Staying focused and remembering best practices—especially when they are needed most—is not for the faint of heart. Your best chance of success is to rely on well-developed habits. They say it takes 21 days to develop a habit and integrate it into your existing routine. While I’m not sure this is the maximum time requirement, I know that habits require planning and disciplined repetition.
Here are a few powerful habits to add to your workday to increase your sales productivity:
When it comes to sales, your schedule is your lifeline. You should know what you will be doing at all times of your workday. Prioritize your calls and meetings according to your schedule. Try planning your first calls in the morning and callbacks in the afternoon. Figure out what makes the most sense: create a schedule, stay agile, and stick to it!
Staying positive and maintaining a good mood, especially while dealing with the challenges of interfacing with the outside world, is important. Positive affirmations are effective and useful when it comes to keeping your mind in the game and staying focused.
I recommend picking up a few inspirational books, music, or podcasts and listening to them throughout the day.
Without a doubt, you are constantly driving towards revenue and activity objectives. Salespeople are rewarded with commission checks and awards for hitting these objectives. It’s easy to get lost in the grind and overlook the importance of setting goals that are outside of your quota.
One of my major motivations for working is to be able to care of my parents as they age. I’m highly motivated by the goal of taking care of my family. It’s why I wake up every day. Find your motivation outside of typical revenue and activity objectives and keep this at the forefront of your mind at all times.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no magic to closing. It simply involves moving on to the next step in the sales process, period. If you are a sales development rep, you “close” your prospects when they answer your emails. If you are an account executive, you close next steps, which can eventually lead to a closed deal.
If you are moving forward in the sales process, you are “closing.” The idea is that you are constantly advancing towards more strategically important and valuable outcomes. Never engage in a conversation with a prospect without closing on a next step.
Remember, it’s about human conversations
I‘ve been obsessed with sales technology for over half a decade. I’m in no way opposed to trying to automate all that can be automated within a sales process. That being said, we are selling to humans not machines.
And although many involved in B2C sales effectively found ways to eliminate the need for salespeople through implementing e commerce technologies, the B2B world still very much relies on the human touch to progress buyers through a sales cycle and purchasing decision.
Remember that you are having conversations with humans with the intention of driving these conversations to a mutually beneficial outcome. To be the best you can in 2016, go back to the basics and develop good habits. Flex your muscles every day and they’ll come in handy when they’re needed most.