How to Get Started Right in Sales

Understanding what you need to do as a new salesperson can be difficult to navigate. Luckily, there is a wealth of resources out there from sales professionals who have all been very successful. There are some best practices, and there are some personal things that work for the individual. Like everything else, you can learn the fundamentals and then begin to develop your own personal style. I’m a very good salesperson in my own right, but there are things that I see other talented salespeople do that I will never be able to do. It’s part of their style and it might not work the same way for me.

I started my sales career in 1997 which was several years before the Internet changed the game. If I were to start my sales career today, there are some advantages and disadvantages that would change the way I would have to compete. However, business hasn’t really changed that much in my opinion, because there are some universal human laws that work no matter what year it is. I think the key to winning in today’s context is understanding how to use the tools at your disposal and how these tools have affected how customers choose to shop.

If my son or daughter came to me in a few years and asked me for advice on where to start in sales, here are some of the things I would tell them.

Lesson #1: Numbers

I’ve heard sales described as a contact sport. I believe that, but here’s my version of it. You have to get comfortable with mini-failures. Lots of mini-failures. Sales requires being comfortable with giving your absolute best to each prospect knowing that most of them won’t buy from you today. You have to get used to not letting repeated rejections damper your enthusiasm. There are days you might not sell anything. That’s the way it goes. But here is what you have to remember – you have a closing %.

To increase your final results, you have to be willing to collect a lot more rejections along the way. Let’s say you can close 10% of the people you talk to. If you talk to 10, you’ll sell 1 and only have 9 rejections. If you want to sell 10, you need 100 prospects and the willingness to collect 90 rejections. How many of you are willing to go through the 90 presentations that lead nowhere? How many of you would become negative after the 9 thinking that no one is going to buy anything? That’s the game. Here’s the secret. Don’t worry about the number of sales you want. Put all your focus on giving your best effort to all 100 people. Once you stop internalizing the little rejections, everything changes and the sales usually come.

My most recent example of this was watching all of the salespeople at a vendor show. Some were top notch, and some were amateurs. The most successful ones in the room are on their feet and engaging with as many people as the possibly can and giving everyone of them 100% energy. I had a GM once that walked around super pumped talking about all the potential he saw. At those moments, there were zero customers in the showroom and I didn’t get what he was talking about. I thought he was trying to inspire some sort of fake confidence. As I progressed in my career, I realized what he was talking about. He was seeing the thousands of cars driving by and the potential in the community.

Action Item: Stop worrying about “if” people will buy or “when” people will buy. Just talk to every single person you can and help them. Most won’t buy, but some will. If you’ll increase your contacts, you’ll increase your sales. It’s all about the numbers.

Lesson #2: Knowledge

I may get a lot of disagreement here from some people, but after twenty years of interacting with customers I firmly believe that this is incredibly important. There are salespeople out there that never learn anything about a product and basically either make stuff up or only talk about surface level things with people relying on their charm to make the sale. And some of these people are actually pretty successful if they are aggressive and go after the numbers. However, I don’t think that many of them are very respected. On the other extreme, there are a few people who go super deep into the details and memorize everything and often times still can’t sell the thing. So “how much” product knowledge one needs is a topic of debate.

However, here’s my view. I think you have to have enough EQ to be an effective salesperson, and I think that you should do your best to become very knowledgeable. There’s nothing more frustrating for a customer than to ask a salesperson some questions that they should know and not be able to get answers. Imagine you went to a doctor and that was the case. You’d feel like you wasted your time, and that in itself would be frustrating no matter how nice they were.

Also, this knowledge has to be at a level that goes beyond being able to name the feature. You should know what it does, why it would be a benefit to someone, and if you’re really good, why it’s better than some of the other products on the market. Let’s look at an example. If I were looking at a piece of software like a CRM application and there were 9 other competitive applications, I would want to know what the software does and why it is better than my other 9 options. I would know some of my needs as the user, and I would want the salesperson to understand my needs and show me how this CRM solves my problems. If they did a great job showing me how to use it and they were also able to show me the advantages it has over the other products bashing them, that would be a pretty great presentation. At that point, all they would have to do is say something to the effect of, “It looks like we’ve found the perfect CRM tool for you! Let me show you how easy it is to get signed up with us!” That closing question would either produce a sale or an objection. If you got an objection, you deal with it and ask again. Sooner or later, you’ll have a lot more sales than would if you weren’t prepared with this knowledge.

Action Item: Spend time using the product yourself, and read up on it as you do. Also, go play with the competitors’ models. The more you get to know what it is you’re selling and what you like and dislike about it, the easier it is to sell it to someone else.

Lesson #3: Communication

Ultimately, salespeople spend all their time communicating in some manner. You are either networking, prospecting, consulting, presenting, closing, following up, delivering, or some other activity involving communicating. This is something you can learn. The best part of communication today are all of the different ways we can connect with people. The Internet, Smart Phones, and Social Media have given us an amazing amount of ways to engage with people that weren’t possible when I was just starting. The best part about this is that your customers spend an enormous amount of time on these things which means you have direct access to just about anyone you want.

How can you improve your communication skills? Lots of practice. Books can be helpful after you’ve practiced, because they will make a lot more sense once you can relate to what the author is saying. As for the tools at your disposal, you need to spend time on them to see how they work and how people interact with them. If you know how people use them, it will give you an idea of how you can get in front of them.

I won’t spend a lot of time on this subject here since it is so broad, but I will say that one of the biggest lessons about communication is that listening is far more important than talking. The best communicators ask great questions that get the prospect talking, and they spend most of their time listening. Listening helps you understand the person you’re trying to influence. I used to think you had to talk a lot, and I began to realize that people don’t want to hear you talk unless it benefits them in some way. If you’re going on and on about things that aren’t relevant, you’ll lose their attention. Instead, ask them questions, listen to their response, and then answer it clearly and succinctly.

You should spend almost all your time communicating with people. You should be finding new prospects, selling to the ones in front of you, or following up with your sold customers. Your options are in person, by mail, by phone, or by the internet in some way. Learn them all.

Action Item: Communicating effectively with other people is one of the most powerful skills you can learn in business. Spend time on this. Practice it and read about it. Over time, you’ll improve.

Lesson #4: Goals

I’m going to keep this section incredibly short. Set goals. If you don’t, you won’t be as successful.

Why? If you don’t have goals, you’ll have days that are good and days that are lazy. It creates inconsistency, because you don’t really know why you’re working or what you’re trying to accomplish.

Why should you spend time on this? If you set goals that are meaningful to you, you’ll go into work with a different level of energy and you’ll be more productive. The increased productivity will dramatically improve your results.

How can you set them in a way that actually works? I recommend looking at different goal setting models like SMART goals or other models, but I believe the most effective goals don’t necessarily need this level of detail. I think that the most effective goals I have ever set came down to one sentence. In high school, my goal was “I want to be a starter on my varsity basketball team.” The reason the goal was effective was simply because it was something I wanted very badly, and I thought about it all the time. That caused me to take actions every day that would help me do it. SMART goals can help you clarify this, but it’s also possible to just go through the motions of writing SMART goals on things you don’t really want which is pointless. You’re better off just being able to name the thing you actually want badly.

Action Item: Spend some time thinking about what it is you actually want, and write it down on a piece of paper. Make sure it’s something you actually want badly and that would potentially devastate you if you didn’t get it. That amount of clarity changes everything. After you find what it is, I do recommend going and writing it in terms of a SMART goal. That will make it easier to execute on.

Lesson #5: Ethics

The world is smaller than it may seem. We’re all connected in some way. I believe you will be happier and more successful in the long run if you hold a very high standard for yourself with regard to ethics. People want to do business with people they like and trust. So be someone they would like and trust. I know it can be tempting to shortcut things or be selfish when you see other people seeming to get ahead, but that kind of success is short lived. Obey the Golden Rule, and it will pay off in the long run.

Action Item: Be a good person. Enough said.

Lesson #6: Empire

You have to go about your days thinking about where you want to be years in advance. If the key to success in sales is your ability to build relationships, how many relationships do you want to have five years from now? 10,000? That’s 2,000 per year. That’s 167 per month. That’s 6 new people per day that you need to meet. And as you meet the 6 each day you’ll get to a point where you need to learn how to stay in touch with all 10,000.

Here’s the cool thing – there are tons of tools. You’ll get to a point where you don’t have a lot of time for each person, but as long as you can keep in touch on the macro and make every interaction positive on the micro, you’ll be ok. Use your in person time which is the most powerful to make positive, lasting impressions, and use your CRM, email, and social media to manage those relationships at scale. You need to have the attitude that every person you meet you will commit to staying in contact with forever. The salespeople with the largest customer bases will win in the end.

Action Item: Figure out how you communicate best and which tools will help you maintain your relationships with your audience. Some people are better at photos, some at videos, and some at writing. Do what you’re best at, but do it on a consistent and persistent basis forever.

Lesson #7: Brand

By this I mean your personal brand. Hopefully, you’re selling something you truly believe in, but even if you’re not people still want to do business with people they know, like, and trust. Look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are the type of person they would enjoy buying from. If you can’t answer yes to this, what can you do to become a little more like that version of yourself?

I think character is one of the most important things here, and I think it’s much more important that what you look like. Successful people come in all shapes and sizes; it’s the person’s character that make a difference.

Also, if you can find something memorable about yourself that you can promote, this can be very helpful in getting people to remember you. It doesn’t even have to be real. I know a guy that nicknamed himself “pineapple”, and he promoted it in such a way that people would show up and ask for the “pineapple”. So simple, but so effective!!!

Action Item: Figure out who you are and be authentic. This is the key to making it easier for people to remember you when they wan to buy something.

There are a lot more things that could be added to this list, but I think that these 7 things would get any salesperson off to a great start. Ultimately, sales is a lot of fun if you like people, and it’s incredibly rewarding when you’re selling something you love and believe in. Serving people by helping them get what they want and are excited about is a wonderful thing. Work hard, be positive, treat people right, and keep in touch with them. Sales is a pretty easy thing if you keep it simple. Good luck!

If you ever have any questions, feel free to contact me!

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