Selling success does not happen by accident. Over the years I have had the pleasure to work with and observe a number of super sales professionals. While they all had their own style and way of doing things, they all had three things in common.
First, all super sales professionals are proactive in the creation of their own success. Steven Covey, in his successful book, “First Things First”, talks about one’s circle of influence and one’s circle of concern. Your circle of influence is, all those things that you are aware of in your life that you can impact or change. Your circle of concern, on the other hand, is all those things that you are aware of in your life that you cannot impact or change.
This is a key point for the sales professional. In sales, there are a number of external factors that can impact your success – the economy, the political climate, your company’s policies and procedure and so on. Unsuccessful sales people tend to get bogged down in their circle of concern; all those things that we are aware of that we cannot change.
Successful sales people, on the other hand, focus most of their effort on their circle of influence. I have learned through experience and observation that there is always something you can be doing to move a sale forward. These things are all within your circle of influence and this book was written from the perspective of your circle of influence. Remember, if you wish to be successful, you must be proactive in the creation of your own success.
Second, all successful sales professionals are strategic thinkers. By strategic thinking, I mean that they are always looking for new ways to penetrate their accounts and prospects, they are always looking for new ways to grow and develop their relationships and they are always looking for new ways to make their customers more successful.
Recently, I read a story about a sales professional who lost a major account where he was generating about $250,000 in annual business volume. He was obviously upset over the loss and tried very hard to regain the business. His efforts were without success.
If you read the story carefully, what you would learn is that the sales person was trying to penetrate account using old ideas. He went back to the same people he had always worked with and presented them with the same ideas. They saw no reason to change.
Finally, he started working with a person that he had never worked with before, a manager assigned with the task of moving the company into a new marketplace. They had no experience in the new market and the sales person saw the manager struggling over his decisions. When the sales person began to question the new manager, he learned that the manager was moving into a market that the sales person had worked in, on a prior job. While the sales person had no opportunity to make a sale, he was able to help the manger with some of his decisions. In the sales person’s own words, he noted ‘how the company began to perceive him differently as a result of the process’.
To me, successful sales people differentiate themselves on the quality of their ideas, and our sales person had done just that. He went on to describe how the company began to view him differently, on the basis of the quality of his ideas. The company began to request other information of the sales person, all in areas where he had no opportunity to make a sale. Yet he helped anyway. Eventually, the company started to buy again. In fact, the sales person was not only able to regain the account. He was able to grow it as well. His one time $250,000 per year account was now generating in excess of $1,000,000 in sales. The key to success, in this instance, was strategic thinking.
The key learning point of this story is that there are always a number of ways to approach an account. If you think strategically, you will use your creative imagination to develop new and innovative approaches in developing your customer relationships. If you think in a linear manner, you will only see one way to approach and develop a relationship. I think you will agree that strategic thinking would greatly improve our chances of success in the sales cycle.
Be Customer Focused
The third key to success in sales is that you have a strong customer focus. I once read a book by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the author of “The Power of Positive Thinking”, that best defines customer focus.
The book was called “Stay Alive All of Your Life” and relayed the story of a small town furniture store owner. The store owner’s business was not doing well and the store owner was on the verge of going out of business. As you might expect, the store owner was quite distraught and went to Dr. Peale for consolation and advice. In turning to Dr. Peale, the store owner told the story of a woman who would come by his store every day to look at a chair in his window. Since he needed money, the woman only added to his frustration. The store owner could not understand why the woman would not come into his store to buy. Here’s what Dr. Peale had to say:
“Think first of helping Mrs. X. And to do that, you must first get to know her and her family; study her needs. Do not think so much about putting her money in your pocket as putting your chair, which she needs, into her home. Do this with all of your customers. Think of them as people needing your goods instead of yourself needing their money. Find ways of helping them overcome their difficulties, and you will overcome your own in doing so.”
Dr. Peale’s advice can be used as a beacon of light for all consultative or customer-focused sales professionals. Plainly stated, Dr. Peale tells us to learn about our customers, study their needs and solve their problems. If we do this successfully, we will, in turn, be successful. Never have truer words been spoken.
It should come as no surprise to you that sales is a tough profession. However, sales is also a rewarding profession. My wife is very quick to remind me that too often we look at actors and actresses when they receive their Academy Awards and forget what it took for them to be successful. To me, success lies in the journey, not in the destination. Be Proactive. Think Strategically. Be Customer Focused.