Like sailing the rough seas of the ocean, the life of a salesperson is very much fraught with ups and downs, twists and turns, and cold, dark, and rainy days. Yet, there are wonderful stories, amazing journeys, and beautiful rays of sunshine also awaiting each day. So, what does it take to be successful and thrive in the world of sales? Here are a few thoughts that I have put together based on my experiences in sales.
Stay Motivated: Personal motivation is necessary to make it through the daily challenges a salesperson will be presented with. Every day a salesperson will be tested and tried. I mean, let’s face it, almost everyone dislikes, I won’t say ‘hates’, but definitely dislikes sales people. Even me! Until you make that connection and get a foot in the door, a salesperson is constantly seeking to talk with people that don’t necessarily want to talk with him or her. Over the course of time, let’s assume a career, this can ware on even the brightest and most talented individuals. One must be determined and must also be mentally tough to make it as a salesperson.
Personal motivation is vital to the salesperson. I have watched peers and colleagues rely on a company, focus group, mentor, family, etc. for motivation to their own demise. The fact is, people will always let you down. Groups, family, friends, mentors – all of these are made up of people. I don’t say that to be negative, it’s just the truth, and no one is perfect. The system is imperfect and people are imperfect – so why rely on them? It doesn’t make sense to me. (Personally, I rely on God and “faith is the victory”). Others say, rely on self, and be the self-made man or woman. Again, another valid approach, but we can also let ourselves down, so learn how to deal with failure properly no matter what path you take. Failure is an event, not a destination. Move on and stay motivated.
A salesperson must find ways to motivate themselves. And, it’s not all about the money. It seems like the majority of sales people I talk to and know are motivated by the compensation. I suppose that’s fine and certainly has its place, but it definitely doesn’t keep me motivated. After all, it’s just money, and life has more to offer. Be content, be humble and be assertive. As a salesperson, I have found that helping people and making a difference is what stimulates me – and, I get paid for it! That’s not to say there won’t be bad days or down times, we all have them. Keep a positive attitude and stay on top. In the Marine Corps we had a saying, “False motivation is still motivation.” How very true, and often faking it will help a person make it. Think about it, if a person acts happy long enough, even when they’re not, eventually they will just be happy because it’s easier than faking it.
Set Goals: A salesperson must learn to set goals properly. Often companies will set goals for their sales team, but not always. Even where companies do set goals, I find it personally rewarding to set my own goals and track stats. On my wall in my office right now (I like visuals) I keep a record of the past 24 months of sales data, i.e. calls out, calls in, emails out, emails in, appointments booked, demonstrations completed, month sales goal, year sales goal, and more. For me, this is like tracking stats in baseball or football. How well did I do last July? Where am I at this July? Get as detailed as you like. This makes the job more exciting for me, and I am always trying new ideas, seeking ways to improve. Always strive to be better than you were yesterday, last month, last year, and be sure to celebrate the small victories as much as the large ones.
Goal setting is almost an art. Many people, not just sales people, fail at setting goals. Maybe goals are set too high; maybe goals are set too low. My advice is to be realistic. If you’re just starting out in sales, I don’t suggest setting dollar amount goals. Instead, focus on the “work” that goes into making a sale. Set goals like “I want to make 50 calls today, set 5 appointments, schedule 5 demos, mail 10 letters, and learn 5 things I didn’t know about the products and services I represent or the industries I serve”. As you find yourself focusing on the work, you will notice a return in revenue.
Learn to Communicate: This has to be my favorite part of selling. Well, what is communication? By definition it is, “the imparting or exchanging of information or news”. Then what are we (sales people) communicating about? The awesome, unique, amazing, special products and services we represent. The more enthusiastic and passionate a salesperson is about what they are selling (I like to say representing), the better off they will do at their job. There is an art form to communicating with people verbally (in person or over the phone), in letter (email, blog, mail) or image (art, diagrams, schematics, pictures) and this art form can be tuned and refined. Yet, personalities are what they are. Some people are naturally fantastic communicators, and the rest of us have to work at it. Yet, most people I talk to are not great communicators and they don’t expect their salesperson to be the most eloquent, refined, diplomatic person they encounter either. All of these things have their place and can be used as tools in the toolbox. Prospects and customers do however, expect honesty, integrity, knowledge and understanding. They expect someone to care about what they care about. Being genuinely enthusiastic and passionate about your products and services communicates a great deal about who you are and what you are selling or representing.
Finally, Know When to Let Go: There’s only so much time in a day. This makes the playing field a bit more even. I continue to watch sales people of all types spend too much time on prospects who aren’t going to move. Nothing a salesperson could show them, teach them, tell them, or give them will get them to make a decision. It’s unfortunate. There are so many buyers out there that want to get in touch with a sales person, and they simply aren’t identified because too much time is spent on another prospect. My advice here is two-fold:
1) Develop your own profiling questions, qualification questions, stages, and probability methods to help you eliminate non-buyers (who are wasting their time and yours).
2) Find the right software to help organize your leads, prospects and clients and become more efficient.
There are an innumerable number of apps and software programs on the market for sales teams today. Most of them very effective. At Aptora, we use the software we develop (Total Office Manager) to run and manage our sales department. Whether we are in the office or out cold calling and prospecting, we have the information we need and power to succeed at any given moment.
Sales is a tough job and not for the faint of heart. It’s not easy money, but it can be fulfilling. Just like anything else, it takes hard work and you’ll get out of your day what you put into it. Sales can be a very rewarding and fulfilling career with great opportunities to meet knowledgeable people, travel the world over, and create the lifestyle you seek. Learn to manage yourself and master your craft. Again, be content, be humble, and be assertive.