When you work in sales the start of a New Year can feel like a double-edged sword – on one hand you have a whole new set of targets, which can make you feel like you are standing at the foot of another mountain. But on the flip side, it’s a new beginning and an opportunity to make a fresh start and break some habits that have been holding you back.
In sales there are some habits that can make the difference between ‘conversations’ and ‘closing.’ Change isn’t easy, but if you have always done what you’ve done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Use this New Year to clean the proverbial slate – by breaking the below habits you’ll be on your way to the summit faster, and happier, than any year before.
1. Stop doing what has not worked
So often salespeople only focus on the successes and not the failures. There are a lot of learning’s that can be taken from what hasn’t yielded a result. Do a full audit of 2014; common objections broken down by types of businesses, times of day/ week/month where you may find some patterns, types of personalities that commonly resulted in rejections; what prospecting/ networking events didn’t work. By identifying what hasn’t worked you can immediately stop it or change your focus or behaviour accordingly.
2. Develop systems
Hoping and praying for new business is not a strategy; the troughs will inevitably outweigh the peaks and it will drive the management crazy that they have no visibility or control over the sales process. Create a systematic approach to give you predictable results. A sales process that you can quantify and therefore you can track and adjust is a win-win for all involved.
3. Be unique
When it comes to competition you have two choices – either you can try and emulate what’s already on the market in the fear that you need to be seen to be offering a standard solution. Or you can stand out from the crowd and focus on your points of difference. Being unique enhances the rate of success – prospects don’t want the cheapest standard offering, they want the best.
4. Talk problems, not benefits
Most people in sales are now aware that they shouldn’t focus on the features of their product or service and they should initially focus on understanding the requirement from the client. However, the vast majority of salespeople inevitably revert back to the comfort ground of talking about the client requirement in terms of the benefits of their product or service. The focus should be on the problems faced by the client and how best these can be alleviated – talk in anecdotes about how you have worked with companies that have faced similar issues and the benefits of relieving them.
5. Work smarter
It sounds obvious but it difficult to implement - do not work harder, work smarter. This is a hard transition, as you may have to stop doing things that you enjoy, but are time-consuming, such as those chemistry meetings over coffee, or wining and dining interesting prospects. As a salesperson your focus must be on identifying the ideal client, qualifying the lead and then closing. Meetings should only take place when the client has been qualified – be systematic and be smart; as Benjamin Franklin said - time is money.
By Shaun Thomson, CEO of Sandler Training in the UK, on of the UK’s leading sales, management and leadership training organisation.