One of the very first speaking gigs I had was—like almost all of the early speeches—a freebie, and while I can’t recall the name of the company out there on Soldier’s Field Rd. in Boston, I do remember the guy who sat in the front row and wrote down everything I said. It was Art Tweedie, a friend of my brother’s and a very, very successful sales rep.
I was shocked! Here was a guy who’d made more money in one year than I made in my last five. What the hell was he doing here? I would have thought he knew everything he needed to know and had all of the business he needed to have.
I was wrong.
After the presentation, I approached Art and expressed my surprise. Art smiled and told me that one of his secrets to success was that he is always learning how to be a better sales rep. It was a great lesson for a young sales rep.
To help you to be all that you could be, I’ve made a list of seven ideas for keeping up with Art. Some are tried-and-true, while others are just odd enough to get you to think. Anywho, here you go:1. Read Margie Dana’s blog regularly.
—Margie runs a Print Buyer’s Association and, like me, blogs for PIworld
. She has her fingers on the pulse of some people that you might like to get to know, plus she’s wicked "smaht," as we say in Boston, and has a fun writing style. Hit the RSS Feed button and be notified every time Margie posts a new entry.2. Read one new book on sales per quarter.
—Gotch’er iPad yet? If not, make this your next personal sales contest prize or just put a crowbar in your wallet and pull out five Benjamins. Then, go online and start downloading books on sales. Hold on, we’re in printing, right? Oh, fine, go buy a book, then. Geesh!
The point is, though there aren’t a lot of new and original ideas regarding sales skills, you will benefit from a new perspective on those tried-and-true methods. If you read only one book, make it “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnagie. Every other book on sales has its roots in that one.3. Listen to self-help books on CD while driving.
—Similar thinking to #2, but this one involves using your travel time to work on your personal happiness. "The Four Agreements" is a good place to start, as is "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." You will find that what you learn can be brought to your sales life as well. Just for fun, you can take a break and enjoy Steve Martin’s memoir—"Born Standing"— read by the author. For those of us who grew up in the '70s and '80s, it’s a fantastic step into the WABAC machine. 4. Interview the most successful sales rep you know.
—I remember the first trade show I went to back 25 years ago. It was a tabletop (no booths) event that must have attracted a couple hundred sales people. What struck me, and what I still remember, is the feeling of looking around and thinking, “These reps have the same number of hours in the week as I do, yet many of them are outselling me, some multiple times over. What are they doing that I need to know about?” Learn to be curious about the success of others. People are generally flattered and willing to tell you how they did it. Ask good open-ended questions and shut up and listen WITHOUT telling your own story in return. 5. Ask three clients for constructive criticism on your selling skills.
—You want to improve, don’t you? Then face the fire and openly seek suggestions for improvement: “Am I good listener? Why do you buy from me? What areas of mine need improvement?” If you’ve done #3, you’ll know that one of the "Four Agreements" is “Don’t take anything personally.” Armed with this knowledge, you can only gain. 6. Run a doomsday scenario.
—What if you lost one of your top three clients tomorrow? How long would it take you to rebuild? Are you doing enough to replace that business in, say, six months? Could you live without the lost income or are you spending beyond your means? How will this suggestion improve your sales skill? I’m wondering that, too, but it popped into my head and I liked the idea...and since I own the blog, I have the power to include and not have to justify its presence, so neener-neener.7. Rate your next sales call.
—Let’s say you’ve just made a sales call on a client. You are sitting in your car and running a GPS search on the nearest Starbucks. Think back on the call and ask yourself a few questions: Did you do more talking than listening? Do you think the client felt heard? And the most important question of all, What did you learn in the call that you didn’t know already? Sales reps talk too much and listen too little. Buck the trend and be a curious listener.
Those are my ideas. What are yours? Post them in the Comments section.Bill’s Sales Challenge is coming up on October 6. Read all about it at www.AspireFor.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org