Sales Challenges: It's Time for Your Midyear Checkup
Are you feeling sad at all?” When my primary physician asked me that question during a recent med-check appointment, I shot back an inquisitive look. She continued, “The pandemic has changed much of our daily lives and we like to check in with our patients regarding their mental health and overall well-being.” Having worked from home for 40 years, I assured her very little had changed for me during the pandemic and I was just as happy now as I’ve ever been. Still, it was a great question and got me thinking about questions that check on our sales health. Here’s what I came up with:
“Are you doing your best?”
In his best-selling book, “The Four Agreements,” author Don Miguel Ruiz tells us to “Always do your best.” He gives a fabulous example of this: Forrest Gump. In the movie, Gump strives to be the best son, friend, soldier, ping-pong player, runner, and (we presume) father he can be.
And what about you? Are you doing your best? Are you trying your hardest? No doubt we all have room for improvement. While we cannot control the paper shortage; customers and prospects playing hide and see; and the general feeling of post-pandemic uncertainty, we do have complete control over the amount of effort we put into our jobs. Remember, failure is only truly failure if you haven’t put in your best effort.
“Are you making the best use of your time?”
There are many reasons why the best of the best are the best of the best. They have superior selling skills, better customers, discipline, and a great deal of experience. Another key factor is how they use their selling time to maximize sales productivity. They make good decisions. They focus on their top sales opportunities, and are smart enough to know when to politely decline an order, conversation, or entire customer in spite of its potential.
You won’t catch a top sales rep on social media during the day, unless it’s to pursue a connection on LinkedIn with a decision-maker. They rarely make just one sales call on a trip. More often than not, they see a second prospect or a customer while they’re in the area. They leave the office organized enough to have a list of phone calls they plan to make on the way there and back. The best of the best are always prepared for what’s coming up and they work hard to make it look easy.
One quick check for the rest of us: Several times during the day, ask, “Is this really the best use of your time?” If not, stop what you’re doing immediately. It’s easy to get knocked off track when distracted by a shiny object — squirrel! — and just as easy to get back on the right path.
“Are you prepared when you lose your top account?”
You can’t be in sales without one day losing a huge chunk of your business. Suddenly, your volume drops 20%, 30%, or even 50%, and takes with it your income. Take notice of the carefully chosen words in this sales health checkup question. I didn’t ask, “if you lose your top account,” I asked, “when?” Take it from someone who is on the receiving end of late-night phone calls from salespeople who have not prospected for years and had the finish line in their sights.
They’re faced with replacing a big account where buyers aren’t that much older than their grandchildren, and who have purchasing and networking habits radically different from their aged predecessors. Even if you could replace the volume (and this time I said, “if”), it will take 12 months, 18 months, or longer.
To successfully answer this question, you don’t just need a plan, you need to start working that plan immediately. Don’t wait for a heart attack to stop eating at Chick-fil-A. Don’t wait for your car to die on a dark, rainy night to take it in for service. And don’t wait to lose your top account before you start selling like you’re going to lose your top account. Because you are.
“What have you done for your customers lately?”
It’s long been known that the No. 1 reason why we lose a customer isn’t price or service. It’s because the client thinks we stopped working for them. As you read this column, someone is calling on your accounts. If they get an appointment, it will be because the customer hasn’t received a new idea from you since there was life on Mars.
Don’t let that happen. Make it a point to bring your existing customer base a steady stream of new ideas. Then, remind them you are still working for their business. Take a look at your list of upcoming reorders and reach out to the client to discuss new options. In this case, the best way to beat the “Your prices are too high” objection is to avoid it altogether by giving the customer no reason to check with another vendor.
“Are you properly motivated?”
Motivation is temporary. When you first start out in sales, the fear of failure might keep you up at night, but it can also drive your sales activity. You will make that extra phone call. You will go that extra mile. You will work extra hard.
But when all that hard work pays off and your sales volume grows, you are very likely to hit the cruise control button without even knowing it. The motivator that got you here (fear) is now gone. You need something else to propel you up to the next level. Be it a carrot (“I really want an Indian motorcycle”) or a stick (“If you don’t hit $1 million in sales this year, you are fired”), a fire needs to be lit under your office chair.
“What’s your plan for the rest of the year?”
It’s unfortunate we don’t view July 1 in the same light as we do January 1. There is no such thing as the Half-Year Resolution. There’s no chance for you to sit back and create goals. As such, you need to do this on your own. Now that you have had your midyear checkup and are faced with a half-dozen questions, what can you put together for the rest of 2022?
These are rhetorical questions when you read them in a sales column. The vast majority of salespeople still making their way through this article will forget about them by the time they turn the page.
There is one group of readers, however, who have already written the questions down. They’ve even set time aside in their calendar to give them some serious consideration. And it’s this small group whose sales will rise because they are doing their best, are making the most of their selling day, are constantly seeking new business, bring their customers new ideas daily, can describe their motivator, and will work their plan for the rest of the year. You know the name of this group. I mentioned them earlier.
They are the best of the best. Coincidence?
Bill Farquharson is a respected industry expert and highly sought after speaker known for his energetic and entertaining presentations. Bill engages his audiences with wit and wisdom earned as a 40-year print sales veteran while teaching new ideas for solving classic sales challenges. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault, are available at salesvault.pro.