Every week we can learn something new about ourselves, our business, our clients and markets even if we have been in sales for many years.
However, we can only learn something new if we take the risk and put ourselves out into the market place on a regular and consistent basis and we pay attention to the details. And the amount of details salespeople need to pay attention to is extraordinary. Paying attention to what we do and how we do it is how we continue to evolve in an ever changing world – it is how we create success.
As Aristotle said thousands of years ago, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Excellence and opportunity meet when we pay attention to the details. For instance, asking that next question, pausing long enough to let the client continue their train of thought as their ideas form, introducing new topics to stretch the boundaries of what is possible in a relationship, not being afraid to say ‘No’ and standing your ground to protect the value of what you offer. These are some of the little things that make us great when working with our clients.
So what have you been paying attention to as a professional salesperson? What are you taking responsibility for in your own professional development? Do you know what to focus on or look for in your own behaviours and sales processes that will elevate you to the next level of sales excellence?
Often, most salespeople do not know the specific answers to these questions; the details to look for. Yes, it is challenging to self-correct and that is why effective coaching is so critical to sales success. That specific feedback loop, the focus on specifics, helps salespeople become more self-aware about the quality of what they are doing.
I recently wrote in the article ‘Why managing sales inputs leads to sales disasters‘ that sales managers need to coach to inputs and measure outputs. That is correct for sales managers and coaches because for too long they have been focusing on the wrong things – only managing numbers at the expense of quality.
So let’s not confuse things by taking an ‘either-or’ approach. It’s not quality at the expense of quantity or vice versa.
The brutal facts are that salespeople, like elite athletes, need to be 100% certain their job cannot function without sufficient activity. Make no bones about it, we have to do many things in sales to create our own success and achieve results.
Selling is definitely a Doing Job – a doing job in that there are critical activities that cannot be left to chance or done every now and then. These activities, like exercise, need to be done every day and if they are left to chance and not properly examined then our success in sales diminishes very quickly.
Over 50 years of empirical research shows that the secret to sales success is… the number of contacts initiated with prospective buyers on a consistent daily basis; which, as it turns out, is no secret at all. If we are truly responsible and professional salespeople we all know that we have to prospect, meet clients, turn out proposals/quotes, follow up, close deals, etc.
Making sure we do enough of the right sales activities each week to make our selling efforts worthwhile is critical. For without sufficient activity, we cannot get enough practice time to get better.
For instance, what is your current sales ratio? How many contacts do you need to make to get to talk to viable prospects and how many viable prospects turn into real sales deals? If your ratio is currently 10 contacts, three viable prospects, one sale then look to see if you can improve that ratio by being better at the details of what you do. Could you convert the 10 contacts into four or five viable prospects and then turn these into three sales not just one?
Or are you doing enough sales activities in the first place? (Prospecting calls, client meetings, etc.) Perhaps your market has slowed down and you need to make more prospecting calls to get enough viable prospects to speak to. And so on.
It never stops if you want to be your best as a sales and business professional.
So why not pay particular attention to the details: the number of activities you are doing (quantity) and the effectiveness of what you are doing (quality)? That way you can lead a healthier, more successful sales career enjoying the fruits of your labour and reducing unnecessary stress. You can have in-depth quality coaching conversations with your sales coach about your effectiveness and efficiency in sales. And you can both look forward to what you are planning to achieve and set about achieving it.
Remember: Our fiduciary duty is to do right by our business as well as doing right by our clients, where a fair exchange of value is achieved. And that means putting in enough quality effort to make it all worthwhile.
As Alvin Toffler said, “You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.”
Remember, everybody lives by selling something.
Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker, adviser, sales facilitator and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments.