Paul shares seven tips to help new salespeople become more successful.
What do salespeople have in common with Albert Einstein?
“The best advice I could give any salesperson whether you’re new or experienced, is to be a person of value.”
Focus on making a difference, not just a deal.
Although you just graduated from school, you’re becoming a student all over again. “Be a student of your profession.”
“Your benchmark for success should be your potential, not your colleague’s performance.”
“Prepare, prepare, prepare! Whether it’s a meeting with a customer, your boss, or fellow salesperson—prepare.”
“In sales, you’re going to fail more often than you succeed, but that’s okay. The failures are where you learn.” Learn from your mistakes and then forget about them.
“Last year’s sales don’t count for this year’s quota.” Learn from your successes and then forget about them.
“Finally, treat everyone you meet as if they are three times more important than their title suggests.”
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What’s your best advice for new salespeople?
(Transcribed from podcast)
Today we have a question that came from a recent training seminar. So we’re working with a group of salespeople with varying levels of experience, and one of the rookie salespeople came up after the program and said, “I listened to the podcast where you went through the worst advise that you’ve ever received. What’s some of the best advice you have for newer salespeople?” That’s what we’re going to go over today:
What’s the best advice you have for new salespeople?
Although I mention new salespeople, really these tips are great for any salesperson regardless of your level of experience. So, whether you have one day in the profession or 30+ years, these principles and ideas can be helpful and can guide you throughout your career. With that being said, let’s go through seven ideas, tips, principles, to help you become a better salesperson.
The first tip I have is to be a person of value. In Value-Added Selling we talk about this, what it means to be a person of value, and what distinguishes value-added salespeople from the rest of the pack. What we know about value-added salespeople—they’re more focused on making a difference for the customer than just making a deal. In fact, in our book, Value-Added Selling, we talk about this quote from Einstein. It’s a great quote where Einstein was actually asked to comment on what success really means, and here’s what he said:
“Try not to become a man of success, but rather become a man of value. He is considered successful, in our day, who gets more out of life than he puts in. A man a value will give more than he receives.”
That’s what it means to be a person of value. As a value-added seller, you’re looking for those opportunities to help your customers, to solve their problems, to make their lives easier. You just happen to provide products and services as a means to do that. So, as you embark on your sales career, always look for those opportunities to make a difference in the customer’s business, or make a difference in their life. Make their life a little bit easier – solve their problems. That’s what it means to be a person of value.
The second tip is to become a student of your profession. I realize that many new salespeople are just graduating from college and it might feel like “Oh great! I just finished my formal schooling!” Well, it’s just getting started, because now you’re going to become a student of your profession, and that requires time and commitment. My best suggestion here is to read. Just read as much as you can about your profession. Talk to your managers, talk to the salespeople that you work with, talk to your top achievers that you know and ask them “What books are you reading?” “What sales books have provided a great foundation for your success?” Pick up those books. Build a library. I would also ask your company, “What sort of training is available for me to develop my sales acumen?” “What sort of training can I attend outside of what the company offers?” Make it a habit to invest in yourself as a salesperson—both time and energy, as well as money, if need be.
You also have to be a student of the industry that you sell in. When we did our research on top-achieving salespeople, we actually asked over 600 customers about top achievers and what distinguishes them – some of their habits – things like that. One common theme was knowledgeable expertise. Top achievers are knowledgeable about their industry; they’re knowledgeable about their company and their products and services. You’re going to need to study these things. You’re going to need to get involved at trade shows. Read the articles and journals relative to your industry. Make sure that you’re getting involved. You want to be an active participant within your industry—getting to know different people—getting to network with other individuals. You want to get involved. You want to study your industry.
The third thing you can do, focus on your own potential, not the results of other people. As a rookie salesperson getting into the field, you’re going to get a chance to meet some great salespeople. You’re going to see their results that go along with that. It’s important not to become frustrated by looking at their performance and comparing it to where you currently are, because there’s likely to be a sizable gap there. That gap can be very frustrating for salespeople because they look at that and might think, “How am I ever going to get there” or “Why am I not getting there as fast as I think I should be?” That’s the result of comparing yourself to other people versus your own potential. Work with your manager; work with some other salespeople and continue to develop. But realize that as you’re working with them don’t compare yourself to them. Instead, what you’re trying to do is pick up on their knowledge and expertise. You’re trying to learn from them. Don’t use that as an opportunity to compare your performance to their performance. Continue to focus on your own potential.
Number four – this is a big one. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. You must be prepared. In fact, planning and preparation is what sets top achievers apart from the rest of the pack. Our research shows that 95 percent of top-achieving salespeople routinely plan every single sales call that they go on. They prepare themselves. That’s just one aspect of preparation. Planning is a big part of that. But, another thing you can do as a salesperson is prepare for every meeting, whether it’s a meeting with your sales manager, whether it’s a meeting with your colleague, whether it’s a meeting with the owner of your company. Anytime you’re going to be meeting with another individual, get in the habit of preparing. Get into the habit of creating the right positive first impression. I remember that I learned this the hard way in my first sales job when I was selling for a company called Ferrell Gas. I was selling propane in Indianapolis and I was picking up my new sales manager at the airport. I made sure that I looked professional. I made sure that my clothes were clean, my shoes were polished. However, it was raining outside and I didn’t feel the need to go and actually get my car cleaned. My thought was that it was kind of drizzling out there—he wouldn’t notice the difference. Sure enough, when I picked him up, that was one of the first things he said to me. He goes, “Paul, just a piece of advice. Anytime you’re meeting someone new, whether it’s a sales manager, customer, whoever it might be, make sure the car looks clean when you’re pulling up.
My mistake, but I learned from it. You always have to be prepared. Remember, you only get that one chance to make a positive first impression. So, preparing and planning, whether it’s a meeting with your manager, a meeting with one of your best customers, or just a meeting with one of your colleagues, get into a habit of preparation.
Point number 5: learn from your failures. In sales, you’re going to experience failure. You’re going to lose a sale. It’s going to hurt. It’s not a fun part of the profession, but it does create a learning opportunity. In fact, I recommend to salespeople, when you’re out there and you do experience a failure, think about it for a few moments. Ask yourself, “What could I do different next time? Did I talk to all the right people? Is this even the right type of opportunity I should be pursuing? Did I gain an in-depth understanding of their needs? Did I differentiate our alternative versus all the other alternatives? Have I become complacent with these opportunities? These are some questions you can ask yourself to figure out what went wrong and how you can improve the next time. Once you learn from your failure, don’t lose any sleep over it. Forget about it. Forget about that failure, learn from the mistakes, and just move on. It does you no good to sit around and pine over that failure and let that negativity fill your mind. Once you’ve learned from it, forget it.
This brings us to point number six: learn from your successes. It’s important that we go back and analyze what we did right. When we figure out what we did right, we can always duplicate that for the next time around. Naturally, we as humans pine more over what we lose than what we gain, so, you’re more likely to focus on failures versus successes—that’s just human nature. But make sure that you also focus on your successes. Learn from them and even share those best practices with some of your colleagues. But, just like your failures, once you learn from your successes, forget about them. I’ve met too many salespeople in my career that hang their hat on that one big project or that one big deal that they brought in. They forget one of the fundamental rules of selling: You start over every single year just like everyone else. I was listening to a great podcast the other day—Jon Gordon’s podcast where he interviewed Dabo Swinney. Dabo Swinney mentioned to his players that last year’s touchdowns don’t count towards this year’s games. The same is true for sales. Last year’s sales don’t count for 2020 performance. So, it’s important that you forget about those successes because, sometimes when we hang on to those successes for too long, it blinds us to the opportunities that are in front of us. Or, better yet, what happens is we tend to rely too much on our previous success to carry us forward. But that’s not what’s going to help you move forward. You’ve got to forget about those successes and move on to the next one.
Point number seven. This going to be our final tip for the episode. In sales, you’re going to meet a lot of people, especially as a new salesperson. You’re going to be meeting with multiple types of decision makers. Some decision makers have a lot of authority and they can make the ultimate decision. Other decision makers are just part of the process and they don’t have the ultimate authority to buy but they’re still an important part of the buying process. In working with salespeople, one thing that I have noticed is that some salespeople will focus too much on that ultimate decision maker. Some salespeople will neglect some of the lower-level decision makers and not give them the respect they deserve. Everyone wants to be treated with respect, regardless of what their title says.
So, here’s a suggestion; treat every decision maker that you meet as if they had 3x the amount of buying power that their title suggests. If you’re meeting with a lower-level decision maker and they might not have any authority to buy (or very little), imagine that their authority is 3x what their title suggests. This is going to trigger you. This is going to get you to think differently about the individuals you’re meeting with, and it’s going to help ensure that you treat them with respect. I remember one example several years ago when I was selling in the construction industry, I was taking out a higher-level salesperson. We were going out to the construction site. This was a high profile project. One of my internal champions at this facility, who didn’t have a lot of authority to buy, was able to get us into certain doors. When they dropped me and the higher-level salesperson off at our meeting, the individual that I was there with looked over and actually said, “Okay. Thanks for the ride. I guess we’re done with you now.” As soon as he said that, I cringed. I was grinding my teeth . . . I can’t believe he just said that to this guy. This guy that helped us out—that was opening up the door so we can get in and see these high-level decision makers—he just said thanks for the ride. I guess we’re done with you. That’s painful. That’s not treating everyone with the respect they deserve, especially since this guy actually helped us out. Keep that in mind.
Those are the seven tips for today. Just a quick recap:
#1 – Be a person of value.
#2 – Be a student of your profession.
#3 – Focus on your own potential and not on other peoples’ results.
#4 – Prepare yourself and plan.
#5 & #6 – Learn from your failures and from your successes (but make sure you forget both afterwards).
#7 – Treat everyone you meet as if they had 3x the amount of power their title suggests.
Make it a big day!