The funny thing about sales is that, for the most part, no one wanted to be a salesperson growing up. When your grade school teacher asked you “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, your answer probably landed somewhere between a fearless fire fighter and a glamorous celebrity – not “salesperson.” And when you were in college & trying to figure out what you actually wanted to do with your life (and there was greater urgency in making this decision), your answer probably still didn’t involve any type of selling.
Or at least that’s what you thought. The reality today is that all of us do some type of selling – but we often don’t call it that. Rather, we spend the majority of our time persuading, influencing, and moving others. Think about it. What we do each day has some sort of selling component. We don’t all have to be a stereotypical used car salesperson to consider ourselves salespeople. We’re all selling anyway.
So, we didn’t go to school to be salespeople. But we find ourselves in positions that require the knowledge, skill, and discipline of selling. And I’m willing to bet that the majority of the people reading this didn’t go through any formal training before, during, or after taking on a “sales” role. For better or worse, most of us learn how to sell on the job. We pick up the phone, create our own prospect lists, and do the grunt work that sales can sometimes require. It’s not easy. And it requires a lot of grit, determination, and discipline to onboard as a salesperson, especially when you’re a rookie.
In an effort to share some sales wisdom with the relatively inexperienced salespeople of the world, we reached out to several sales experts. We asked them to answer this question:
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself in your first 3-6 months as a salesperson?
If one rookie salesperson reads this and takes a small nugget of wisdom with them to their new sales position, we’ll be happy. We think even veteran salespeople can learn from these folks, too.
If I could start again… I’d first select a mentor who can help me speed up the learning curve. I’d ask more questions of those who are succeeding. I’d take myself less seriously. And finally have not made it about me by adopting a focus on What’s in it for Them which reduces fear, anxiety, and puts the focus on the buyer which would have hid my lack of experience.
I would work diligently on my business acumen and situational knowledge. I would ask to ride along on visits with the experienced sales reps who were doing good work. I would also ask every prospect and customer to explain to me how their business works and how they think about their challenges. Look, you are a salesperson, but that fact now means you are also a businessperson. You need to focus on the business end of the stick.
The most important advice I got in sales came on the first day. My boss told me, “Don’t be an order taker.” In other words, get out in front of your customers. They’re looking for leadership, not someone to fill their orders. It’s served me well ever since.
I still remember my first sales call (more than 20 years ago) and I made the classic mistake of “showing up and throwing up.” Unfortunately, I closed that sale which lead me to believe that my approach was effective. It wasn’t because I didn’t close another sale for quite some time. The key to successful selling is to find out as much about your prospect’s situation as possible by doing some preliminary research and asking them thought-provoking questions during your discovery call/meeting. Then, position your solution so it clearly shows how they (the prospect) will benefit – usually by solving a problem they are facing. Master this approach and I guarantee will have a successful—and profitable—sales career.
Commit to continuing your education! The investment in your education should not stop when you get out of school. At Acquirent, we call it “sharpening your ax”. It took me too long (in my opinion) to realize the power of enhancing my sales knowledge and keeping my ax sharp. Just like why professional baseball players take 45 minutes of batting practice before games, sales professionals need to continue to work at their craft in order to perform at a high level.
Mostly I would have chosen to spend time with those reps who did not send their days in the office. While they are good at telling stories, and all the reasons why the product is hard to sell. If I would have gone with the small minority that was out selling and too busy to sit around the office. You see their name on the leaderboard and desk nameplate, but you don’t see them in the office.
Ask around…find out who is exceeding quota and copy as much of what they do as humanly possible. Don’t try to figure it out on your own or assume that you’ll have the best training. Learn from the people making money and behave on the phones just like they do. Earn the right through performance against quota to do it your own way.
Learn from the masters. Sit down with established, successful sales reps. Ask questions, sure, but more importantly watch them in action. Listen to them on the phone. Watch how they manage their day. Learn from their focus, their instincts, their discipline.
Ask better questions. Experienced salespeople get better, more insightful information from their clients. Why? Because they ask better questions and it causes them to learn how to listen and interpret. I was so proud of the first “ride-along” my IBM Branch Manager ever did with me. I walked out thinking I had hit a home run. My pride lasted until we got back in the car and he said to me; “Craig, do you know that every single question you asked of that prospect you should have already known before we got there? You have to ask better questions.” I never forgot that lesson.
Do you agree or disagree with this advice? What advice would you give to yourself in your first 3-6 months on the job as a salesperson?