For all of you who don’t know: Sales is hard. Really f*!@^%g hard. I’m not talking about order fulfillment – that’s not selling. I’m talking about actually convincing someone they should buy your solution, not just picking your product that they need anyway. I have little to no respect for “top performing sales reps” in a highly transactional environment or selling commoditized products.

Ok, I’ll turn my snark meter down a bit. Not entirely though, because I’m tired of hearing excuses from reps who don’t sell. This year more than 42% of reps won’t make quota. That’s up 5% from two years ago and that trend won’t change anytime soon unless salespeople buckle down, harden up and make deals happen for them (instead of waiting for them to happen to them). You’ve got to work for it.

Here’s a wake-up call. To succeed these days, you actually have to SELL! We all know that the sales process has changed and closing deals is harder than ever before. To push a deal through, you need to develop the business case and get all stakeholders involved early on in the deal. You can’t rely on getting them to the pre-scheduled conference call you think is the only part of the sales cycle. You need to do your legwork and find those hidden influencers so that everyone involved agrees your solution is the best decision for their company.

Is it hard work? Yes. Is it worth it? YES! That’s why you’re getting paid a percentage of the sale and making good money. Because this is hard work! If you’ve started your sales career in the last 5-7 years, you’ve been riding the waves of a strong economy. But it wasn’t always like this and someday it won’t be again. I always say, “when times are good, everyone wants to be in sales, but when times are bad, nobody wants to be in sales.”

The best sales reps know how to persevere and succeed in good times and in a down economy. They’re creative, self-motivated, unflappable, and committed. They don’t turn tail and run when they face rejection after rejection. No one is forcing you to be in this industry. So if those words don’t describe you, maybe it’s time for a new day job.

For those of you committed to the profession, even if you’re doing “everything right” this job can sometimes kick your ass. To tip the odds in your favor, try the following.

Do your research

There’s no excuse not to know who you’ll be talking to, because I can guarantee your prospects will. Today’s B2B buyers are already more than half way through the sales process before they engage with you. Stop pitching and start with a conversation. Learn about their business and the challenges they face. Find out if their needs fit your use case and who the other decision makers are. And there’s nothing that executives hate morethan an unprepared or uneducated salesperson who doesn’t add any value.

Stop wasting time

Your prospects’ available time and attention spans are limited. Be organized and get to your point quickly. An overly complicated and convoluted presentation is no excuse for a missed opportunity.

Bring something of value to the conversation

If your initial interaction with your prospect is all about you and your product, don’t expect them to want to talk to you again. Bring something insightful to the conversation so they come away from it knowing more than they did before. Make it more about them and their business at first. They’ll trust that you know what you’re talking about. Again, this is against how many reps are told to “sell.” (I put sell in quotes there because if you think selling is talking about your product, its features and showing a demo, you are part of the problem with sales). This is hard work, but worth it. Your customers and prospects will start to treat you like a trusted business advisor and that is what you want to be.

Don’t assume the deal

You can’t expect your relationship with a prospect to get you the deal anymore. It might open the door, but it doesn’t provide value. Use a consultative sales process that leads them to your solution as the best choice for meeting their current and future challenges. This requires a new way of selling, one that’s less focused on features and more about forming an ongoing partnership.

As the leader of a sales team and a career salesperson, I’m not a fan of the reputation my career of choice has earned. But I believe that our industry can rise to the challenge. We’ll adopt a more consultative approach that leads to both higher productivity and happier clients.

This article originally appeared on the Showpad Blog.

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