Selling is an art as well as a science. The effective sales process has several moving parts. Your ability to identify and then master each of the key result areas of selling is essential for you to earn the maximum income possible.
When Vince Lombardi took over the Green Bay Packers some years ago, he was asked what he was going to change. The players? The plays? The training process? How was he going to turn this team around after a string of failures and bad years in football?
Lombardi reportedly replied, “I am not going to change anything. We will use the same players, the same plays and the same training system. But we will concentrate on becoming brilliant on the basics. Before I am finished, we will be the best team in the National Football League in kicking, passing, blocking, running and catching. We will run our plays with such precision that the other side will know what we are going to do, but will be unable to stop us. We will be brilliant on the basics.”
This principle applies to you as well. Your job is to become brilliant on the basics of selling. This begins by identifying the essential parts of the professional selling process and developing a plan to upgrade your skills in each area.
Fortunately, all sales skills are learnable. It doesn’t matter how well you’ve performed in different areas in the past. You can learn any sales skill you need to achieve any sales goal you set for yourself.
Everyone in the top 10 percent of their fields started in the bottom 10 percent. The top people in your industry were at one time not even in your industry and didn’t know it existed. But once they began, they committed themselves to becoming excellent in each of the key result areas.
Here is an important discovery. Your weakest key skill sets the height of your income. Just as a chain breaks at the weakest link, the skill at which you perform the worst determines how many sales and how much money you earn. By improving a single skill, the one skill that can help you the most, you can increase your sales and your income faster than in any other way.
Here is the key question: What one skill, if you were absolutely excellent at it, would best help you double your sales and your income?
When you ask yourself this question, the answer will usually jump into your mind. If you aren’t sure of the answer, it’s essential you find out, and find out quickly. Ask your manager. Ask your best customers. Ask your colleagues. You must know your weakest skill if you’re going to improve in that area and unlock your full potential for higher income.
Give yourself a grade of 1 to 10 in each of the key result areas of selling. A 1 means you need to improve and a 10 means you are highly skilled in that area. If you’re not sure about the accuracy of your answers, review your personal scores with your sales manager or someone else who knows the truth about your sales ability. The starting point of personal improvement is to be absolutely honest with yourself and others about the areas in which improvement can have the greatest impact on sales.
The first key result area of selling is prospecting. This is your ability to get face-to-face or ear-to-ear with qualified prospects who can and will buy your product or service within a reasonable amount of time.
This doesn’t mean that you talk to lots of interesting people who may or may not buy your product sometime in the future. Prospecting requires that you spend more and more time with people who can buy and pay for what you’re selling in the short term.
A score of 10 means that you are fully occupied, every hour of every day, and you have so many prospects that you can’t take on any more. You probably have someone who schedules appointments and keeps a backlog of people who are eager to talk to you and to buy from you. If this is your situation today, give yourself a 10.
A score of 1 means you’re a lonely person. You sit around the office like the Maytag repairman. You don’t phone anyone and no one calls you. You probably drink a lot of coffee, read the newspaper and play on the Internet.
It’s easy to give yourself a grade on the subject of prospecting. Just calculate what percentage of your time is spent each day with prearranged prospects. If it is 50 percent, give yourself a 5. If it is 70 percent, give yourself a 7.
The second key result area of selling is establishing rapport, trust and credibility. People will not buy from you until they like you, trust you and are convinced that you are their friend and acting in their best interests.
A score of 10 in this area means that you are a positive, cheerful, high-energy individual with a warm, empathetic personality, and you get along wonderfully with almost everyone you meet. A score of 1 means that, although you may get to talk to people once, they never want to talk to you again.
The third key result area of selling is identifying needs accurately. The biggest mistake you can make with a new prospect is to assume you already know what he or she needs, wants and is willing to pay for. Each prospect is unique. He or she has special wants, needs, hopes and fears. In the initial stage of your conversation, your single focus is to ask questions and listen carefully to ascertain whether a genuine need exists for what you sell.
A score of 10 in identifying needs means you have a careful series of questions, from the general to the particular, which you go through one by one to clearly ascertain that the prospect needs the product or service you’re selling. At the end of your questioning process, it’s abundantly clear to both the prospect and you that the prospect can use, benefit and pay for what you’re selling.
If you scored a 1 in identifying needs, this means your approach to each prospect is random. You ask whatever questions pop into your mind and say whatever falls out of your mouth. For you, every sales call is a new adventure. You have no idea what’s going to happen or how it’s going to turn out.
The mark of the professional is preparation. He or she has thought through and prepared every part of the sales conversation and leaves nothing to chance.
Give yourself a grade on the three key result areas of selling explained above and think about how you could become better in each one.