by Jeff Shavitz
Meet my dog, Teddy. Teddy, an adorable Italian Lagotto Romagnolo, is my pet and role model rolled into one: Why? Teddy has already learned a valuable lesson at the tender age of 1. The lesson is that Teddy knows how to "ask for the sale." More importantly, he knows how to close it. Teddy, like most pets, doesn’t have a great command of English, but, when I arrived home from work one night, his actions demonstrated quite clearly to me that he was thirsty. Yes, he was actually standing in his water bowl. After my entire family had had a good laugh at his pose, I paused to reflect on how few salespeople and business executives I come across in my profession actually act like Teddy and “ask for the order" they're seeking, in hopes of closing it.
Asking for the sale is one of the things I've gotten savvy about, having worked with salespeople for the past 30 years in my three businesses (the last of which had more than 600 independent salespeople). So, I looked at other lessons I could share from my experience. And, below, I've included seven of these simple (yet, I hope, profound) strategies on how to become a more effective salesperson. Importantly, they're not the trite and commonplace strategies many sales books and training courses divulge in Sales Training 101. Instead, these "aha!" suggestions are designed to be reflection points, to provide you a jumpstart, a new approach and new excitement for your sales career. They're also simple enough changes which, when implemented, are certain to make a huge difference in your sales success (if not, I humbly apologize for wasting your time).
1. Getting up is hard.
Whether it’s Monday morning or first thing Friday, who likes getting up for work? Actually, I do because I have developed a work strategy that has served me well over my career. Do your hard work first thing in the morning, between 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. For most salespeople, that means prospecting in all of its forms.
All I’m suggesting is that you do this every day for two-and-a-half hours. That’s it. How hard can it be to work hard for 150 minutes? It’s not. But you must stay focused. No checking your emails and text messages. No visiting ESPN.com for last night’s scores. No Facebook. No texting. Nothing. When you're in the sales "zone," don’t become distracted.
Instead, sell, sell, sell. Focus and work diligently for a few hours, and you can enjoy the rest of your day doing your “easy work.” Don’t plan out-of-the-office meetings in the morning. But do try this technique. Do this for a few weeks and this habit will be life-changing for your professional success.
2. Start preparing the night before.
No, I’m not referring to the night before Christmas. The night before your next work day is critical in terms of your preparation for those two-and-a-half hours the following morning. You must come into the office prepared. I would rather you spend 30 minutes the evening before or just before you leave the office by writing down (yes, writing on paper or typing into your computer) your plan for the following morning. Without this structure, that two-to-two-and-a-half hour “work hard” ritual will not work to its fullest extent.
3. 'What is your hourly rate?
I learned to ask this question from Jack Daly, my good friend, mentor and co-author (our book Sales Success Playbook will be published in December 2017). Salespeople, especially commissioned ones, look at me in amazement, saying, “I don’t charge a hourly fee -- I’m not an attorney that charges $200 per hour. I’m just a salesman.” Think differently. You are a professional businessperson who has great worth, and whether you are paid on full commission or not, you have an hourly rate. Figure it out. It’s a very simple calculation. Understand what your average dollar commission is from closing a sale and divide that figure by the number of hours it took to close that piece of business.
By knowing this important number, you will be in a better position to know when to travel to visit that prospect. Some 99.99 percent of salespeople I've met have no clue what their hourly rate is. But a sales meeting with a prospect can take a full half-day by the time you drive over, have the meeting and get back to your office. And your time is valuable. Understand that. Use your time properly. (Jack: Thank you for teaching me this valuable lesson!)
4. Customers would rather buy a good product from an extraordinary salesperson than a great product from a horrible one.
Think about your buying habits. Is this statement true for you? I bet it is, unless you are buying some product or service that is so proprietary that the salesmanship doesn’t matter. But for the many products that are commoditized or similar to competitive products in their industry sectors, it's the salesperson who will create the positive experience for the buyer. The market is competitive. The laws of supply and demand determine the market price. How can you differentiate your product from the competition's when so many products and services are similar? YOU are the difference. Sell yourself in conjunction with your company’s vision and watch your revenues soar.
5. Look in the mirror.
Here is where you look at the only person who can answer (and your mirror must be clean) the following question: Are you really working as hard as you can be? Just give yourself the honest answer. If it’s "yes," terrific! If it’s "no," you had better become introspective and develop a plan to maximize your potential. I’m not suggesting that you work more hours but, instead, think, “Work smarter -- not harder.” That's what’s crucial. Maybe, in fact, you should, indeed, be working more hours. Think about this. By working only 30 minutes more per day x 300 days, you will work 900 minutes more that year, or 150 hours. What can you accomplish in 150 hours if you are working hard and effectively in that time? I would guess a lot!
6. Shut up!
I’m sorry if you've seen this hackneyed technique in every sales training book you've ever perused. And of course books usually state this more eloquently, with a phrase like “Listen.” My two words are stronger because the concept is so important. Too many salespeople “out-talk” themselves of a sale. Knowing when to be quiet is harder than you think. “Just do it” to use the famous Nike tagline.
7. Enjoy your success!
Most successful salespeople that I know have Type A personalities. As such, they are always driven for their next accomplishment, their next sale. One thing that I would propose (and I unfortunately am terrible at this) is to acknowledge a job well done (even if just for a few minutes) after you close that deal you have worked on for months and/or years. Give yourself a pat on the back (if your arms are long enough) or take the afternoon off. It’s therapeutic and actually will help you be more productive. I’m going to read point 7 over again myself and try to work on it next time I close a difficult sale. Salespeople deserve to make lots of money -- when they are great at their craft. It’s hard work, and to any salesperson reading this who has the courage to work on 100 percent commission or a small base salary plus commission, I commend you. I love being a salesperson. It’s who I am; it’s what I do. Try these above techniques, and I hope they will help propel your sales career -- just as the sight of Teddy standing in his water bowl propelled me to "close the sale" for what he wanted.