Getting Better Results: 5 Rules for Sales Professionals

If you’re working hard and making fewer sales than you would like, stop and pay attention to a few simple rules for improving your results. If you focus your energies and apply these steps to your daily activities, you will have more fun, make more sales, and increase your income.

Know Your Target Market: When I speak to sales professionals, I ask them who they want to be introduced to right now in order to generate more sales. I am amazed at how often they are unable to provide a direct answer, but instead, have to pause, reflect and even be prompted to think before they come up with an answer.

If you are not clear about who wants your products and services, who can pay for them, and who is most likely to be ready to buy, you are simply wasting time and being unproductive. You should have a sense of the industry, company name, department, title, and even the names of the people you want to meet. Outstanding preparation precedes outstanding performance. You should be taking time to research and identify areas of opportunity. You will understand who has a need or desire for your products and services. You will be able to determine the key decision makers and influencers and put their names on a list. As you study the list you will become familiar with the names and they will become top of mind in your awareness.

Get ready and be clear about who you want to meet. And by all means, ask the people you meet to connect you to the people you want to meet. Ask not only for the company but also for the title or name of the individuals. Ask for a personal introduction if at all possible. You will succeed at getting what you want more often that you will not. And you will get more done in much less time.

Block out time for Your High Payoff Activities: Do you know what constitutes your high payoff activities? What are those critical activities and tasks that you should do on a daily or weekly basis in order to achieve the results that you need or want. Another way to look at this is to ask “what are those activities that, if you did not do them, would result in crises or less than the desired outcomes”. I ask owners of companies and sales professionals these questions quite often. The owners and sales professionals who are most successful in their careers are usually able to answer the question immediately. Those who perform at average levels of effectiveness are usually slower to respond.

You may find that your high payoff activities include 1) researching opportunities 2) planning and organizing 3) networking 4) obtaining referrals 4) scheduling appointments 5) conducting sales interviews 6) making presentations 7) overcoming stalls and objections 8 ) following-up with customers 9) client service and, 10) relationship development.

Your level of expertise, the structure of your organization, the number of team members who support you, and the design of your sales process all influence your definition of your highest payoff activities. Whatever you determine to be your highest payoff activities, you should identify the best times of the day or week, or even the month or year, to engage in them. If you pay close enough attention, you will recognize that you are much more effective at getting some things done during specific periods of time.

How clear you are about your high payoff activities will influence how productively you use your time. Make a point of blocking out time during the day to plan and organize your schedule.

Learn to Say “No”: One of the greatest benefits of being in sales is the freedom to arrange your own schedule. At the same time, one of the greatest curses or drawbacks to being in sales is the freedom to set your own schedule.

Such freedom provides friends and family the impetus to ask you to run errands, take care of personal items, and discuss all kinds of topics that do not pertain to sales or business, during prime business hours. Unfortunately, when prime productive time is misused for errands and activities than should be done during non-peak periods, you underperform your ability and sabotage your performance.

Say “No” to family and friends who create distractions. It is a good idea to develop the ability to say “No” without always having to say “No”. You might say, for example, “I would love to meet for lunch. However, I have a pressing commitment. I’ll take a rain check and get back to you with some alternate times”.

Equally important, though, is the need to organize and prioritize your own tasks, projects, and activities. You must take control of your calendar of appointments and protect it from team members and associates, clients, and other people and causes that compete for your limited time. As you participate in life outside of your profession, in matters of worship and spiritual growth, recreational activities, civic or community or political causes, and so on, you will need to establish firm boundaries for your involvement and say “no” to requests that do not align with your priorities and the best use of your time.

You must develop personal discipline, including the ability to say “No”, if you’re going to get a lot done and achieve your sales dreams.

Listen More than You Speak: One of the greatest compliments and forms of respect we can show to others is to simply listen to what they have to say…without interrupting. From time to time, we all have the unpleasant experience of being “dumped on” by someone who is preoccupied with their self-importance or the value of their idea. In their mind, the information, idea or suggestion is beyond reproach and deserves to be told by them, heard by us, and even acted upon, now.

Quite often, the approach is intrusive and annoying. That’s because it is devoid of consideration for the listener’s frame of mind, priorities or interests at that point in time. We can learn from these situations and practice more effective communication etiquette. One appropriate step for ensuring a “state of readiness” of the listener is to ask “do you have a moment to speak or have I caught you at a bad time?” You may also state “…, I have a few ideas to share that I’m excited about. It will take 20 minutes. When are you available for a cup of coffee?” And listen for the answers so that you are able to take or suggest the most appropriate action.

Ask questions that demonstrate sincere interest in the well-being of the other party. Be sincerely curious about the other person: her interests, skills, experiences, lifestyle, family, career, networks, and so on. Pay close attention and stay actively engaged, maintaining eye contact and verbal communication. Be careful to start with the general topics of discussion before moving into more personal or private. It is important to keep a safe distance and respect the level of familiarity that exists between you and the other party to the conversation. However, venture out into those “sacred spaces” whenever you sense that rapport, respect and trust have been built. Meaningful connections and trusting relationships ensue from talking on “the road less traveled”. Go there. Listen!

Be Focused on Results: Our quality of life is affected by the quality of the conversations in our lives. Conversations inform, educate, encourage, entertain, inspire, enliven, enrich and add immeasurably to our human experience. So, if we want stimulation and enrichment to our lives, we should seek opportunities to engage in healthy conversations.

However, good conversations are not enough to solve people’s problems, help them achieve their goals or improve their condition in life. Conversations are usually necessary, but they are often not sufficient. In the course of trading solutions for money, solving problems for pay, engaging in fair exchanges of value, we must engage in the process of selling. That means, we must internalize the mindset that the ultimate improvements in the well-being of individuals and organizations involve decisions to “buy” products, information, and solutions.

As a sales professional, therefore, you must focus on the results that lie beyond the great conversations. You must focus on the ultimate success - great conversations that lead to great sales exchanges, and the ongoing conversations that facilitate perpetual discovery of opportunities for more of the same.