Selling is a learning-based profession. The key to mastering your craft as a sales professional is to constantly be learning. You need to acquire new perspectives on selling and buying. You need to increase your product knowledge and acquire expertise and insights about your customers’ business. And, you have to continually work to master new sales skills.
It is important at this time of year to invest the time to inventory your current strengths and weaknesses and assess what you need to learn to effectively develop more new sales opportunities and to help your customers make good decisions faster. Create a personal learning plan for 2015 that lists the areas where you want to build your skill set and details the actions (and timeframes) you will take to acquire the knowledge you need to amp up your sales.
At the same time, as you make your learning plan, it is equally important to have an open mind about the unproductive sales habits, beliefs and practices that you should eliminate, or “unlearn.” What beliefs and attitudes do you hold that waste your limited selling time and decrease your upside sales potential. You have to perform an honest self-assessment and ask yourself: What sales habits do I need to unlearn this year?
Here are a few examples of the counter-productive sales habits, behaviors and practices that I encounter in sellers that need to be unlearned:
1. Marketing-generated sales leads are worthless. It is invariably a sign of trouble when salespeople say that the only good sales lead is the one they developed themselves. Once upon a time there may have been some validity to this point of view. But not now. Potential prospects have the information at their disposal to substantially educate themselves about products and services before they ever reach out to engage with a seller. When they initiate contact they are well into their buying process and they need to be taken seriously. And followed up.
2. There is always time to respond to leads and customers. There isn’t. The operating assumption for you, the salesperson, has to be that prospects are making decisions based, at least in part, on how effectively you utilize their time. Waiting for you to respond constitutes a bad use of their time. If the prospect invests time in you, and you make good use of that time, they will reward you with additional time in order to continue selling. Your prospects have plenty of options besides you. Waste their time at your peril.
3. Customer relationships are primarily built on interpersonal skills. This belief needs to be unlearned in a hurry. At the end of the day relationships with prospects and customers primarily are based on what you can do for them and the value that you deliver. You can be as personable and sincere as the day is long but if you aren’t meeting the prospect’s needs, you won’t develop a productive, long-term relationship with them. The best salesperson I’ve seen in action in the past decade was pathologically shy. His interpersonal skills were almost non-existent. But he knew his products inside and out and he understood how his customers used them to generate additional revenues. As a result, he was able to guide them through their buying process faster than his competitors.
4. It is all about the product. It isn’t. In most instances, the customer could care less about your particular product. What they care about is whether you, and your product or service, can provide a cost-effective solution to their problem. Whether the solution they buy is your product or a product from the World-Wide Widget Company, doesn’t make a difference to them.
What do you have to unlearn this year?