Weak economy? Slower sales? Worried about next year?
Yes, the economy is much weaker than at this time last year.
And, yes, sales are harder to come by now than they have been in a long time.
Nevertheless, these conditions don't mean you have to fret or resign yourself to struggling through 2009.
Instead of fretting, resigning yourself to a poor year, or even giving up completely and finding another occupation, you can turn 2009 into your strongest year ever.
Instead of worrying, feeling sorry for yourself, or getting depressed, take the month of December to give yourself the gift of a strong 2009 by taking control of your sales business by committing yourself to implement these strategies:
1. Commit Yourself to Using Your Time Wisely: Time is the only thing you have to sell, and when you're faced with a tough selling environment, how you use your time is of utmost importance. Now more than ever you must concentrate your time on doing only those things that are necessary for success: finding, selling, and serving clients. Everything else must be eliminated or minimized.
As salespeople, we only have two types of time at our disposal-money making time and busy work time. Money making time is the time we spend doing those things that make us an income: prospecting, selling, and serving our customers. Busy work time is the time we spend doing everything else-organizing, designing fliers, shooting the breeze with our associates, preparing to prepare to do something.
Studies indicate that the typical salesperson only works about 20 to 25% of the time (work being defined as being engaged in money making activities). That, of course, means we're spending 75 to 80% of our time in busy work activities.
We might have been able to get away with that during the pervious strong selling years.
Not any longer.
If you want 2009 to be a great year, you must turn that equation around and spend 75 to 80%-or more-of your time making money rather than wasting your time doing things that really don't matter.
2. Commit Yourself to Improving Your Skills: Now more than ever it is imperative you sharpen your selling skills.
Like any other activity, the more you develop your skills, the better the results of our efforts. Even after years of coaching and practicing, top professional athletes are constantly studying, improving, practicing. Runners study the minutest aspects of their form seeking to cut off a hundredth of second here, a thousandth there. Likewise, a pitcher spends hour upon hour perfecting and practicing their delivery, learning new nuances to their pitches, as well as the tendencies and weaknesses of the opponents.
Like an athlete, our skills are never fully developed. Selling isn't simply asking someone to spend their money on our product or service-that's order taking, not selling. Selling is a complicated activity demanding we have a grasp of dozens of individual skills and an understanding of both ourselves and our prospects.
To become a top salesperson you have to have a solid understanding of psychology, you have to be an accomplished communicator, know the right questions to ask to discover your prospect's underlying wants and needs, be able to control the conversation without manipulating your prospect, know where and how to find and connect with quality prospects, have a thorough understanding of your products and services and how they will satisfy your prospect's need, and dozens of other individual skills.
Top sales producers spend 10 to 15 times as much time, effort, and money in sharpening their skills as the average salesperson. Their production didn't come through luck or happenstance. For the vast majority, their success didn't come by chance-they earned their success through hard work, study and practice. They read the books, listened to the CD's, attended the seminars, hired the sales coach, and applied what they learned. They stumbled and fumbled and practiced until they became experts in each of the individual skills. And yet they still invest the hours and the dollars to be constantly improving.
Commit yourself, right now, to doing the same.
3. Commit Yourself to Working with Prospects, Not 'Hopes': Many salespeople waste huge amounts of time working with 'prospects' whose are nothing but hopes and prayers. In a weak economy you cannot afford to waste your time with 'hopes.' 'Hopes' are not only time killers, they're moral killers.
Commit yourself to learning how to really qualify prospects and then spend your time working only with them. Let your 'hopes' go. Understand also that there is a difference between a 'hope' and a real long-term prospect.
4. Commit Yourself to Planning and Organizing for Success: Top producers plan for their success. They know where they are going and how they are going to get there. They leave nothing to chance.
They know when and how they will prospect. They know when and why they will engage in training. They know who their prospects are, where to find them, and how to connect with them. They have realistic, well defined goals-and know how they will achieve those goals. They run their sales business like a business. They don't just show up of work in the morning, wondering what they'll do that day. They know. They know because they know where they're going and what they must do to get there.
Planning is critical to success. During the reminder of December, create your WRITTEN plan for 2009. Set your goals for selling, for training, for prospecting and personal marketing. A plan isn't a plan unless it is specific and written.
5. Commit Yourself to Working with the Clients You Want to Work
With: Most salespeople are relegated to working with anyone who'll buy-jerks, price shoppers, overly demanding opportunists. Top producers, on the other hand, work only with clients they want to work with.
You don't have to resign yourself to working clients you can't stand. You don't have to take whatever comes your way. You, too, can join the ranks of those who work only with clients you enjoy working with and who appreciate your efforts.
But you can't do unless you learn to find and connect with prospects you want to work with.
Cold calling, direct mail, faxing fliers, and many other traditional methods of prospecting put you in a position of having to deal with whomever shows an interest in your products or services, whereas learning to generate quality referrals from your clients, networking through industry associations where a large number of your prospects gather, and other more sophisticated methods of finding and connecting with prospects will give you the opportunity to select and work with those prospects you want to work with.
Commit to moving your sales business from a catch as catch can business to one that you control by learning how to find and connect with high quality prospects that you like and respect and who will appreciate your work on their behalf.
Time is short. 2009 can be your best year ever if you commit yourself to taking the steps necessary to create the business you want, not the one happenstance dictates for you. It won't be easy. It will take energy. You'll have to invest in yourself. But the payoff is a career that will give you satisfaction, enjoyment, and a secure future. The time is now. Just do it.
Paul McCord is a leading authority on prospecting, referral selling, and personal marketing. He is president of McCord Training, a Midland, Texas based sales training, coaching, and consulting company. His first book, Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals (John Wiley and Sons, 2007), is an Amazon and Barnes and Noble best-seller and is quickly becoming recognized as the authoritative work on referral selling. His second book, SuperStar Selling: 12 Keys to Becoming a Sales SuperStar helps salespeople create the foundation for a top producer sales career. He may be reached at [email protected] or visit his sales training website at www.mccordandassociates.com or his highly popular blog http://salesandmanagementblog.com
Copyright 2008, Paul McCord. May be reproduced without change, with proper attribution and brief bio. Notice of when and where article is to appear to [email protected]
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