2017 Resolutions (Part 1) – Time to Hit the Gym

As we enter a new year, we tend to think more about getting “into shape.” It’s a time for new beginnings, a fresh start, and optimism that NOW is the time to act.

For many of us in sales, the new year is a great time to make changes and adjustments to create the best possible results, namely an increase in our sales and income. For most of us, our results will improve if we focus on two key areas:

Build Better Sales Skills
Build Better Habits & More Discipline

Let’s start with building better sales skills. I’ve worked with thousand of sales people from hundreds of sales teams over the last 25 years, I’ve interviewed hundreds of top performers—to get their perspective on why they achieve their results. In most cases, I’ve found that top performing sales professionals develop the sales skills by practicing more than everyone else. This should come as no surprise. But remarkably, many participating in even the best sales training programs don’t practice much on a weekly basis. Most don’t practice at all, except once or twice a year at a sales meeting or seminar. This is a mistake to correct in 2017.

To reinforce the idea of practicing, let’s think about it like going to the gym. To get better at something—like strength, endurance, or improving your cardio health—you need to find the right equipment, make regular appointments at the gym, and use that equipment regularly, preferably with measurable goals.

What to practice?

Salespeople are often not sure what to practice or how to practice it. The first step is to accurately assess your current ability. Take a look at these 10 sales abilities. (Each one may require a slightly different piece of “gym equipment.”) Which three, if improved, would have the biggest impact on your selling confidence and results?

  1. The ability to generate more high-potential appointments
  2. The ability to explain my product/service confidently
  3. The ability to use better questions to determine needs
  4. The ability to lower resistance and increase buying receptivity
  5. The ability to keep my attitude more consistently positive
  6. The ability to identify and overcome sales-killing objections
  7. The ability to research and prepare for sales calls by using technology
  8. The ability to build rapport faster and open more doors
  9. The ability to accelerate my learning pace about the sales process
  10. The ability to become a true value-added resource to my customers

To paraphrase Lao Tzu, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The journey to becoming a top performer in sales begins with accurately and honestly assessing your strengths and weaknesses. Which three of these ten areas are your highest priority? Which will help you improve results fast?

A simple practice session

Let’s talk about an easy piece of “gym equipment” for practicing these skills. Most sales people spend at least some time driving alone—usually on a weekly basis. This is a great place to practice and brush up your professional communication skills, so long as you don’t get too distracted to drive. Think of three questions you get frequently from your customers and prospects. Here are some examples:

  • Why should I switch to you?
  • What makes your product/service unique—or better than what I’m already using?
  • Your product seems expensive. Why is this?
  • I don’t understand why I should switch to your company?
  • What can your product/servikce do for me?
  • What do your other customers say about your service/products?
  • What kind of ROI can I expect if I switch to you?

Whatever three question you use, write them on 3×5 cards. As you’re driving, answer the questions repeatedly—keeping your eyes on traffic, of course.

How great are your answers to these obvious questions? These are easy softballs you should be smashing out of the park, but are you? Test yourself with a different piece of equipment— this time not in your car! Turn on a recording app on your phone and try and answer each one of these questions in 60-seconds or less. If it helps, identify a customer or prospect you know well enough to TAILOR your best sales pitch to. Listen to your recording. Are your answers FANTASTIC—or just ordinary?

Once you identify a question you’d like to work on, write down 3-5 bullet points that you can cover in 60-90 seconds that can remind you what information should be in your answer. Put those bullet points on a 3×5 card with the question on one side. Then practice answering these questions until your answers are crisp, concise, and compelling.

By now, you may be thinking of other ways to do these “sales workouts.” Maybe you can do a sales role play with a team member in the sales bullpen, if you have one. Maybe you can do the same on the phone or over Skype. You could even do these workouts via online sales training technologies. The point is, you can’t do them alone.

In Part 2, I’ll talk more about the value of repetition in developing “sales strong” habits. I’ll also talk about how online sales coaching and feedback are an essential part of your workout routine.

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