Countless books have been written on how salespeople can achieve success in their field. Sorting through this advice can be a challenge, but I've found that salespeople can enhance their performance by promising to do five simple things each day (and then keeping that promise).
This regimen isn't hard or esoteric, but keeping up with it--and encouraging your team to--will keep sales results moving in the right direction.
1. Promise to complete one unpleasant task
The work life of a salesperson is full of distasteful chores: filling out paperwork, doing call reports, and so on. It's easy to put those tasks on the back burner, but this can evolve into a full-blown procrastination habit, resulting in tardy work and a job not well done. The solution to preventing or breaking this bad habit is simple: Complete one unpleasant task each day, and soon the unpleasant will become agreeable. When this is done on a routine basis, you'll build a healthy pattern and no longer dread the tasks that seem like drudgery.
2. Promise to discover something new about your product or company
Continual improvement is widely recognized as an important ingredient for success, and it's true for salespeople too. Each day, commit to discovering some new facet of your product or company. This keeps knowledge gaps from developing and ensures that you have the kind of up-to-date knowledge your customers and prospects need. This doesn't necessarily mean poring over product brochures or internal documents--some of the most powerful information you can learn about your product or company will come from what customers and competitors have to say. You just have to listen to hear it.
3. Promise to call on one new potential customer
It's easy to get in the habit of calling on the same customers time and again, but it's wise to put consistent effort into gaining new accounts as well. So promise yourself to reach out to at least one potential new customer daily. This often takes the path of targeted cold-calling--calling on noncustomers who use a competitive product. While this type of call is not always the most productive, it can generate valuable competitive intelligence. I once learned on a cold call that a buyer's daughter was married to his primary supplier, my competitor. With that information, I chose to alter my initial approach and focus on users rather than on the initial buyer (who would never choose my company over his son-in-law's). Regardless of the situation, calling on new prospects sharpens one's skills and paves the way for future sales.
4. Promise to learn something new about your customers
Selling is a people business, and people buy from those they trust and who they feel care about them. Taking time each day to engage customers and find out what's new in their lives shows those customers that you are invested in them--and it can give you new opportunity. I once asked a long-term customer what was new and found out that he was being promoted to a new job in a company where I had little business. He thanked me for asking and invited me to visit him in his new office. There's much to be gained by simply asking, "What's new?" and then listening to the answer and observing the body language.
5. Promise to read a sales book
Self-improvement is a cornerstone of success, and good reps take it seriously. That's why I recommend making it a daily practice to read from a book about sales, whether it's brand new or decades old. In five minutes of reading, you may find a golden nugget of information that you'll use for the rest of your career, but to find that nugget, you must look. Early in my sales career, I was reading a book on sales when I found five probing questions--and I've used them ever since.
Keeping these five promises each day will take some effort at first, but it will be well worth it. As time passes, you'll develop habits that will help your sales results--and you--improve.