professional sales is hard work

A sharp knife cuts best, so don’t lose your edge.
Nui Dat, South Vietnam, November 1970. Corporal Arthur Wallis, 21, of Preston, Victoria, Australia, sharpening a knife in preparation for carving the three prime hams he has prepared for Christmas. William James Cunneen, photographer. Collection of Australian War Memorial.

I will soon celebrate my 34th year in the profession of sales. I have always tried to approach sales as a professional career and not the “Gee, I could always try sales” approach that many people have when considering “trying” sales.

We have all heard that statement made by a friend or family member at some point in time, and I hope it makes you cringe like it does me. It’s like anybody can do it; it’s not that hard. You can hear it in their voice, like sales is a last resort before extended unemployment.

Professional sales is hard work. It takes dedication, product/service knowledge, communication expertise, people skills, relationship building skills, negotiation skills, natural talent, and I could go on and on. My own parents said I would be good in sales because, as my dear mother used to say, I could bull**** with anybody. It’s all about baffling them with the bull, right, Mom?

Well, I forgive you, Mom, for the things you thought about selling, because I know how hard it is to be successful month after month in the profession. If you are not where you want to be as a sales person at this point in time, here are a few suggestions to keep you excited about hitting the streets every day:

  1. Take it seriously. Invest in yourself with continual education and training. Ask anybody involved in the culinary industry, a sharp knife cuts the best, so don’t lose your edge.
  2. Maintain a deep desire to learn from many different influences. Know your product or service capabilities. Read books by respected sales authors. Watch those around you and try to emulate their best practices and incorporate those best practices into your tool box.
  3. Practice and rehearse. What is the goal of the call, the outcome you seek from each call? The best sales people know how to rehearse a call in their minds before they get in front of the client. Visualize. What questions do you want to ask? How have you prepared for the call as to not waste your potential customer’s time? You will communicate that you’re a pro by that preparation and rehearsal you conduct before seeing the client.
  4. After the call, reflect. What did I do well, well, well during the call that I want to repeat next time? Then, what did I do that did not go as I wished it had, or what did I not do that I had wanted to do? This “debriefing” of the call will make you more productive next time.
  5. Be someone who can be trusted. Do what you say you will do. Never over-promise and under-deliver. That’s a bad recipe for renewals. The ONLY real inventory a sales person has is what is in his or her heart, mind, and soul. Connect with your clients and care about their results. It’s not just a job for most for them, it is their livelihood.
  6. Finally, analyze your performance on a regular basis. Use a quality CRM and media sales analytics software program to monitor your activities, sales funnel, asks for business, closing ratios, etc. This data will help you put your efforts and passion into the right places. Review the real raw data to analyze how/where you can seek to improve.

I hope these ideas help you jump start each day and stay focused on being a real professional salesperson, not just someone who plays one on TV.

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