Before You Make Your First Sale


So you've decided that you want to be a salesperson. Sales can be a pretty intimidating career choice -- after all, your job is to convince people, day after day -- but it's also incredibly rewarding. You'll have the experience of helping your prospects find exactly what they need to improve their businesses and their lives. And of course, you pocket a nice commission for doing so. But before you step into that role and start talking to prospects, you should make a few preparations to ensure your transition into sales is as pleasant as possible.

Get to Know Your Co-Workers

As a newcomer to the business, there's a lot you can learn from your fellow salespeople. Get to know the people on your sales team, especially the star salespeople who exceed their quotas every month. Take your team's highest-producing salesperson out to lunch or to the nearest coffee shop and pump her for information. Odds are she'll be flattered by the attention (and the free food) and will be happy to give you a few tips. If possible, ask her for permission to spend an hour listening to her phone calls or to go along on her next appointment or two. Then take lots and lots of notes. After the appointment, ask her why she said or did this or that and absorb all that hard-earned wisdom. Observing a powerful sales presentation can teach you things you just can't learn in a classroom.

Get to Know Your Products

You can't sell effectively if you don't know anything about the products and services you're selling. If your company has a customer service department, ask them to tell you what they know about your company's products and services. Once you're familiar with the basic features, make a list of possible benefit phrases for each. Remember, features are the facts about your products; benefits are how the features affect the customer. Prestigious, saves time, secure, saves money, convenient, and easy to use are a few examples of the benefits your products might provide. Work these benefits phrases into sentences, like "This satellite TV package saves you money by giving you the most prestigious sports channels at a discount."

Get to Know Your Goals

Each industry and each company within an industry tends to set different rules for its salespeople. Sales teams tend to develop their own custom sales approaches. Your sales goals can range from completely unstructured ("Sell as much as you can of any of our products.") to tightly structured with specific quotas and activity requirements ("Every Tuesday morning you must cold call from this lead list until you get three appointments."). If you don't understand the rules of the game, you can't expect to succeed. Bring any questions that arise to your sales manager for assistance, sooner rather than later.

Get to Know Your Resources

Most companies provide their sales teams with various resources to help them sell effectively. These resources can range from marketing materials such as brochures, to promotions and special offers, to lead lists of all kinds. Your sales manager is probably the best source of information for such materials, but you'll also need to be proactive because marketing collateral tends to change frequently and without warning. Having a friend inside the marketing department can be a big help as he can let you know right away about new programs and updated documents.

Get to Know Your Positive Side

You need to prepare yourself for the toughest part of the job: rejection. For most salespeople, the vast majority of their cold calls and appointments will not end in a sale. You must remember that if a prospect turns you down, he is not rejecting YOU. He's rejecting your offer because it doesn't interest him at the moment that you call. When a prospect turns you down, it might even have nothing to do with you or your pitch. He might be busy at the moment or just having a bad day. If you call back in two weeks and try again, that same person could be eager to buy. This experience is why self-confidence is so important to sales. If you have an unfortunate encounter with a cranky or downright hostile prospect, you'll learn to just shrug and move on to the next one.
Wendy Connick
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Wendy Connick> all articles
My first sales position was a summer job selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. I continued through a variety of sales jobs ranging from retail sales for a storage company to selling bank products for a Fortune 500 financial institution.

As a small business owner, I now focuses on selling for my own company, Tailored Content, a website content provider. I write on a wide range of topics but my primary focus is sales and how to sell effectively.