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Common Questions and Answers
It’s a difficult year for a lot of sales people. The world is changing rapidly, and every new headline contains information that seems to impact business in a significant way. The competition is more active, customers are more discriminating, and nobody has enough time.
There was a time, just a few years ago, when it was easier. You could work hard for awhile, and then you could relax and enjoy the fruits of your labors. You would reach a point where life became easy, your customers were buying from you consistently, and you had your job figured out.
That’s no longer the case. Pressures are growing on your company to reduce their costs and become more productive. The bottom line is this: You, personally, must become far more productive than you’ve ever been expected to be in the past. Today’s performance, no matter how good, will not be sufficient tomorrow.
Easier said than done. How do you go about dramatically increasing your results? My suggestion: THINK A LOT.
I’m not suggesting that you spend your time daydreaming. Nor am I encouraging you to ponder the meaning of the universe, do a crossword puzzle or memorize the birth dates of all your relatives. All of those exercises would represent ways to think a lot, but they are not the kind of thinking I’m advocating.
It’s easy to do your job by mindlessly going through the motions. You see the customers with whom you are comfortable, quote the products they ask you about, grumble about the paperwork, and complain about price competition.
That’s easy. Unfortunately, it’s also a prescription for eventual failure. The world is changing too rapidly today to do your job “mindlessly.” Your customers are changing, products and vendors are changing and adapting, and new competitors and technologies are springing up. If you go through your job mindlessly, you’ll soon be outdated and ineffectual.
So on one hand, you have the need to improve your productivity to keep up with the pressures on your company, and on the other hand, you have the temptation to get into a rut, and go about your job “mindlessly.”
Ask yourself a series of questions about your customers. As you develop the answers, write them down in your account folders, and repeat the process a few months later. Here are some questions to get you thinking:
What’s changing for this customer?
What do they want to accomplish this year?
What can I do to help them meet their goals?
What is the competition doing in this account?
What progress have I made this past few months?
What can I do now to increase my sales in this account?
Thinking about these questions keeps you constantly close to the changing conditions in your accounts, keeps you insulated from the tendency to get “mindless,” and provides you with a method to uncover lucrative opportunities within each account.
Your face-to-face contact with your customer is the one part of your job that sets you apart from everyone else in your company. It is that aspect of what you do by which you bring value to your company.
If you honestly think about it, you’ll probably observe that everything else you do can be done by other people in your company. Someone else can accept orders, train end users, check on back-orders, etc. The only thing you do that no one else in your company does is call on your customers face-to-face. So, your eyeball-to-eyeball interactions with your customers are probably the most important part of your job.
Yet, most observers estimate that the average sales person spends only about 25% of his time face-to-face with his customers.
Put those two facts together, and you have the sobering conclusion that you spend very little of your time doing the thing that is the most important aspect of your job.
That being the case, doesn’t it stand to reason that you ought to invest some time and energy planning for those rare moments when you’re face-to-face with your customers? Ask yourself these questions, and think about the answers, before every sales call:
What do I want to accomplish?
What forces are working on my customer that may influence his behavior today?
What value am I bringing him today?
Exactly what am I going to ask, say, or communicate?
What can I do to understand him better?
What can I do to deepen the relationship?
Going through this disciplined approach to “thinking about your sales calls” will be the single most effective thing you can do to improve your productivity.
Challenge and question everything you do. Is this the best way to write up a quote? Should you be visiting this account, or would the other one hold more potential? Should you really be spending your time promoting this product, or is another one more important? Should you really be lunching with this customer or should you invest that time in another? Is this the best way to file your old quotes, keep track of customer contacts, and file product literature?
Got the idea? Never rest. Be discontent with every aspect of your job in order to provide the stimulation to improve on it. Question everything. Think a lot.
It will be your key to continuous, life-long improvement.
About the author
Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B salespeople and sales managers to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He’s authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and seven countries.