5 Pieces of Advice for New (and old) Salespeople

I work with a lot of people new to the world of sales. Trying to learn this profession is akin to drinking from a firehose, there’s just.so.much.to.learn.

Whether you’re new to sales, just starting a new gig, or a grizzled sales veteran looking to stay on top of your game, these five essential pieces of sales advice will benefit you, make you think differently, and set you apart.

1. Get The Lay Of The Land

Geography seems to mean less and less as the Internet shrinks the globe and enables scale at previously unimaginable levels. Even if you don’t have a defined territory on a map, there is likely some sort of division of responsibilities among your sales team so that you’re not crawling over each other for the same customers.

What’s your role on your team? Who will you be sharing space with? How are the meetings run? When you get the feeling that you know what to expect around the office, it’ll be a little easier to settle into what to expect from working with your customers.

Regarding your customers… What are your differentiation points and how do they fit into the value proposition? What are your prospects trying to accomplish? Why would they buy from you? Why wouldn’t they? What has worked in the past? What hasn’t been tried yet? Ask these questions of the other sales pros you work with. The insight will give you a head start when you get on the phone and in front of prospects, and also earn you some credibility among the team.

2. Know The Players In Your Organization

“Who do I go to when I need…?”

Every once in awhile, you’re going to need help. Sometimes it’ll be office supplies. Other times it might be that you have a great idea for a marketing piece, or see a major flaw in another one.  The obvious answer is your direct report. Everything seems to go through her anyway, right? Instead of asking your supervisor to take care of things for you all the time, ask who you should talk to, and have the conversation yourself. Your relationships within your company will pay dividends.

I was taught long ago that the two most important people in any office are the receptionist and the janitor because they control everything that comes in and goes out of the office. That’s true, but the real lesson? Everybody in your company had a role and for a reason, and they’re all human beings. Treat people well, and don’t look down on anybody. You never know when you might need them.

Pro tip: Eat lunch with someone from a different department a couple of times a week. Learn about what they do, and what they’re up against. You can learn a lot about how to talk to receptionists and personal assistants from the ones in your office. You’ll also find that you’re probably the only one reaching out like this, and that’s a really good differentiator.

3. Get A Clear Understanding Of What’s Expected Of You

Yes, you have a revenue target to hit. Sure. Is it realistic? What does the ramp-up look like? How long before you’re expected to hit it? What are the metrics and KPI’s that are being measured?

By the third or fourth day in a new job, you start to wonder if you’re performing well enough to keep it. That revenue goal looms large but is really rather obscure if that’s the only measure being judged. Sit down with your supervisor and discuss this during your first week, if not before you start. Schedule regular meetings throughout your first six months to track your progress and make sure you’re on track or exceeding expectations. It does not hurt to overcommunicate in this scenario.

Now check your own expectations. Yep, you laughed at the KPI’s they gave you because they were so attainable they were, well, laughable. Not so fast… Your managers have been doing this longer than you have, and they know what should be expected of someone in your position. The ramp-ups are in place for a reason. Don’t hold yourself back, but don’t just double those expectations for yourself because you’re some hyper-achiever. Set reasonable goals for yourself as you get started. Once you’re more ingrained in the process, then they can get gaudy. It’s hard to keep a great mindset if you feel like you’re failing, especially if you’re the only one who feels that way. You can’t be a rockstar until you can appreciate how to play the instrument.

4. Stop Being Afraid Of Failure

Nothing ratchets up the pressure like the relentless and futile pursuit of perfection. You’re going to screw up from time to time, but you have to work really hard to actually screw up a deal. If you’re new, ask questions. Be curious. Be engaged. If you’ve been around awhile, then you know you need to dance on the edge every once in awhile to get things done. Regardless of your tenure, if you’re afraid of failure, you’ll do none of these things. Don’t be so afraid to fail that you get in the way of your own success.

The best hitters in professional baseball fail two times out of three. Similar statistics exist for salespeople at the top of their profession. Accept it and move forward. My first sales manager told me that if you’re not upsetting anybody, you’re not doing your job. It took me awhile to realize what that means, but now it’s clear. If you’re trying to please everybody, you’ll thrill nobody. Your role is to thrill.

If you’re afraid to thrill, it’s going to stifle your prospecting efforts. You’ll have a hard time asking the necessary questions to obtain the commitments that move the sales process forward. In short, your fear of failing will cause you to fail. This game is hard. Accept the collateral damage and get to work. The tough days will give you the perspective to really appreciate the great ones.

5. Ask Your Current Customers Why They Buy From You

This is the most important aspect of sales, yet 90% of salespeople can’t accurately answer it. Worse, that same 90% are assuming why their customers are buying, which makes it impossible to reliably get at the issues that make prospects act.

If there is one thing I want you to take from this article, it’s this… Call the ten best customers your company has, and ask them why they do business with you. The answers they give you should provide the formula for the conversations you’ll be having with your prospects, regardless of what the marketing department puts together for you. Think about it, is there any more valuable information for making sales than from what the people who are actually buying from you can offer?

Pro Tip: Share the answers with management. Wanna build some credibility in your company? Teach the people up the chain of command something they don’t realize about their business.

Hall of Fame Tip: Record those answers on video so you can put them on the company website. This information is gold. Everybody should know about it, and it’ll help you make sales for life.

It looks like you’re ready to get started. Take this advice and use it to become a quota-crushing sales machine. Want to dig a little deeper? Let’s talk. I love helping people get off to a great start in their sales careers. For that matter, every time I talk to an experienced sales pro, we both seem to walk away from the conversation a little more enlightened.

Regardless of your tenure, It’s imperative that you rethink the way you do things, especially the way you sell. Until next time, go out and be great.

Photo by Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash