Sales is different from other professions because it seems to have different rules. Doctors, lawyers and many other professionals need to go to many years of school. When they’re done with school, they have to pass the medical boards or the bar exam before they can practice and if someone were to pretend they were a doctor or lawyer, they could be prosecuted for practicing medicine or law without a license. Furthermore, at least in the U.S., you may be allowed to practice medicine or law in one state, but that doesn’t necessarily allow you to practice in other states. Even after these professionals pass their respective licensing exam and practice, they must continue to keep up to date by earning continuing education credits from designated educational resources.
There is no standard educational or licensing process for salespeople. Just say you’re a salesperson and start selling and keep doing it as long as somebody will pay you to sell. You don’t need to earn continuing education credits. You aren’t required to keep learning. As a matter of fact, small business people, sole practitioners and solopreneurs may ‘sell’ so that they can deliver their product or services, but they often don’t think of themselves as salespeople. They read trade magazines, manufacturers’ updates, etc. to learn about what they do, but they may not put any resources into improving the effectiveness of their sales process. Consequently, there are millions of people that are trying to ‘sell’ that have never been educated as salespeople, never been licensed and aren’t required to prove that they actually know what they’re doing. As a matter of fact, I did an evaluation of a group a few years ago and 39% of the salespeople were found to be untrainable, which means that not only didn’t they know how to sell, but they couldn’t be taught to sell.
So, that’s enough negativity. My intention was not to focus on what’s wrong, but to focus on what we can do to become and remain relevant and be a sales leader without relying on the tricks, tactics and techniques that con men have been using for centuries. BTW, if you have opinions, agree, disagree or other thoughts, I’d love to know. Send me an email, write a blog post and send me the link, or find me on social media. Maybe we can change the world together.
Here are a few thoughts.
Become an expert conversationalist. Every conversation isn’t a sales conversation, but every sales conversation needs to be a conversation. In addition, many sales conversations don’t start off as sales conversations. They start off as regular every day conversations. Can you start a conversation with a stranger or somebody that’s predisposed not to like you? Can you have difficult conversations that get the bad news across without ending the relationship? Are your conversations engaging or are people trying to get away? Can you tell a story? Can you not talk about yourself? Can you not preach? Not be pushy? Let the other person talk twice as much as you? Can you lead the conversation while allowing the other person to think that they’re in control? Can you be effective with younger people, older people, CEO’s, entry level people, smart people, not so smart people, technical and non-technical, regular people and famous people? Can you follow as well as lead? Can you engage with people that you cannot relate to?
Use new technology with old knowledge. Computers, cell phones, the internet, social media and a gazillion other technologies all promise to make our lives easier and more efficient, while at the same time they are distractions and interrupt our normal balance. Regardless, they are here to stay. If you’re old, learn some of the new. If you’re young, learn some of the old. I’m amazed at how fast young people’s thumbs can move when they’re texting. They appreciate that my experience often enables me share a personal experience rather than quoting a text book.
Let me share an example. In the 20th century, sales was a face to face business. We wore a nice suit, a pressed dress shirt and a coordinated tie. We stood straight and tall and greeted people with a firm handshake. The 21st century has seen a shift and technology like phones, Skype and online meeting software has virtually eliminated much of the face to face contact of the previous century. All that great new technology makes engagement much more difficult because communication consists of three parts: the words that you use, the quality of your voice and body language and notice that body language represents more than half of the quality of your communication. Take away the face to face meeting and the dynamics of communication changes. This is why weak or newer salespeople often say, “I’m not great on the phone, but if I can get them face to face, I do really well.” Strong handshake, nice smile, good posture, appropriate hand gestures, etc. are the biggest part of the quality of their communication. Salespeople need to learn how to use the new tools like Skype, phone and email, but find ways to assure that the quality of your communication is ‘as if you were there’.
Be findable. The internet has changed the way buyers shop and buy. Whether a referral, marketing lead or someone that you cold called, before or while they’re talking to you, they’re looking you up on Google, LinkedIn or other social media. If they can’t find you, you have an uphill battle. If they find you, but they don’t like what they see, you are probably done. However, if they find you and your profile is complete and relevant, if you have a blog and have written articles showing expertise, if you have recommendations, endorsements and testimonials, they may keep you in the game.
This is by no means a complete list, but if you aren’t an expert conversationalist, capable of using new technology with solid sales knowledge and don’t have an easily findable, professional on line presence, how does anyone know that you’re relevant?
Have you read what it takes to be a sales rock star in 2014?