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Ten Things I Wish I’d Have Known Before I Started Selling

  1. It’s about creating value. I resisted selling early in my life because I believed salespeople took advantage of other people. I thought that they were sleazy, self-oriented, and manipulative. Only later did I learn that it was all about helping other people get the results they needed.
  2. Prospecting comes first. I did really well in sales when I first started selling professionally. That was a problem. Because I did well, I didn’t do enough prospecting. Later, that mistake came back to haunt me when I lost two key accounts back to back (through no fault of my own). I needed a pipeline and didn’t have one.
  3. You need more than one relationship. When I first started in sales, I developed great relationships with key stakeholders, power sponsors, if you will. Only later, when the real problems started, did I learn how important it was to have deep relationships within my client companies. Later, I learned how important it was to have these relationships before there was a decision.
  4. Disqualify non-opportunities. I spent a lot of time pursuing non-opportunities. It took time from my calling on better prospects. You can’t afford to chase the wrong prospects. If you aren’t really right for the prospect or them for you, you need to disqualify it fast.
  5. Business models matter. I spent a lot of time and energy pursuing what I thought were dream clients. But because their business model made them necessarily focused on price, my value proposition was never going to win the business.
  6. Presentations don’t win. I literally read my prospects my presentation when I was a kid. All of it. Word for bloody word. Fortunately, I had a great manager that taught me that it wasn’t the presentation that won. It was the ability to understand the clients needs, to help develop a solution with them, and to take accountability for the result.
  7. You don’t win or lose on price. I blamed a lot of losses on price when I was young and didn’t know better. I tried to compete on price instead of the value I created. Because I made it about price, so did the client. Only when I learned to move to value did my clients change their decision criteria.
  8. Nurture your dream clients. Decades ago I used a very primitive version of sales force automation. I tracked my calls, and I called my prospects every 90 days. I did nothing to create value in front of a sale. I did well in spite of myself, but I did better when started sharing ideas in front of an opportunity. I also did better when I relentlessly called every week.
  9. If it was easy, your competitor would have done it already. It was easy to believe my competitors were my prospect’s problems. They believed that by switching to me they would do better, and so did I. It was only after winning their business did I learn that helping my clients was helping them overcome their own internal constraints. If it would have been easy, my competitors would have already made the necessary improvement.
  10. Never disappear after a loss. When I was young, if I lost a deal, I’d forget all about it, pick up the pieces and move on. I’d check back with the prospect a year later to find out they’d changed providers twice in that time. The didn’t get what they wanted, so they switched. But they didn’t call me. This happened a couple times before the lesson stuck. It was only then I learned that my competitors failure to execute opened an immediate opportunity. I stopped disappearing.

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  • Amy McCloskey Tobin

    I love #4 and #8; the 2 biggest mistakes I see my clients make.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      And they’re easy to make. It’s so easy to get lured in by a receptive non-opportunity. It’s easy to feel like calling every 90 days is enough, too. Both wrong.

  • Stan Faryna

    All key lessons for sales and business leaders. Yet again, your insight is spot on, Anthony.

    Recently on my blog:
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    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Stan!

  • Brent Stromme

    Pure gold. Just passed this onto my sales team, they will love you for it, Anthony, thanks for sharing your insight and using your gifts to make a difference in places you will never know.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Brent! Ten pitfalls that they can avoid. And I could easily add ten more.

  • Joseph Anthony

    That #2 is so huge, it’s like the 700 pound gorilla in the room. Thanks for this succinct list, Anthony.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      It’s the same everywhere I go, Joe. Prospecting is avoided.

  • Michael Boykin

    Number 4 is such great advice for those who aren’t already qualifying or disqualifying opportunities. I see the great work my company’s business development and sales teams have done to establish qualifiers and it is incredibly valuable.

    There’s always something to be learned from a loss, which is why I also think number 10 was great to share. Thanks for this piece!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Michael!

  • Amber King

    Thanks for sharing these tips Anthony. Never give up after you fail. Failures will be your constant partner when you are selling, make sure that you do not let it get to you.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      It never has! : )

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  • John

    Thanks for this article… You have given me a ton to think about as I try to coach 50+ travel planners the value of building relationships and loving the hard work of building clients and pipelines… Thanks for the article via Chris Brogan! You have a new fan!!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, John!

  • Abdulrashid

    i am very happy to know this.

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  • Tom

    All are great, but 7, 8 and 10 are key.