There are countless skills and activities that a salesperson must master to succeed in sales, outside of the fundamental success attributes and sales attributes and skills. So then, should you want to make as rapid an improvement as is sometimes necessary (or should you want the same for your sales team), where do you begin?
Thoughtful people are free to disagree, and your mileage may vary, but for my money, there is only one place to go.
Putting First Things First
There is never an opportunity that is closed that wasn’t first opened.
If you need to massively improve your sales results, there is no better or more effective place to start than with your prospecting. Building a pipeline of opportunities is the very best way to improve your sales results. First, it solves the problems of having opportunities. Second, it gives you the opportunity to improve everything else.
It’s true that is difficult to win opportunities without the full compliment of skills and attributes that effective b2b sales requires. There are countless problems that you run head first into when you need to improve in other areas and you start by working on prospecting. You have problems with the sales process, problems with honoring the iron laws of sales, problems with creating value, problems diagnosing and developing solutions, and problems gaining commitments.
But without opportunities, you have none of these problems . . . that’s a bigger problem. You miss the opportunity to learn.
Learning to Dance
The way you learn to dance is by dancing. Sales is not something that you learn to do by reading a book or by taking a training classes (although both are essential).
Whatever challenges you may have a salesperson, whatever challenges you may have as a sales organization, every opportunity you pursue has the potential to be a learning experience—a learning experience you would not have without that opportunity.
As you prospect and schedule appointment with your dream clients, you will discover the problems with your sales process (provided you are thoughtful enough to pay attention and to work on improving your process).
As you work on creating value, the immediate feedback you receive from your dream clients will inform your future actions, your future language, and the future commitments you seek to obtain (provided you are observant enough to capture the feedback or bold enough to ask what is working and what isn’t).
It’s painful to learn that you need to improve your ability to diagnose and develop solutions by losing deals, but those lessons are usually the ones that stick; if it’s a painful enough loss, you will do much more to avoid making the same mistake in the future.
You will learn to ask for the commitments you need as you make sales calls. You will leave without the follow up appointment that you need to advance your opportunity, and then you’ll spend the next nine weeks calling and emailing to try to get back on your dream client’s calendar. If you are susceptible to learning at all, you will figure out that it’s all about being valuable enough to earn your dream client’s time—and you’ll learn to ask for the commitments you need.
By focusing on improving your prospecting, you provide yourself with the opportunity develop the full compliment of skills that you need to take an opportunity from target to close.
- There is always room to learn and improve your skills in all areas of sales. Could you stand to schedule more time to prospect? Would your results be improved if you increased the number and the quality of opportunities you were developing?
- Do you use every opportunity you pursue as a chance to improve all of your other sales skills? What you have to do after each sales call to build your sales skills and to learn?
- Can you develop all of your other skills as effectively without doing so in the context of live opportunities?
- If you really need help, where can you get it? Can you get the help that you need to make sure you take advantage of the opportunities you obtain?
For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4729.
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