There are more variables to competing and winning in sales than your company, your products, or your pricing. Many of the variables are under-appreciated. They are also within your control. Here is a list of variables that may cause you to lose to your competition. Reversing them will move you towards greater success.
Outworked: If there is a single variable to success that is within your control, it is your willingness to work. Really work, not just show up at work. There will always be people with more talent than you, as our gifts are not distributed equally. Some people have received gifts as the circumstances of their birth, gifts that you were not given. No one, however, can deprive you of your willingness to work harder. This is perhaps the easiest way to produce better results than your competitors, only requiring giving your work your full focus and attention. Only you can prevent yourself from being outworked.
Out-studied: You have to improve your ability to improve. One of the very best ways you can boost your performance is by studying. You can read more than your competitor, and the statistics suggest that if you read one sales book, you will have done more than most in your field (and if you are going to read a sales book, let me recommend this one). You can read business books to improve your business acumen, and you can read a newspaper (I suggest the Wall St. Journal). You can listen to CNBC while you are on the treadmill. Not many of your competitors will read their prospective client’s financial reports. Nor will they go to the trouble to become an expert. If you want to be a trusted advisor, start by doing your homework.
Outlasted: I called a prospective client for years without ever obtaining a meeting. My competitor had them locked down, or so I thought. I gave up and decided to seek an easier target. A year or so later, I called the prospective to schedule an appointment only to be told that they had just reviewed new companies and selected a new provider. I missed the window because I did not persist. Your willingness to persist over time is another variable within your control. It requires that you are disciplined about your approach and your pursuit plan. It also requires that you be resourceful enough to vary your strategy and stay top of mind. If someone is going to outlast another, be the one with greater determination and persistence.
Out-communicated: Mistakenly, people believe that an email is an effective form of communication. As efficient as email is, it is inferior to other, more powerful mediums, like face-to-face meetings, video conferences, or the telephone. Every day, the poor hapless (and helpless, and hopeless) salespeople send emails to their dream client’s inboxes, only to have them deleted without so much as a glance. Sadly, they believe what they are doing is prospecting. You control the medium you use, the frequency, and the value of those communications. One of the first things I ever wrote on this blog was the need to have a presence, to show up. The more frequent and valuable the communication, the more you prevent yourself from being out-communicated.
Out-flanked: In The New Rules for Building Consensus, there is an idea about there no longer being a decision-maker, even though someone is going to say yes. The main idea here is that many people cannot say yes by themselves, but can say no and stop a group of people from taking action on your initiative. The second section of Eat Their Lunch is titled: Wiring the Building. The idea is to locate the stakeholders who are going to influence a decision and make sure you gain their support. If you aren’t doing this work and your competitor is, you can be out-flanked, your competitor developing support deep and wide while you cling to your power sponsor. Get there first, establish the relationships throughout the organization and out-flank your competition.
Out-skilled: A salesperson once told me that he had been in sales for thirty-four years. His manager added that the salesperson had the same year no less than thirty-four times. The gist was that he wasn’t getting any better. Are your skills improving? Are your results improving? One of the most detrimental beliefs to success is the idea that you know enough, you are good enough, and that no growth is available to you. You are better off believing the exact opposite, that you know too little, your results aren’t what they should be, and that you have much runway in front of you. It isn’t difficult to out-skill your competitors, most of whom aren’t proactive about their growth and development.
With so much outside of your control, your best strategy is to work on what is within your control.
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