The movie “The Right Stuff” was the story of the early jet test pilots and the first seven astronauts selected by the NASA space program for the Mercury project. The courage and tenacity of these pioneers is a testimony to the human urge to go beyond danger and fear to reach what is often believed unreachable. I look at the sales profession in the same light. No, you don’t face the danger that a test pilot or astronaut would have faced, but you do need the courage and belief that you can reach new heights by becoming a true “sales professional.” I want to define the term “sales professional” in this article. I come across numerous sales people who want to be successful but struggle, often through no fault of their own. Do you have “The Right Sales Stuff?” Let’s find out!
Anyone who is successful at any endeavor must have a love and passion for his or her profession. I once told an audience ’If your primary reason for being in sales is to make a lot of money, you will struggle, but if your primary reason is to make a difference in the lives of your customers, you will become wealthy monetarily and intrinsically.” The first characteristic of a sales superstar is truly caring about what you do and the people you can help.
Once you have the core belief that you can truly make a difference it should inspire you to become an expert regarding your product and its application. It is not enough to know torque, GVRW, cab to axle ratios and cantilever effect, you need to know how it impacts the vehicle, safety and allows the vehicle and driver to do the job. I tell rookies if they will study their product and its applications daily for one year they will most likely surpass commercial sales consultants with far more experience.
Now comes the controversial part. Most sales trainers will tell you sales technique is the most important skill to acquire. I train sales people but I disagree, the most important skill to acquire is the skill that creates strong relationships. This means taking a personal interest in learning about others which includes both personal and professional knowledge. The old saying, No one cares what you know until they know that you care” is true. Yes, sales skills are important but in outside sales we teach “consultative skills” versus what I call “manipulative skills.” Become a “Relationship Master” and you will excel!
Read carefully what I am about to write, “Networking skills have become critical to sales success in the modern business world. There is a reason professional business networking groups are growing at a rapid rate. When I work with a dealership I strongly encourage the commercial sales consultants to join www.BNI.com (Business Network International) as well as local trade associations such as Home Builders, AGC, PHCC and ABC. Unfortunately, most sales professionals are weak at networking. (Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free report on how to be a networking master!)
Organizational skills are more important than ever. One of the biggest issues I see are sales consultants that start closing unit sales and get caught in the “paper trap.” Their sales begin to fall at this point. In other words, they become too busy to be more successful. If you are not organized, you will struggle. I encourage new commercial sales professionals to start their career with a set of organizational tools. You will understand how important great time management is when you miss your first appointment with a major prospect!
Here is the “one thing” that you never read in any sales book but I consider one of the keys to becoming a superstar in sales. I call it “Unexpected Value.” Another way to express unexpected value is “the little things.” I once called on the head of an organization. When I entered his office, I noticed Civil War relics on the walls and on his desk. I asked him “Are there any publications that cover collecting Civil War relics?” He said there were but he did not take any of them although he probably should. When I left his office, I went to a local book store and found six different magazines dedicated to the Civil War and geared toward collectors like my prospect. I tore out the subscription information and ordered him a two-year subscription for $14.95. (less than the cost of breakfast!) I called a month later to check if he had received the magazine. He said “yes” and was delighted to get it and could not thank me enough for my thoughtfulness. Yes, he became my best client and a good friend. The “unexpected value” did not create the success but it opened the door.
There are more talents and skills we could cover but these are the “keys to success.” Remember this, “The road to the extra mile is never crowded.” Always do more than expected and you can expect to be paid for more than what you do! Live to Win!
About Ken Taylor: