THE SALESPERSON’S JOURNEY: What It Takes To Become A (Successful) Salesperson
Something I’ve realised for a while now is that while everyone likes to travel, very few enjoy the “travelling” aspect of it. Think about it – the days of planning, rushing to make your bus/flight, figuring out that you’ve forgotten to pack something, realising that you have zero legroom. It’s a very long process filled with snappy arguments and moments of panic. Nevertheless, once you get to where you’re going, you feel elated and relieved that finally, you would be able to enjoy yourself.
Similarly, everyone dreams of and relishes success – but very few delight in the journey to success. It’s not uncommon to feel moments of disdain and demotivation as you experience the challenging, rollercoaster ride of a life as a salesperson. What does it take to reach your destination (success as a salesperson)?
Do you know what you are about to face?
As with any journey, you need to prepare yourself beforehand. Some do research online, read books or watch videos. The best thing to do – start selling. Be it online or as a promoter at roadshows, you will only know how tough (or easy) it is to sell if you put yourself in the position of a salesperson. Dealing with people’s opinions, emotions and personalities in real-time is something you cannot get from pieces of paper or through screens. Books, research and videos can be useful later, once you’ve gained some experience and gotten the basics down.
Are you going in the right direction?
The easiest way to figure this out is to ask yourself – “what is my goal”? It is important to have one to forge on and stay focused during your journey. You will be able to break your goal into smaller, more measurable tasks that will allow you to check if you are performing as you need to be to get to that goal. If your goal is to be the most successful salesperson in the company (as it should be – never aim small!), you will need to think about:
- The number of connections you will need to build to create enough opportunities.
- The number of customers you need and how fast you need to get them.
- The number of leads needed to start pitching deals to hit your target.
2. Getting to your point of departure:
Do you have a guide?
By guide, I mean exactly what the name suggests: someone who can direct you to where you want to go. As a salesperson, your guide can be anyone – your department head, your team leader, a successful businessman from a different company or someone you only hear from through a screen. This person is someone you will be able to turn to should you have any worries, insecurities, or require lessons born from their own experiences. While you must learn from your experiences as well, people are walking archives of know-how and a lot of them would be more than willing to share their knowledge with you.
Are you ready with all the basics?
There is a common misconception that successful salespeople are born with the skills of being able to sell anything and everything. This is gravely untrue. Sure, a natural talent for networking (innate in many extroverts) and a good judgement of situations will take you far, but there is nothing that you cannot improve through training and hard work. No one job requires minimal effort – to be good at something always takes time and practice. Usain Bolt did not break world records right off the bat, neither did Serena Williams. Although athletes are from a different field (pun unintended), there are many similarities between both the salespersons’ profession and the athletes – they need to practice to get good at what they are doing and they all have targets to meet. Do you have what it takes to meet your targets?
3. You’re on the way:
Most salespeople dread this part of their job – more than 40% of salespeople say that this is the most challenging part of the sales process. It is easy to go from being highly motivated to only making 10 calls a day (average KPI can go up to 50 calls/day). To remain disciplined and on top of your daily call target, set a goal to make an X amount of calls per hour. If you hit that target, reward yourself with a coffee break or a walk around the office. If you don’t, buckle down and get it done!
PRO TIP: Make each call count by ending each one with a clear, precise call to action –
- “Can we schedule our next call for 1 week from now at noon?”
- “Will Friday the 13th at 4 PM work for you?”
- “I will send you our brochure to look at and I will call you tomorrow morning to check that you’ve received it.”
However, while sales prospecting is as much of a numbers game as sales itself, it is important that you get quality calls in.
Making enough calls to hit your target or go beyond is great – but are you getting any leads and closings deals while you are on these calls? It is important not to forget why you’re making so many calls in the first place – to sell your product/service! While you are prospecting, you need to listen. But, what are you listening for?
- Pain points = what issues are they facing?
- Possible opportunities to cross-sell = would buying product A & product C benefit them more than just buying product A?
- Buying signals = very subtle indications of their inclination towards your product or service.
Salespeople tend to forget this aspect of the job. Either due to their egos (“If they want, they will contact me.”) or complacency. However, to reach you’re your targets and close your deals, 80% of sales require at least 5 follow up calls before you ever get there. Why place so much importance on following up? Your relationship with your prospect, lead or client will determine if they will engage you, reengage you or shut you down completely. Follow-ups will build their trust in you so long as you:
- Create value = show that you are detail-oriented and have focused on every call you’ve made with them before this.
- Build a routine with them = you can evolve your relationship with them to include shared interest like golf, fishing, cars, the stock market and you will be someone they associate with these activities.
- Resolve previous objections and clear previous doubts = always be ready to put their doubts to rest – but not in a pushy way! Let them know you understand, give them case studies that could relate to the issue, relate to them with the results from other clients or companies from the same industry.
4. You’ve hit a few speedbumps:
You’ve been told that “you’re too pushy”.
A good salesperson is good at following up. While following up, you may end up seeming aggressive. Some would choose to continue, putting on a thick face and some would give up – toning down on the follow-ups. However, either way, you are jeopardising your results. By putting on a thick face and just shouldering on where you aren’t wanted, you will ruin your relationships with your prospects and clients. By giving up, you would be missing opportunities to maximise your sales revenue. Compare following up on leads with taking care of a child – when you truly believe in the solution (product/service) that you are pitching, you want to be able to share it with them so that they can benefit from it.
Review your success and failures.
Learn from every instance of failure and all the moments you experienced success. Figure out the 5W’s and 1H of every one of your prospecting activities, all your sales pitches and each of our closed deals. From there, build a mental database of resources for your future sales endeavours. For every mistake, prepare two to three different alternatives. Test these out when you get the chance – a little bit like the A/B testing marketers have to do to figure out what their clients want.
5. You’ve arrived:
You will still need to work to enjoy yourself.
Don’t celebrate too soon – even after 5 hours on a bus or 12 hours on a plane, it takes a while before you get to enjoy your holiday. You will need to lug your baggage around and check-in. Afterwards, you might be struck by bad weather – either way, reaching your destination does not necessarily mean that it’s smooth sailing from there. It’s the same with success: just because you’ve got now got it does not mean you will be able to slack off. Sure, your quality of life will improve but you will not be able to relax. Your sales will always only be equal to your effort.