Ask anyone who’s done it, and they’ll tell you this: Professional sales can be one of the most challenging and rewarding careers you’ll ever find.
Whether you’re a long-time sales veteran, a relative beginner, or just someone considering sales as a profession, embrace the fact that selling for a living is seldom easy. Successful salespeople learn to accept that the sometimes long or awkward hours come with the territory (pun intended). But the rewards regarding income, flexibility, personal recognition, and job satisfaction can be second to none.
A career in professional sales, at its higher levels, is one of the most lucrative jobs available. But money alone won’t be enough to sustain you through the most challenging experiences. Long-term success requires falling in love with the work.
Here are seven hot tips that will skyrocket your sales career, whether you are just starting or are ready for a fresh start.
1. First, Get Your Heart Right
Selling is not complicated really. The whole concept is elementary: Find people who need that you and your company can fulfill. Then, help your customer get what it is they want. That’s it! The stereotype of the high-pressure sales guy “pushing” his product is a thing of the past. At least it should be! When you focus on selling things rather than helping your clients, they can smell it a mile away. Somehow, they can tell if you are there to help them or to help yourself.
2. Find Something to Sell that You are Passionate About
You can’t sell something you are not sold on yourself. Your prospective client will get excited about whatever you are passionate about. This doesn’t mean you have to quit your job selling laboratory equipment and start selling golf clubs. Most salespeople find that when they decide to learn much more about the products or services they sell (and how they work and how their customers use them), suddenly things become much more interesting. Your enthusiasm about your company and its offerings is paramount to sales success.
3. Become an Industry Expert
Dedicate the time and energy to become an expert on how your customers can use what you sell to get the business or personal outcomes they want. Your knowledge of how your current customers have been able to use what you sell to improve their business results is a vital part of “selling value.” Learn the success stories of your best clients and be ready to present a “use case” of what your prospective client can achieve by partnering with your company.
4. Learn to Think Like Your Customer
Most of what is sold in this world is not an end to itself. Instead, it’s a means to an end. It helps to get comfortable with the truth that no one wants to buy whatever it is that you sell. The best salespeople learn to sell business outcomes, not the product or service itself. We need to understand our customer’s motive to buy, their urgency to buy, and the consequences to them of not buying.
Make sure you can answer the question: What are your customer’s evaluation and buying criteria? Then, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and ask yourself this question: If you were in their position, would you buy from you and your company?
5. Dedicate Yourself to Relentless Business Development
Finding new sales opportunities, which is usually called “prospecting” or “business development,” is the most foundational skill a salesperson can ever develop. Being able to open new doors is one of the most marketable professional skills one can possess. For most of us, this requires getting outside our comfort zone.
Approaching and calling strangers on the phone and starting business conversations should become not just a skill but a habit. Commit yourself to do enough prospecting to get comfortable and good it. If you want to get good at something, you’ll have to be willing to do it poorly first.
6. Be Smart About How and Where You Invest Your Time
Time is the most precious commodity for all of us. This is never truer than in professional sales. Time is the currency with which we purchase our success. All salespeople, even those who’ve been in the field for a decade or two struggle with choosing the right sales opportunities to work on. Just as importantly, you’ll have to get good at determining which opportunities to walk away from.
Sales qualification, the act of asking tough questions, is a vital skill to develop. We have to ask questions such as these: “Do you have a budget or the funding to make this investment?” or “Who are the people who would have to approve this investment?” We have to ask qualifying questions even if we don’t like the answer we might hear. As a 40-year veteran of sales put it to me many years ago, “Half of selling is figuring out who isn’t going to buy.”
7. Keep Learning More About Your Craft
Successful people in every profession know that to stay at the top of your game you have to continually work on and hone your skills and your knowledge of current best practices. Be careful never to let yourself believe you are too good to learn something. For those of us who’ve been selling a while, it’s way too easy to drift away from the fundamental activities that helped us get to where we are.
We also have to learn to use and embrace new technologies and communication tools that seem a bit foreign to us “seasoned” professionals. Always look for new ways of thinking and more effective ways of doing what you do.
Since I started in this line of work, I’ve always seen selling as a noble profession. When done well, it can become a lifestyle of helping people. Make sure you are in it for the right reasons and keep your customer’s best interests at heart.