Selling is a tough gig, but it is one that every business has to master or fail.

The days of waiting for the next customer to walk through the door and place an order are over. These days you have to be out there hunting for new customers at the same time you are building relationships with existing customers to optimise your repeat purchase and share of wallet metrics.

So how do you go about this?

There are a few common practises of truly successful sales people that I have seen over my long career. These practises form what I call a ‘foundation’ for successful sales activity.

Always be positive.

When was the last time you bought anything from someone who clearly did not care if you bought or not, who had a take it or leave it attitude?

People like to buy from enthusiastic and helpful people, so being ‘up’ all day, every day, is vital. The sales leadership plays a huge role in the development of this sort of positive and proactive culture.

See yourself through the customers eyes.

When the sales effort is just all about the numbers, sales people tend to focus on making the sale now in order to make those numbers. Customers do not really care if you make your numbers or not, they care only about the value they can derive from buying something from you. Seeing yourself in this way is an unfortunately rare skill, but those who have it sell multiples of those who do not. However, luckily it is a skill that can be learnt.

Manage time proactively.

It is so easy to waste time, not to maximise the productivity of that most precious of resources. In selling, this approach demands that you plan your day and sales approaches, anticipate the needs of customers, and plan the conversations to focus on the value your solution delivers to them.

Treat your prospects and customers time as  being more important than yours, as to them, that is the way it is.

Balance your activities such that there is a flow of leads that are in various stages of conversion so you have a steady flow, which is always more productive than a flood/drought situation.

You only get one chance to make a first impression. When you meet someone, they generally make their minds up in the first few seconds about whether you are someone they would like to engage with, or would rather move on. Making that good first impression is absolutely vital to having any chance of building a relationship.

Listen, then listen some more.

As the old saying goes, ‘god gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason’. The best sales people I have met are always great listeners, they keep conversation going, steering it by asking key questions at key times based on the feedback they are getting from the other person.

Follow up regularly but sympathetically.  Continuous follow up is a key skill, but there is a line between following up in a friendly and sympathetic and stalking.

Model your behaviour on the masters.

Joe Girard is seen as one of the best, if not the best salesman ever. Taking lessons from the masters is always a good idea, those who both practise what they preach and have profited from the practise. The best sales book I have ever seen is now decades old, “Spin Selling’ by Neil Rackham, but the same rules still apply.

As a final point, from my own experience running sales and marketing in FMCG, one of the most common mistakes I have seen is businesses treating sales as a training ground for other functions. Every trainee, particularly marketing and management trainees have to ‘do their time in sales‘. This is a huge mistake, when sales success is so important to survival, it makes sense to only have the best representing you and your products, and if they become the highest paid people in the organisation, great!

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