Sales Shape-Up

Ready to ramp up your sales--fast? Our 30-day action plan takes your business to new heights.

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What if you could take your sales to the next level in just 30 days? It's more feasible than you think--especially when you break the process down into small, achievable steps. Remember, action is our greatest teacher, and the only way to see a difference in your sales is to act! When you act on an idea, it builds your confidence and enthusiasm, and you I begin to see a clearer path on the road to reaching your goals.

Consider this article your 30-day action plan for sales success. Here is my challenge for you: Today, act on just one of the 10 ideas mentioned below. Each one should take you a few days to complete. Tackle another one when you're through, and in 30 days, you can expect to see results.

1. Keep a positive attitude. Everyone talks about the importance of attitude--and for good reason. Attitude always comes up in conversations with high achievers in all types of professions as the top factor in their success.

Here's an action step that can keep your attitude in check: Take an honest look at the people around you. What kinds of attitudes do they bring to the table? Do they pump you up or bring you down? Everyone is entitled to a bad attitude now and again, but if some of the people you're around are constantly angry, bitter and bringing you down, it might be time to move on.

Every 30 days, make a list of the people with whom you spend the most time. Put a plus sign next to the person's name if he or she has been a mentor, role model or uplifted you in any way. Try to add one or two names to this section each month. Others on the list might have neither a positive nor negative impact on you. You can put a zero next to their names. Then there might be some people on the list who are nega-tive and seem to always bring you down. Put a minus sign next to their names. You can either try to help these people or just stop spending time with them. This might be tough, but if you can do it, you'll be amazed at the difference in your attitude and the way you think. We become what we think about, and our environment plays a big part in what we think.

2. Map out your goals. Many people underestimate and underutilize one of the most powerful tools on the planet, and it's right between their ears. When was the last time you sat down with a blank sheet of paper with your number-one goal written at the top of the page? It's amazing what you'll come up with after brainstorming for 15 to 30 minutes each week . Try to list at least 20 ideas that will bring you closer to your sales goal. Choose one of them to act on right away.

3. Gain access. My entire career revolves around this skill, from selling and marketing unique products and helping business owners gain access to new markets to getting through to the toughest accounts and decision-makers. The list of ways to gain access is endless: Ask for referrals from great customers, send helpful information out to key prospects, and attend important trade shows and walk the floor. But the most successful tactic I've found is becoming relentless when the ROI is apparent. You can't just be tenacious without a purpose. Otherwise, you'll eventually turn off your prospect. But if you can uncover information about the prospect--such as his or her challenges (business or personal)--and then research information and materials that could be useful for that person, it makes a lasting impression.

For clients who can really benefit from what I have to offer, I find useful magazine or newspaper articles that address what's important to them. After a while, the prospect sees my efforts helping theirs, and doors start to open. All it takes is a little time, a stamp and a note attached to a relevant story simply saying, "Thought you might enjoy what's enclosed." Mail an article to one key prospect today.

4. Ask questions. Most salespeople like to talk-myself included. But most customers prefer salespeople who listen well. So I remind myself to do an exercise I that keeps the listening skills sharp. Every time I meet a new person on the road, in meetings or anywhere else, I make it a rule not to share anything about myself until I've discovered what the other person does, their interests and so on. Even when he or she asks about my business, I'm short with the answer and go right back to my questions: "You mentioned you were opening a second store. How did you get to that stage?" The goal is to get them to elaborate on what they've said. Then I can decide if it makes sense to share what I do and what area of my business to focus on, or I might realize there's no opportunity right now and move on. Questions are the keys to selling. Nobody ever listened themselves out of a sale!

Next time you meet someone new, try to listen 70 percent of the time and talk only 30 percent. Get them talking about their challenges, goals and interests.

5. Offer stellar service. It's the details--the little things you do-that make the difference. It's been proved over and over again that the reason most customers don't make a purchase is they feel you don't care, lack interest or show indifference.

I remember conducting a seminar more than 10 years ago and inviting some of the company's top sales achievers onstage to share the one most important idea that contributed to their success. One of them had a very simple answer. He said, "Every time I meet with a prospect or client, I continue to ask them this question: Is there anything I'm not doing that I could be doing to serve you better?" What he was doing was constantly searching for problems. Problems become opportunities, and once they are solved, you have a more loyal customer than if he never had any problems at all. This is because the customer sees your efforts in action and knows you're ready to serve. Customers feel comfortable the next time they make a decision to do business with you because they know you will be there to solve any problems that come up rather than run away from them.

Make a list of your top customers, and call one each day, asking, "Is there anything I'm not doing that I could be doing to serve you better?" You can't go wrong when customers tell you what to do and you deliver.

Originally published in the August 2006 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine

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Barry Farber is the author of 11 books on sales, management and peak performance. His latest release, "Diamond in the Rough" CD program, is based on his book, radio and television show. Visit him at www.BarryFarber.com, or email him at barry@barryfarber.com.

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This article was originally published in the August 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Sales Shape-Up.

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