In recent years, the field of selling has changed dramatically. During the boom of the 1990s, individuals and organizations were producing and selling products and services hand over fist. There was demand and an enormous amount of money chasing after products and services in almost every field. Many salespeople who began their careers in the early '90s never learned how to sell because it wasn't necessary. It was a seller's market. As a result, most salespeople became professional order-takers. They followed up on leads, collected checks and came back to the office feeling like heroes.
In today's uncertain economic landscape, there are more sellers than buyers. There are more companies offering products and services than there are people with money to buy them. Times may be tough, but the fact is that cycles and trends are a natural part of life. Markets go up, and markets go down. This is normal, and we need to adjust to it when it happens.
Three new skills are necessary if you want to become one of the top sellers in your field:
1. Learn to focus. To succeed in selling today, you must focus more narrowly on the few prospects who are the most likely to buy what you sell. You have to define your ideal prospects more clearly and separate high-probability prospects from low-probability prospects.
But before you're able to focus your selling, you must prepare. The more thoroughly prepared you are, the more and better sales you will make. There are three steps to preparation. First, do some pre-call research. Learn everything you possibly can about your prospects before you call on them for the first time. This will help with building your credibility.
Next, set your pre-call objectives. Know your goals, and write down any questions you need to ask.
Lastly, perform post-call analysis. Always write down every detail discussed in the sales call immediately after leaving the prospect; don't rely on your memory or the sales report forms you fill out at the end of the day. The next time you visit this prospect, review your detailed notes from earlier conversations. This three-step process of preparation will thoroughly equip you with the tools necessary to build high levels of credibility and trust with your prospect throughout the sales process.
Nothing is more important in a tough market than your commitment to continuous forward action, to calling on more and better people every single working day.
2. Concentrate on your best prospects. You've identified your most important prospects. Now it's time to dedicate all your time and energy to the top 20 percent of prospects in your market who account for 80 percent of your sales. In the 1990s, it was easy to hit prospects all over the place without really trying. But today, the market has changed, and to succeed, you must concentrate your energies carefully on those few customers who can make a significant difference in achieving your sales quota.
3. Commit to forward action. To succeed in sales today, you must be in continuous motion, always looking for new and better prospects, both in your traditional markets and in markets you may not have thought of in the past. The more approaches you try, the greater the probability you'll try the right thing at the right time to make the kind of sale you really want to.
For this reason, nothing is more important in a tough market than your commitment to continuous forward action, to calling on more and better people every single working day. You should spend about 80 percent of your time prospecting-until you have so many customers that you don't have enough time to handle more.
If your sales career is going more slowly than you would like at the moment, step on the accelerator of your own potential and rev up the number of people that you see and talk to on a daily and weekly basis. The good news is, the faster you move, the more energy you will have. The more energy you have, the more people you will see and the more experience you will get. And the more experience you get, the better you will become at selling when you finally come across the ideal prospect for you.
Because of this action orientation, you'll make more sales and, as a result, get more positive feedback. This will motivate you to make even more calls on even more prospects and close even more sales in the weeks and months ahead.
Over the years, good times come and go. The economy booms, and the economy recedes. But the salespeople who practice these six essential principles day in and day out-no matter what may be happening around them-will always find success. You can do the same.
Author and speaker Brian Tracy is the chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a human resources firm. His most recent book is Many Miles to Go.