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Running a marathon is like running your small business. You start with high hopes and great expectations. As you expand and grow your business, the challenges mount and the work gets harder, and sometimes you wonder if you've made the right choice. Yet when you finish, you're filled with a renewed enthusiasm for more races.
In every race, you will find yourself in some uncharted territory, that place where everything that was new and exciting begins to feel very uncomfortable. On Mother's Day, I was in this place. I ran my first competitive half-marathon. That's 13.1 miles. This was a big stretch for me, for a few reasons:
2. The longest run I'd done before the race was 10 miles, and that was more than a month before race day.
3. I'd never been in a race before with 3,500 graceful runners who all had the "right clothes" on.
Yet I still did it. And running the race wasn't even the most important part-it was all the training. For 50 weeks, I had to work hard, get out of my comfort zone and push the limits of what I thought I was capable of. Are you pushing yourself when it comes to your sales efforts? What part of the sales process do you find uncomfortable? Closing the sale? Making cold calls? Whatever it is that makes you uncomfortable, you can get over it in three steps:
2. Threshold training: Now it's time to test yourself. This part of your training builds on all the work you've already done and helps you perfect your skills. For a runner, threshold training means running "hills" (tackle a big hill and jog back down several times) and "intervals" (a mixture of jogging and sprinting). For you, it means challenging yourself and gradually building your strength and endurance. For instance, if you don't like making cold calls, set aside 30 minutes a day to call a set number of contacts, then gradually increase the number of calls or length of time.
3. Speed training: To really get your sales moving, set aside a special day every week or two to "go all out" and focus exclusively on the skill you need to improve. If you have a solid base and have been pushing yourself to do some of the sales activities that you don't like, you might find that "going all out" is kind of fun.
If you want to get serious about selling your products and services, keep these points in mind:
- Stretch one skill at a time. As a salesperson, you must train in the specific skills, processes and tactics that will allow you to win your race. Pick a single skill that you need to improve, and focus on improving it. Work on the skills that will help you sell-don't just learn the topics that you find easy or enjoy.
- Take time to rest and reward yourself. From time to time, you need to rest. Without a rest period, you are prone to injury and burnout. If you set goals and meet your milestones, reward yourself.
- Pace yourself. Don't expect everything to change the first time out. Results come when you make stretching a regular, structured part of your professional development.
- Take a long-term approach. As sales professionals, we all run the sales marathon. Some of us are training to win; others are training just to finish. Getting out of our comfort zone is no longer an option for those committed to a career in sales. Long-term success and being able to say "After four decades of selling, I feel great after every sales call" comes from constant improvement.
James Maduk is one of North America's leading sales speakers. He is the creator and publisher of more than 80 online sales training courses, and he broadcasts daily on VirtualSelling Radio. You can reach James at (613) 825-0651 or visit his Web site at www.jamesmaduk.com.