On a flight this week I had a fun conversation with a top sales executive about the profession of selling.
The best sales people have some fundamental things in common:
- They put themselves out there over and over again with no fear
- They hear “NO” a lot, and always keep trying
- Disappointment, hurt pride, and failure have little impact on their continuing to do the first 2
- They always tune their offer to what their customer values most.
Skip the disappointment
The best sales people get over disappointment quickly and jump right back in the game. They don’t let failures along the way discourage or stall them, or damage their confidence.
One of the best stories I heard about this was a sales person telling a non-sales colleague:
The difference between you and me is that if you went up to every woman in this bar and asked them for a date, and they all said, NO, you would not talk to them again. If I went to every woman in this bar and asked them for a date, and they all said NO, I would go back and ask each one of them again. And a third time…
Three Sales lessons for your Success
1. NO is never a dead end
Every good sales person I know, can tell you how many NO’s on average it takes them to get to a YES. If their number is 17, when they hear NO for the 14th time, they don’t get discouraged. Their reaction is more like, “Great, I’ve got through one more step to YES!”
NO, is not only a critical step in the process, it’s viewed as a positive step forward. This is so important in building your career as well.
You need to get turned down.
You need to get over disappointment quickly, and see this rejection as a step forward in the process. Then you need to put yourself out there again – as many times as it takes.
Don’t Stop Trying
I can offer my personal example.
While my corporate career, and sequence of promotions was highly successful by any external measure, people didn’t see all the failures. They didn’t see all the times I heard, NO, and all the times I went for promotions and was passed over or turned down.
The success came from acting like a sales person, improving my value, and putting myself out there — and to keep asking.
So out of about 25 times at the plate, by putting my fears aside, and selling myself again and again, I got about 20-something NO’s and 3 life changing YES’s
You don’t get to the YES without the NO’s.
I see people make the mistake of going for promotion once or twice, getting turned down, and getting discouraged. Then they stop trying.
They blame the unfairness of the environment. Or they manufacture an imaginary high ground, and cite that they refuse to take part in the political maneuvers they believe are required.
The biggest thing holding these people back is that they got turned down, discouraged and then stopped trying.
If you are not willing to keep trying, you are the one creating the obstacle to your success.
2. Find a Bigger Pond
Good sales people go where the opportunity is. If they are assigned a “bad territory”, they find a way to expand or develop it. If they are assigned a genuinely bad territory, they move on and get a different job.
I see many people make the mistake of not moving on, when their environment can no longer support their advancement. They will stay for years, frustrated that there are no promotions available.
I’m all for advancing within your company, and much of what I write about is to help you do exactly that. But if there are no jobs, and several people above you need to die before a position opens up, you need to take it upon yourself to move on if you want to advance.
Or if you have an incompentant manager, you will get stuck. You need to get yourself into a different spot.
Go outside your comfort zone, go get some NO’s from new people, and keep trying!
3. Increase Your Value
When a customer is not buying, a great sales person will pump up the value of what they are selling.
They do this by getting a better understanding of their prospect’s needs, and putting together an offer which is more useful and valuable, and therefore much harder to refuse.
This is also critical in you career.
If you are not seen as promotable, ask yourself why.
Go the extra mile to really learn about and understand what is most relevant to your executive management. Is it new customers? Is it innovation? Is it cost cutting? Is it developing people?
Learn what counts and tune your job to offer more of it. Build up your value.
No one will instruct you to do this. It’s up to you.
Doing your job as written is more like selling a commodity product. Instead create a new product, higher value product. Differentiate your value by tuning your job to have more business impact.
The only way to reliably advance your career is to be always be adding more value to the business.
But don’t forget to keep selling !