Starting a new job can be extremely difficult. When it comes to the world of sales, it can seem downright impossible.
That's probably why no one grows up wanting to be a salesman.
However, there can be significant upside to being in sales. If you're willing to put in the hard work, learn the craft, work your butt off, and stick it out, the rewards can be incomparable to almost any other trade.
I remember when I was brand new in sales. I'd never sold anything in my life, had no clue what I was doing, and went my first 12 appointments before I made a sale.
What I needed was to learn some best practices and strategies. After I did, everything changed for me. Not just in sales, but in life.
Here are five sales tips to getting things going, and keeping them going all the way to the top:
1. Find several great mentors
Although some people have personalities that predispose them to sales success, there's no such thing as a natural born salesman. I've never met one.
Most people end up in sales by chance and not choice. One of the best ways to shorten the learning curve and progress up the ranks quickly is to learn from those who've already been there.
If you don't, you will rely on trial-and-error, which can be an effective learning tool. However, it takes much longer and rarely leads to the same success level.
For me, I started with the top reps within my own company. Find out who the top reps are, make friends with them, latch on, and learn everything you can.
Don't be afraid to approach them. Some of the best mentors I've had I was apprehensive to approach. I thought there was no way in the world the top reps would take the time to help me.
What I failed to realize was everyone else thought that about them too, so no one approached them. When I did seek their help, they ALL were willing to help me. In fact, they even mentioned how helpful top reps were to them when they were new.
Don't be afraid to approach anyone. You'll be surprised how helpful people will be.
Even if you work for a small company, there aren't any high-performing reps, or if they're lame and don't want to help out, there are plenty of other ways you can find a mentor.
In this day in age, there are thousands upon thousands of great salespeople and sales trainers to learn from, even if you have to go outside of your company or area to find them. There are books, e-books, audio books, podcasts, YouTube videos, seminars, online sales training schools and many more resources.
Networking and social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are also very effective places to connect with people. Network on those sites, look for networking groups in your area to join, and don't ever stop building your network and support group.
Bottom line: if you want the information, you can get it. It's up to you to find it and put it into action.
2. Learn how to quickly connect with others
We all have that friend who is able to do this. It seems like wherever they go, and whatever situation they are thrust into, people flock to them like a magnet. Call it "gift of gab", a "talker", charismatic, a "connector", or call it whatever you want.
The reality is, some people have a level of likeability to them that makes people want to follow their lead. Instead of getting resentful at those people and trying to rain on their parade, you should be learning from them.
If you look at any great salesperson, they have the ability to quickly connect and get people's attention. They may not have had this skill when they started in sales, but they all have it now.
Hundreds of books have been written on the subject. My two favorites are How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and The Likeability Factor by Tim Sanders. Both are must-reads in my book.
3. Become a master at planning your work and working your plan
We've all heard the saying, "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Every sales person should have this posted on their desk, bathroom mirror, dashboard, television, and anywhere else where distractions can easily present themselves.
An hour a week. That's all you need.
If you want to maximize your sales success, set aside an hour a week to solidify your sales plan for the upcoming week, and also to loosely map out the three weeks after.
When I first entered the world of sales, one of the first gurus I was exposed to was Tony Robbins. In one of his earlier programs, he calls this practice the "Hour of Power".
I don't care what you call it. The bottom line is you better have a full day of appointments booked already when Monday morning hits. If you don't, you're already behind the 8-ball and will have a much tougher time meeting your weekly goals.
4. Develop a knack for getting to the decision maker
In every buying situation, there is someone, or a group of people, that have the power to say "yes, we will take it!". If you can't get your message in front of that person or group, you have nothing.
Don't confuse activity with achievement. Often times, it's easy to talk to people and tell them all about you, your company, your products, how great they are, and how much value they'd bring to them.
In my experience, most salespeople spend too much time talking to people that either can't afford what they're selling or don't have the power to pull the trigger if they wanted to. Which means the sales person is wasting his time in front of non-decision makers, when he should be spending his time with people who have the ability to buy.
If you want to shorten your path to the top in sales, learn to ask questions and do research that will show you who all the key decision makers are. Get online, talk to people, and find out everything you can about them.
If you're in business-to-business sales, will the decision be made by one person, or by a group? What's the best way to get that group together? What does their buying process typically look like?
In business-to-consumer sales, make sure to find out before meeting with prospects if both spouses need to be there. Most of the time, you only get one shot, so don't miss your chance by not setting the appointment with all decision makers.
When I was selling CUTCO, there were far too many times I did appointments with one spouse, only to get to the end and find out the other spouse either did the majority of the cooking or controlled the checkbook.
Less than ideal.
Don't schedule an appointment just to have an appointment. Your chances of making larger sales are much better when you have all the key decision makers present, even if it means putting the appointment off a few days or weeks.
Be relentless in vying for people's time. Don't let them screen you out or push you off. If you truly believe you can help them, they will hear the persistence and urgency in your voice.
If you're just making your eight calls a day because the company requires it, that will show. You will be more likely to get screened out or pushed off, not fully book your schedule, and miss your sales goals as well.
Finally, the best way to approach a prospect is through a personal introduction from one of your happy clients. Nothing beats a glowing endorsement from your top customers. Trust me, they can sell your stuff to their friends better than you can.
5. Work every day to build world-class selling skills
Most sales books are centered around these skills. Rightly so.
With any business, sport, or activity, there are a set of fundamentals or best practices that are time-tested and put you in the best position to succeed.
Ballet dancers learn there is a certain way to hold their body, balance, and position their feet to maximize the ability to perform movements.
For a soccer player, there is a proper way to strike the ball with their foot to increase accuracy, maximize power output and minimize chance of injury.
When football players block and tackle, there are specific fundamental positions and movements that give the player the best chance to execute that task, and minimize the risk of them being injured.
Sales is no different. There are specific skills, traits, and behaviors that top sales people do when they are in front of a customer. Learn these skills, practice them, and refine them.
For a book recommendation on what to say in virtually any sales situation, look up The Sales Bible by Jeffrey Gitomer. In my opinion, it is the most complete "what-to-do" and "what-to-say" sales book ever written.
When it comes to selling skills, the ultimate teacher is experience.
You'll fall on your face from time to time, and that's okay. What matters is the overall process you engage in every day. If you stay committed, keep a high level of activity, and learn from the wins and the losses, the sales will follow. So will the income.
Sales is not an impossible game, and when you get things going, it's one of the most rewarding professions on the planet. The hardest part is getting started.
Take this information, put it into action, and work your way to the top!
Bret Barrie was a Hall-of-Fame and Presidents' Club-winning sales rep and is a top-producing sales leader in the medical device industry. He is also the author of The Selling Edge: How to Reach the Top in any Sales Industry and Promoted: The Proven Path to Career Advancement. A baseball enthusiast and fitness junkie, he is happily married with three children and lives in the greater Sacramento area. For more information, visit bretbarrie.com.