Before you go grab the latest and greatest sales book, understand you already have most of what you need to be successful at sales. You’ll learn a ton through experimental trial and error but I think a few suggestions below can get you started on an easier path as well.
In my opinion, I believe there are a lot of things early on that make sales hard for newer folks that don’t have to.
Too much information – product knowledge, value statements, sales playbooks and frameworks
Too much bad direction – poor training, unproven sales templates, bad call scripts
Bruised confidence – Overwhelming expectations, high activity metrics, poor personality fit in the role
There are good intentions behind all of these, especially from organizations facilitating these practices, but oftentimes it comes in the form of misguided or misinterpreted information and that can cause a lot of uncertainty and anxiety for reps, especially new to the game. Now, throw in all of the sales books out there that sales reps are suggested as they start down this path. A lot of this information and the strategies or practices are outdated and what has worked for some that wrote the books may not work for all using its teachings.
I personally believe there are other things you can do first to help you get on your way and be a more well-rounded sales professional.
Learn How To Write
Most sales are done through phone or email so those are the two powerhouses, to begin with. This is not about “sales tactics” or anything like that. This is about proper grammar, word usage, paragraph length, bullet points, and all other things around professional writing. It’s vital because you will write thousands of emails and other documents in your career. Learn how to write in a clearer form and this will help when you start slipping in your sales language. Also, it translates well into your spoken word.
My Suggestion: First, I’d take a few writing courses online for free or jump on YouTube and type in How To Write Better. It also doesn’t hurt to download the Grammarly plugin for Chrome as this will help instantly as you begin to type. Next, I’d look at the emails you write to people and which ones tend to get the most positive responses. Remember, the tone is very tough to pick up in an email so how you write can be taken in multiple ways if not structured correctly. That’s why I say positive responses. Also, emails tend to grab your attention from people. Are they short, bulleted, bolded, etc? Chances are, if they catch your eye then they probably will to your future clients as well.
Learn How To Listen
Listening is hard and can be much harder when you are trying to think about the next question to ask without paying attention to someone. Stop that. You’ll have plenty of time to ask questions and a gentle pause isn’t so bad. Being able to dissect a conversation and pick up the undertones of the language as well as the social awareness piece all at once is a masterful skill to have.
My Suggestion: There are a lot of ways to do this and it could be as simple as turning on a Podcast to try and observe the conversation or you might call a friend or family member and interview them. Try to catch yourself when you lose focus and attention as well as when you start to think ahead too much and forget to stay present in the discussion. It can be much easier to lose focus over the phone without someone watching you being visibly distracted so keep an eye on this.
Learn How To Learn
When was the last time you actually learned something new that you knew nothing about the topic beforehand? It’s a No for most people, too. However, the great thing is you can start today. Pick something you are curious about and learn about it. For instance, during my Dozen Months of Discovery, I learned Spanish for a whole month. My sessions with the tutor were really difficult especially the first few days but it got me attentive and feeling like a beginner learner again. You may even sign up to do a demo of a product you are interested in. Whatever gets you into the mindset of knowing nothing and then having to take in information for the first time.
My Suggestion: When you are demoing a product, think of the person on the other end that has no idea what your product does, how it could help them, or is able to visualize use cases to help a problem they might not even know they have. You have to do a great job of communicating properly and simply and your messaging has to help them come along for the ride otherwise you’ll lose them. By going through this prior, you’ll be able to anticipate the challenges the future client might have during the call and it will help you navigate better. (i.e- Slowing down, fewer mouse clicks, reiterating key points, pausing to ask questions and get clarity, etc.
Learn How To Get Uncomfortable
The best sales reps and leaders I’ve been around have taught me how important it is to “own the room” in any conversation. Sales conversations can get uncomfortable really quickly. You need to be confident in yourself and believe that the product can truly help the client to solve a problem they have. This is tough when you are new to sales because you get nervous or timid or fearful or (insert appropriate word here). Heck, even I have these feelings every now and then and I’ve been doing this for a dozen years.
My suggestion: Figure out how to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Put yourself into situations when you get really nervous or anxious and try to navigate yourself through that process. Even if it’s a big struggle, you’ve grown a bit and it will help you on the next try. This could be as simple as asking a person out on a date randomly that you see out somewhere, taking an Improv class, or signing up for a Public Speaking course. Many of these options cost minimal dollars and the experience gained is priceless.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to deliberate skill practice and the beauty of all of these is that whether you choose to remain in sales or not, these are very transferable in almost any other career you go into.
So, think a bit differently as you look at a sales role. This can be valuable for anyone doing sales especially entrepreneurs or company founders and, yes, even seasoned sales professionals. You should always be looking to refine your skills and improve your communication and I hope some of this guidance will be a big help in your life.
Please feel free to reach out with any questions and I’m happy to be a resource.
It’s 2020 and the Dozen Months of Discovery have begun!
Part of the premise of the Just Get Started Podcast is to get out of your comfort zone and try to accomplish things far greater than you ever imagined. Whether it is changing your eating habits, a better fitness routine, starting a business, etc. At the micro-level, everything you do has to be “started” at some point but are we truly pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones as much as possible and learning new skills or knowledge that can become valuable. Or, maybe it doesn’t become something valuable but you can say you tried it because it was interesting at the time. That’s okay, too.
That, my friends, is the whole premise of the Dozen Months of Discovery.
12 months to have 12 new challenges or adventures. This could be anything from committing to a workout plan one month to learning how to play the piano another, learning a language, or detoxing from Social Media. Whatever it is you have to invest time into it and you have to practice but more than that you must create a different mindset and the focus on accomplishing the challenge must be present every day. We (and I certainly mean me) say over and over “I wish I could do….” Or “I wish I tried….”. As the old saying goes, “You can wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which one gets filled up first”.
Stop wishing. Why not go out and do it? I know your answer. I don’t have time. It may actually take less than you think. Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote that you need about 10,000 hours to master a skill. But I’m not asking you to master a skill, I’m asking you to try and learn something new whether it be a new skill or just challenge yourself to stick to something for an extended period of time. So, how long would that take to try?
Well, someone already did that research for me and his name is Josh Kaufman. Now, Josh did a phenomenal Ted talk about this topic and, in short, concluded that to learn and be good at a new skill it would take about 20 hours. I highly recommend you watch the entire Ted Talk here –How to Learn Anything in 20 Hours – as it provides a lot more context.
Also, Podcast Guest (Episode 76) Scott Young and his book “Ultralearning” is a fantastic guidebook of some useful techniques and stories to speed up your learning and actually make it sticky.
So, the question I posed to myself a little while back and will pose to you right now is…How far did you advance yourself this past year? How much more could you have done that would have led to increased skill development, more fulfillment or joy in your life, new doors being open…all of it….How far did you push that needle?
Get out of your comfort zone and try to make the next year your best year even. You certainly won’t get there by doing the same thing you are doing now. You must broaden your horizons and I think this is one way to do it.
So here’s the challenge.
Pick 12 new skills/challenges/topics you think would be cool or interesting or maybe something you always wanted to learn. If you can’t think of that many then ask your friends and family or post online and ask your larger community to throw out ideas.
Next, write them down and share with the world those 12 you are going to learn.
Here is my working list for 2020 (I may slip in something if I come across it during the year and swap out with one already on the list but that is still to be determined)
January – No Social Media for 30 Days
February – 1 Hour of Stretching / Mobility work every day
March – Learn Spanish
April – Learn the Ukelele
May – No Sugar (Less than 20g a day)
June – Conduct an Interview a Day
July – Plastic Free Month (Don’t use single-use plastics)
August – Learn Adobe Illustrator
September – Run a Mile a Day (With 20 LB Weight Vest)
October – Charity Month (Donate 30 Hours of my time)
November – No Complaining
December – Random Acts of Kindness Per Day
Finally, each month you need to pick a goal (if it is a learned skill) so you have something to reach for by the end of that month. If you don’t pick a goal you can’t conclude if you truly learned anything. Don’t make it too easy but I’d rather it be achievable than overly aggressive.
Now, start with the first one on the first day of the next month and do it. Learn by taking classes locally, watching videos online, syncing up with a friend skilled in that craft, whatever. Invest around 20 hours that month and see what you can accomplish.
I’m starting this endeavor on January 1st, 2020. My first monthly challenge is to not launch one social media app (Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter) for the entire month. I’ll document each journey prior to starting and the week after I finish each month.
If you are down to join, let me know and we can hold each other accountable. If not, we’ll catch you for the next one and I’d love to hear what you are trying to do to challenge yourself and push beyond your comfort zone.
Let’s crush 2020!
Dozen Months of Discovery in 2020Brian Ondrako2021-03-19T10:41:55-04:00
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