by Tom Mavrovic
Business Development, Hustler, Continuous Learner
Have you ever considered getting into sales? You’re good at meeting new people, have a knack for building relationships, and love a good challenge? Sure. Sales is the perfect fit. You already know everything that it involves, you’re good at it. Why not?
Well, I’ve thought that too. I knew everything, and I especially knew how to ask a question…..or so I thought.
I did everything right. It’s a numbers game. You call enough people, talk to enough decision makers, you’re bound to make a sale. They’re in the market for the service/product you provide, what else do they need? QUESTIONS. Well, yeah, but questions are easy. I ask somebody something every day!
Questions are a key role in sales, if not the most important part. But how hard can asking questions be? “I do that every day”, you might think to yourself. Well, it’s easy. Since of course you know everything.
I did. And it worked great….at first. I got the decision maker on the phone, asked a few easy/normal questions, got answers, but then what? Yeah, I was closing sales and getting some business, but I wanted more!
Questions are great, but are you asking the right questions? Are you asking questions to grow serious clients? And, are you reaching your full potential? There’s only one way to find out. Read, study, repeat; followed by, try, fail, and try again! Yes, certain questions may be asked on almost every call, but the key is to discover new ones that your prospect hasn’t been asked yet.
You need to make the prospect think. And this my friends, is one of the hardest, and most commonly missed steps.
Then things changed. I read a great book called “The Little Red Book of Selling” by Jeffrey Gitomer and it was almost like seeing daylight for the first time.
I don’t know what it was, the red coloring that drew me in, boredom on a Tuesday night, or simply that I wanted to close more sales and have a bigger pipeline. (I’m going to lean towards that last part.) I never thought I would need to continue studying for my career. That’s why I went to school, and most commonly, why people go to college!
You’ve dedicated almost 20 years of your life to learning and studying already – why should you have to keep studying even after you get into your career? This probably applies even if you didn’t go to school at all and you’re just a natural born go-getter and have a knack for success. You don’t want to get home from work and have to learn more about what you already know; why should you?
I’ll tell you why. Because even if you are already great at something, if you read a book or go to a seminar on a subject, you’re going to see it in a way that you haven’t before. That is of course unless you wrote the book! (Insert funny winking face.) When you read something or go to a class on a subject you already know, you pick up on things that have been right in front of your face, but in a different light.
For example, think about how you ask questions.
Now let’s try, “Ms. Smith, being that you’re a printing company, I bet you sure go through a lot of paper. Do you ever have issues with the coloring absorption, or frequent paper jams? Do your customers ever ask if you have more options, but at a more affordable rate without lacking quality? Tell me, what are YOUR major concerns, and what is most important to you when it comes to your printing? Are there any additional departments within your company that you have a hard time finding specific paper for?” Ok, now she has to THINK.
And remember, that is the most important part of asking a question. MAKE THE PROSPECT HAVE TO THINK.
Ask questions to find out what solutions you can provide. Solutions to problems that haven’t even been thought of until you asked the right question.
Now you might say to yourself, “Jeez Tom, where did you learn something so simple like that?” Well, I finally admitted to myself that I don’t know everything, I want to close more sales, and I want to live comfortably. I love my job, I’ve landed an awesome sales role, and now I think about how can I take my current successes and knowledge, and get even better?
I’ll tell you how – read, study, repeat; followed by, try, fail, and try again! Now I understand my paper example might not be the most applicable for everyone. I’m not a paper salesman myself, but you get the point. I would’ve never learned different questioning tactics if I had never admitted that yes, I can get better, and I do not know everything.
Before you start writing, you need an idea. You have your idea, and now you put your thoughts to paper (or computer). Now you don’t just start writing, keep going, and voila, it’s done. No, you start writing, take a moment to reread what you’ve come up with it, edit it, and repeat. This can go on for hours, sometimes even days.
All of that hard work – now what comes next? Well, typically you will have someone do your proofreading. No matter how good you are, you always want someone to proofread for you. You know the message you wanted to get across; you wrote it. Now you need to make sure that someone else who has no clue what you have written, can read it, and end with the message you wanted to provide. This can only be done by proofreading.
Now, unless you’re Stephen King, chances are, you’re going to need to do a little editing. Someone read it, now they can give you all of their insight. Typically your proofreader is someone who will give you the cold hard truth, and this is where constructive criticism comes into play.
You’ve dedicated hours to your writing, now you have someone telling you everything that could be better about it. For a lot of people, including myself, this is something I have a hard time with.
I already know how to write, I wrote it, I love it. What do you mean it needs improvements?
Now some individuals might just ignore the other person’s advice, and that’s completely fine. But, if you really want to better yourself, you need to open yourself up to criticism.
Criticism is not a bad thing. It’s just like reading a book on something you already know how to do.
As I mentioned above, reading a book on something you already know how to do helps you to see these things in a different light. Constructive criticism works the same way. When you read a paragraph that you wrote, you already know how you wanted it to come across. When someone else reads it, they can tell you what their takeaway was, and you’ll be able to determine what edits need done, and how you can better portray your message.
Constructive criticism can come in many forms, and yes, sometimes people are just criticizing you because they can. But if someone that you trust wants to give you their two cents, take it. You’ll be amazed at the new things you can discover.
Being able to take constructive criticism can help in many ways, including advancing in your career. If you’re someone who’s always ignored other people’s advice, just take a moment and think; your managers, VPs, and CEOs didn’t get to where they were by not improving themselves, and being open to others’ opinions.
When you call someone who has no idea who you are, it can be hard to keep them on the line. Most people, especially decision makers, have a good method of handling cold calls – hanging up.
This is why it is so more important to take the time and understand what actually goes into a cold call other than of course, picking up the phone and dialing.
Decision makers and gatekeepers get hundreds of cold calls a week, the only people that make it through are the people that create a game plan, know what questions they're going to ask, took constructive criticism, and honed in on their skill.
And yes, there will always be the lucky few that slip past without any of that, but don’t base your career around being lucky.
Cold calling is all about what questions you ask, what answers you provide, and what value can be taken away from you and/or your product or service. By taking the time to learn new approaches, opening yourself up to new advice, and practicing, you’ll be able to keep more gatekeepers/decision makers on the phone, and ultimately, build a bigger pipeline.
Bigger pipeline, equals more sales.
The next time you’re at the library, mindlessly playing around online, or just having a casual conversation with your boss, take a few moments to ask some questions, do some researching, or read a new sales book.
Even if you’re already great at cold calling, you can always get better. And knowing you can always get better, is such a crucial part of sales.
We could go on for days, and I could fill an entire book on the importance of continued education, but these are just a few examples of how always learning and improving can make you the best salesperson you can be.
Sure I knew a lot, and I’m sure you know a lot, too. But I sure as heck guarantee that even people who have been in sales for over 30 years know that they don’t know everything, and are constantly looking to improve.
And I’m not talking about the salespeople that just go to work and clock out, I’m talking about the salespeople that have been continuously grinding and filling their pipeline for 30 plus years.
Don’t be ashamed to admit that you don’t know everything. You’re good, maybe even great, but can always get better. And that goes for anything that you do in life.
Sales is one of those positions that is so crucial to always keep reading, taking classes, and exposing yourself to new ideas. Don’t be afraid to try new approaches, look at situations you’ve already been in, ask questions you already ask, but in a different way.
And the only route to finding these new ways and approaches is to understand - you don’t know everything.
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