How to Be a Sales Valedictorian
Okay, let’s admit it. The teachers back in high school and college didn’t look at the mildly nerdy, hit the books, not go out on Friday night, straight A plus student and say, “I just KNOW you are going to grow up to be a top performing salesperson someday! You are way too good for medical or law school!” Nope. The perception was and may still be that the sale career path was reserved not for the smartest in the class, but more for the cool, extroverted, high-energy, talkative, popular Joe or Jane whose GPA typically hovered somewhere between C minus and missing class. And between all the parties and laughs, these students/socialites still managed to squeeze four years of college into five or six. Nice Work!
Now I don’t have any scientific proof that “smart” people are attracted to traditionally “respected” positions more than sales. And there is no way to tell if more overachieving B minus students than book worms end up in our noble profession. But it doesn’t matter. Because now that the As and Cs are all in the career world together, I have come to one conclusion. The Book Worms were onto something with this whole “learning/get as smart as possible” thing. And maybe there is something positive that comes from doing homework, scheduling time to learn, and combing the internet and social media for cutting edge information. And who would have thought that ASKING questions of others with the intention of learning could be even more fun than TELLING people all about you and your product. I mean, as cocky as we salespeople were before, can you imagine how much MORE confident we can be once we stuff a bunch of that “learning” stuff into our heads.
So today we are having a coming out party! We are going to shake our indifferent, apathetic, get by with as little studying as possible, career debilitating attitudes and become students once again. Only this time, we are NOT going to learn just enough to “get by.” Heck no! Class is in session and 2012 will be the year we head to the top of the class. The question is, are you ready to become your sales class Valedictorian? If so, here are some tips to doing it:
Know More Than the Competition
The first product your customer must “buy” is your knowledge of that product. You can have the greatest product or service in the world, but your product or service is only as good as the knowledge you have and the way you use it during a sales call. Besides Product Knowledge, top salespeople also need a healthy dose of Industry, and Competition Knowledge to be successful. This PIC knowledge is one of the 3 Ps in the PRECISE Selling Formula of Top Performers. When we say PIC knowledge, we are talking about PIC-ing apart your competition. It is one area that sales reps have complete control over, and yet average salespeople too often use excuses to justify why it is impossible to know everything. Many believe that they can get by with just enough to get by, but that is all they will do unless their knowledge is high-level. PRECISE Sales Reps don’t just get by…they blow by the competition. Knowing more than the next rep allows this to happen.
The smartest people in any business do NOT learn by accident. They make time in their schedule to get smart, which means if you want to be smarter than your competition, grab your smart phone or Ipad or open up Outlook and make a 30 to 60 minute appointment with brilliance each week and do NOT cancel. In other words, get up 30 minutes earlier on Monday and Tuesday, get into the office, and start studying. By this time next year your new found knowledge will make you a more valuable resource to your customers. And while your competition has to go searching for answers, you will be able to easily access them on that hard drive we call your brain.
You should be almost as good at waiting to see customers as you are at selling to customers. Unless you believe you know everything you need to know about your product or service, you should rarely find yourself just sitting and sighing. Being parked in the lobby or lounge waiting for your prospect to open the gates to OZ doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Waiting time is learning time, and it should be valued as much as selling time. It will be the waiting and learning moments that will separate you from your competitor when your customer is asking the tough question. While your competitor is saying, “I will follow up with that information.” You will be saying, “I will follow up on that order.”
Google It, Link It
So you have an appointment set up at Acme, huh? And they have five branches that buy tons of stuff, you say? Well Smarty, it’s time to get on that computer, go to Google and type in Acme, Pleasantville, MO (assuming that’s where they are). And don’t be surprised if you learn the names of every key decision-maker, exactly what procedures they do, if they have an electronic medical records system, and a bunch more. This information will prevent you from pulling out one of history’s lamest open ended sales questions, “So Mr. Schwartz, tell me a bit about your business.” Because the Sales Valedictorian doesn’t ask questions that tell the customer that they didn’t do their homework.
Linkedin is another super tool to gain intelligence. Find a decision-maker’s profile and they will often tell you what is most important to them. Match their key words with your solution and you now have something worth talking about.
Snoop Around Online
Want to know the latest promotions your competition is running? And how about the key features and benefits of their focus products. Simple! With a few clicks of the keyboard you will be on your way to the head of the class. Just go to your competitor’s website or Linkedin Profile and snoop around a bit. And after taking a few minutes to discover the key benefits they are pushing in the field, you will be able to craft a presentation that highlights your key differences. While the Valedictorian doesn’t like cheating, he understands that to keep his grade point average higher than the Salutatorian, he needs every edge.
So are you ready, Smarty? Good, because class is back in session. And like Harry Truman said: