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    Lessons from My 30 Years in Sales

    This time of year brings new resolutions that are often grounded in who we are not and what we want to change. They usually have little to do with our strengths (although they really should).

    Personally, I am not real big on new year’s resolutions, probably because I don’t have much of a track record for keeping them. So I thought I would play off my strengths and share a few things that have worked well for me over my 30 years of selling:

    • People buy from people they like.
      They may not tell you that they don’t like you; they just won’t buy from you. Being someone that people want to be around goes a long way in business – and life. Likeability can take you farther than most other attributes.
    • Telling isn’t selling.
      Listen more than anything else. Don’t just wait to talk. While it may not feel natural, it’s the best approach. This takes some discipline and I’m still challenged by this one myself.

    • Remove cliché value statements from your vocabulary.
      They don’t contribute to a meaningful conversation. Everybody is going to claim they have the best product, best price and best service. Focus on value and keep your eye on the gross profit margin. If a client is not giving you a fair profit, either you’re not delivering value or they don’t see it.

    • Don’t be afraid to ask for exactly what you want.
      Ask for the order. That’s far better than dropping an email to “touch base” (yes, that makes my list of phrases to avoid) or “I was just in the area.” Be direct with your intentions and you’ll finish 2015 with a better batting average – for sales or whatever your focus is at work.

    • Use “trial closes.”
      I call these “If I could…, would you…” statements. These thought-narrowing questions help move the sale – and most other decisions – forward. For example, “If we could install your new phone system by X, are you ready to move forward with your decision?” Or another good question is, “If you were to make a decision today, who would you select?” The answers to these questions will help identify how likely you are to get the sale.

    • Willingly face conflict.
      Yes, I said willingly. As a high performing company, we strive to attain a high recommendation rate from our customers. When we receive a “no recommend” on one of our customer surveys, I personally call them. I want to know why and what we can do to make it right. Conflict avoiders don’t make good sales professionals, or leaders.

    I’ve enjoyed my 30 years in the field working with clients and sales professionals. I find it interesting that many of those best practices are still fairly relevant today. People still buy from people they like, they still prefer listeners over talkers and clichés are always going to be time wasters. They don’t mind if you ask for their business, and if a problem arises, don’t avoid it. Make it a great 2015!