Friday, January 17, 2014

Exclusive Confessions of a Sales Professional


Most would be impressed with the extensive rejection I received at the start of my career. I took it personally.  I didn't know any other way.

The rejection began to take a significant toll on my sales efforts:
  • I became afraid to approach new clients
  • I avoided interactions with existing clients
  • My sales accounts were mostly handed to me
  • I only spent time with clients I was comfortable with
  • I was saddened by my poor performance
You could describe my sales strategy as aggressively waiting by the phone.

I was always very successful in previous positions as an engineer and as a team leader.  I approached selling with the same techniques that brought me so much success.  I read the conventional wisdom, implemented these strategies and planned to move forward with the winners.
I was absolutely baffled that my efforts to win new accounts resulted in so much rejection. 

Conventional wisdom

Most of the literature I read regarding sales strategies and dealing with rejection suggests a form of the following:
  • Do not give up, persistence will pay off
  • Ask questions and uncover hidden hurdles
  • Rejection is simply qualification
  • Accept rejection as part of the profession

The unfortunate truth

Let's take an experienced based or practical view at rejection.  A quick discussion with most seasoned sales professionals reveals the following:

Being rejected means that what you are offering is simply not able to provide value for the client. Further attempts will most often result in dropped communication.
  • Most times you will not have the opportunity to ask questions after rejection.  If you push, the client will become defensive or annoyed.  They are busy and simply wish to return to work.
  • Long term, repeated rejection will take a toll on your selling attitude.     
  • Attempting to qualify a prospect with a meeting most often results in rejection.  It is also very poor use of time.  
  • Unfortunately, the conventional wisdom is often idealistic and superficial when put into practice.   

There is a light at the end of the tunnel

Review the accounts you've won and compare them with those you have not.  You will see basic patterns and milestones that were reached before your clients trusted enough to buy. 

You will begin to see the buying process from your client's perspective and discover their reasons to buy.

Rejection tends to leave your vocabulary when utilizing a process. Rather than a view of rejection, you start to see that a customer is simply stuck at a certain milestone.

This applies very well to a list of clients.  You are then able to track what milestone many clients need to achieve in order to buy. When blessed with a new advantage or a meaningful referral, you will know which clients to approach immediately.  

This also applies well to business referrals. It is key to quickly realize a potential client is part way along your process.  This allows you to move them toward the next appropriate milestone rather than always starting from the beginning.

It is very important to continually review your process. It is rare that the process changes. Most often your skills at moving clients from milestone to milestone improve.

It is also paramount to realize that your process is not necessarily linear.  This freedom allows you to move to any appropriate milestone without fear that you missed one.

Do not let conventional wisdom dictate your process.  Do the work, review your wins and determine the process that works best for you.  It must be a personalized process since it is a person selling.

Please share one of your milestones in the comments below and I will as well.