One of the best Henny Youngman one-liners goes something like this: “I told the doctor I broke my leg in two places. He told me to quit going to those places.” If you’re just starting out in sales, you’re about to go to those places, you just don’t know it. Selling is not like other jobs. Let’s say, for example, you’re an accountant. You go to your job, you get everything 99.9% right every day, you succeed.
If you’re in sales and you close 3 in 10 sales, you may just be wildly successful! That means, however, 7 in 10 of those sales end in failure. Sure, sometimes the buyer decides not to do anything at all, but the sales landscape is littered with lost sales that should have been one if a seller just did this or that differently.
New sellers are going to take their lumps and make mistakes, but you might as well avoid the ones you can. Here are three tips:
1. Learn what selling really is. I told someone I know from high school that, basically, we at RAIN Group teach people how to sell. She said, “What’s so hard about it? All you have to do is…” and spent a few minutes talking about something or other. Don’t make assumptions that professional selling is this or that because your grandfather (like mine) sold appliances in the 60s, or you really killed it when you spent a summer working at the shoe store. If you think selling is ‘just about this or that’ you are in for a rude awakening.
For example, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research recently conducted a study of 731 major business-to-business purchases from buyers that represented $3.1 billion in purchasing power. We asked them to compare what the winners of their business did differently than the sellers who came in second place.
Turns out it wasn’t just about one thing or another. There was a rich mix of factors that influenced whether a buyer chose one provider over another, and whether they were inclined to buy from that seller again. Go here to find out the core of what we found, but under no circumstances think professional selling is easy or simple.
2. Sell with others. Go out of your way to sell with people who are very successful. This might mean tagging along for a needs discovery or early sales meeting with a pro, going to a networking event to see how a master relationship builder works at the event, or flying to a finalist presentation to see how the big guns bring the sale home.
Whatever it is, make sure you go out of you way to make this happen. Nobody is going to come down to your office and say, “Hey, do you want to tag along with me so you can get the experience and glean tips about what makes me really successful?” You have to be proactive.
3. Be brave. Selling can make you nervous, kill your mood, and derail your actions. Meetings with executives can be nerve-wracking, especially when you are early in your career or don’t have an MBA. Call reluctance is such a phenomena that psychology books have been written about it. I once was speaking with Mike Sheehan, now CEO of the Boston Globe, about prospecting. He said that whenever he ran into someone on his team avoiding it, he’d say, “What are you worried about, getting punched in in the nose?”
And when a buyer says, “No” or, “We’ll have to do it for less money,” many sellers tend to just wilt, tuck their tails between their legs, and go home. The best sellers don’t get rattled. They don’t let their emotions get in the way of their energy, activity, logic, and focus.
Fear of failure can be debilitating. Don’t let it get to you. Sure you might fail, but if you fail when selling, you started with nothing, and still have nothing. As Wayne Gretzky once said: you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
Instead, remember what Gandalf said to Frodo in the Fellowship of the Ring: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your front door. You step on the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” When you step out in the road, you might fail (though it’s unlikely you’ll get punched in the nose). If you don’t step out in the road and take some chances, however, you’ll never know what success you might have been swept off to.
This blog originally appeared on www.avention.com/blog
Mike Schultz is President of RAIN Group, a sales training and consulting firm, and Director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research. He helps companies around the world unleash the sales potential of their teams. Mike is bestselling author of Rainmaking Conversations and Insight Selling. He also writes for the RAIN Selling Blog.