Sales sucks.

Put that out there for 100 salespeople and 50 will agree immediately. Buy a few rounds in the bar and you’ll get to Pareto’s 80% before you know it.  They might not use those words.  You might hear things like:

  • Sales requires a lot of psychological strength
  • Sales is tough
  • Sales is not for the feint of heart

…but however it is said, the message is the same, save an arguable level of nuance.

But why does sales suck, and what can you do about it?

Sales is tough, psychologically demanding and uncomfortable (i.e., it sucks) for the same reasons as it is uncomfortable to approach an unknown, desirable member of the opposite sex and attempt to generate some mutual romantic interest.  In both cases, you are subjected to the potential for rejection, embarrassment and even humiliation. Sales (and phone number acquisition) is an effort to negotiate without leverage. In most cases, the prospective “buyer” can live without what you have to sell, and in the case of sales, your living depends on getting them to buy it.

So focusing on sales, what can be done to minimize this inherent suckiness?  Three things:

1 – Practice
The old mantra of “practice makes perfect” has been replaced by the more accurate “practice makes permanent”.  Books like The Talent Code are good resources for understanding this distinction, but the action item is simple:

  • Understand what it is that you want to accomplish
  • Break it down into pieces, then
  • Practice the pieces until you are comfortable with them

The opening lines of a cold call, the first things you say to a person walking into your trade show booth, or the way you answer a common objection will be much easier if you have considered how best to this before hand, and have practiced the best approach before the first time you try to use it.

2 – Learn
To help you practice most effectively, learn.  Read books and blogs, listen to audio tapes, talk with your peers and your manager and attend seminars.  I am convinced that none of these things alone will help, but if you are doing the job of sales – or anything else you want to improve in – and simultaneously you are consuming information about how to do it better, then a great thing happens.  The stuff you consume fits into the context of what you are doing, and you keep some of the news ideas and throw some out; you try some things, and keep the ones that work, and sometimes, you find that one magic thing that is just right, and changes everything.  You may need to kiss a few frogs first, but the prince (or princess) just might be worth it!

3 – Observe
Your own efforts can provide a great source of feedback.  What is working, and what is not?  As you  work through the practice / learn cycle, observe what happens:

  • Which prospecting methods yield the best results?
  • Which objections keep coming up – and how can you minimize that in the future?
  • When the objections do come up, what is the most effective way to handle them?
  • When a deal goes right, what seems to have led up to that and how can you do more of that in the future?

The fastest path to failure is to decide that something sucks, and to do nothing about it.  Lots of things in life are hard.  If you want to succeed, you need to decide that this isn’t going to stop you.  Rather, you need to decide how to get past that, and onto the success that is waiting for you if you do.

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David