My commission was 2 and half cents a sales

When I was 9 years old I started selling.My first sales role was selling the afternoon newspaper in Perth at the Royal Show.  Photo Paper boy

The Daily News cost 15c and I received a commission of 2 and half cents for every paper sold. In the first 2 weeks of my newspaper selling career I learnt a life time of sales lessons. I didn’t realise it at the time.

I learnt to appreciate that just because I was selling now; my prospects weren’t always all ready to buy. I learnt that some customers wanted a chat and that some customers wanted to ignore me. I learnt that you could create loyalty very quickly through being polite and courteous. I learnt that the only way to succeed in sales is to keep going.

I had to be patient yet I had to be persistent.  I quickly became hooked on selling. The bug had bitten me hard.

I haven’t looked back. I love selling. There’s a magic about selling that is hard to explain. I imagine the feeling is similar to how an artist feels as they put their fresh paint on to a blank canvas. Perhaps it’s how a singer feels as they craft a new line for a song.

If you’ve worked in sales for a while you will have your own thoughts on what’s required to succeed.

Here are 8 things that I’ve learnt so far from 37 years of working in sales:

1. Persistence will always triumph over talent

You can have all the shiny bells and whistles, the world’s best web site, the sharpest suit and more slick lines than Jordan Belfort (The Wolf on Wall St). However to really succeed in sales, like most things in life, you must hang in there.  You have to persist through the tough times. A career in sales is like a ride on a roller coaster. As Bono sang, “Some days are better than others”. If you can deal with the tough days, you’ll be successful. If you don’t like the ups and downs of selling, get a job in the library.

2. You need a lot of NRG!

You have to maintain high activity levels. You won’t survive being reactive, just waiting for prospects to turn up at your door.  You have to find a way of regularly being in contact with the people who potentially have a need for whatever it is that you are selling. Don’t be too pushy. It rarely works. Just because you are selling now, doesn’t mean that your prospect is ready to buy now. They might be ready in 18 months’ time.  If you are no longer selling in 18 months’ time then you won’t make the sale. Your competitor will. Don’t give up too soon if you want to be successful.

3. Sell something that you really believe in

It would be pretty hard to be a great tattoo artist if you didn’t have some ink on your own skin. Have you ever noticed how large the biceps are on the guys selling protein shakes in the nutrition shops?  If you can find something you really believe in, it will be much easier for you to sell it. The best sales people that I have worked with seem to have found something that inspires them. They are aligned with what it is they are selling. They have a high care factor. Customers feel they are in safe hands when they are with them.

4. Become a great listener

If you listen well, your prospects will reveal a lot about their needs. Everyone has a story to tell. Stop telling and you might just start selling, a lot more. To improve the way you listen, you can start immediately by asking better questions and nodding your head more when the customer is talking.

5. Be courageous

There is a time and a place in the sales process when you need to ask the customer for the order. If you don’t do this, you might lose the sale. Most sales people either avoid asking for the order altogether (fear of being rejected) or ask for it too early in the sales process. Both are huge errors that could cost you thousands of dollars every year.

6. Keep learning

If you don’t embrace change in sales, you’re finished. Change is a constant.  Customers keep changing how they buy.  Products and services are always evolving. When was the last time you reviewed or refined your approach to selling? Don’t allow yourself to get stale and stuck using techniques from the 1980’s. Athletes need to be working on their game all the time. If they aren’t improving each season, they don’t last.

7. Solve problems

The days of selling simple solutions are long gone. If customers want a simple purchase they can buy it online. For a sales person to succeed in 2014 they have to be creative. You have to keep working on your thinking skills and solve problems. Think creatively.

8. Expect to get lucky

Selling is like the dating game. You have to believe you will get lucky. Perhaps not every day, but you must believe that success in sales will come your way, soon. Lots of positive self-talk helps. B.Y.O.C.  Be your own cheerleader. Pay very close attention to the conversation you are having each day with yourself.

There are my 8 lessons from 37 years in the game. I didn’t realise it at the time, but each time I sold a newspaper back at the Perth Royal Show in 1976, I was receiving a lot more than 2 and half cents. I also didn’t appreciate at the time that each time a prospect decided not to accept my offer I was receiving a free introductory course into a career in sales. At the age of 9 I didn’t realise how lucky I was.

Posted in Sales; Tagged Sales, Finding great sales people; Posted by Steve Herzberg

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