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What stops salespeople from moving forward?

John Graham

No matter what we sell, there are times when the brakes are on. Something is holding us back, keeping us from moving forward.

Then, we feel even worse when hearing about someone who gets ahead by overcoming unspeakable adversity. “You can do it. Just change your thinking.” It sounds easy and most of us have tried it dozens of times. And it works — for about five minutes.

As most salespeople know, moving forward is tough, but changing our behavior can help knock down obstacles. Here are eight ideas to get the wheels moving in the right direction:

1. Get over easy. Next to free, easy has earned a permanent place in the operation of every business — when placing orders, answering inquiries, handling complaints, simplifying procedures, and cutting out what’s complicated.

But easy can also be an enemy.

Instead of taking time to cultivate and engage prospects, just grab the phone and make phone calls — that go nowhere. That’s easy. “I’ll take care of it tomorrow,” we say. That’s easy, too. So is ignoring details and deadlines. Ignoring promises is easy. Not getting back to people quickly is easy, too. Taking it easy has its reward; it leads to a dead end.

2. Turn off the autopilot. Perhaps the biggest temptation in business is to get to the point where we know the routines, the expectations, the nuances, and the people so that we don’t need to think.

As one 40-year-old male said, “I know my job.” You can call this getting through the day on autopilot — avoiding change, ignoring challenges, and never putting ourselves to the test. We’re efficient, predictable, and we do our job. And without even knowing it, we paint a clear picture of ourselves for everyone to see — one that stops us from moving forward.

3. Develop doubt. Sales gurus say it takes a strong dose of self-confidence to succeed in sales. While self-assurance is necessary, it may also send a message to customers that a salesperson is arrogant.

What’s needed is a balance so we can clearly understand what’s going on with customers. Doubt does that by keeping us sharp, alert, and always on our toes. How many times do we say, “I should really have picked up on that issue,” or “I wish I thought of that,” or “What could I have done to improve the proposal?” That takes digging down and asking questions. It takes doubt.

4. Avoid self-inflation. In a word, overestimating our competence is both common and dangerous. It’s so easy to push aside or ignore anything that makes us uncomfortable about ourselves.

That’s why we are shocked when passed over for an expected promotion, upset when we thought we aced the interview, or find it hard to believe the participants gave us a low rating on yesterday’s presentation, the one we were sure went great. Although “enhancing” a resume may seem dishonest, many of those who do it believe they were telling the truth.

In fact, most of us have a hard time seeing ourselves as we are, which may be close to impossible. That’s why getting an objective opinion is critical in becoming the people and workers we want to be.

• See also: 7 actions to help you end the year on a high note

5. Stop winging it. Bluntly, when we didn’t take the time to prepare and are winging it. And it’s what they remember about us. Simply put, winging it is dangerous to one’s career health.

Instead of winging it, it’s much better to be a winner. Even if there’s only a few minutes to write a memo, an important email, or plan a presentation, it can be done. There’s no need to get nervous and anxious and make a mess of it.

6. Never say no. When opportunities come up or you see the possibility of taking on a project or responsibility, never say no. Most of us would like to say yes, but venturing into the new and unknown holds us back. “I’d like to but I’m too busy right now,” we say.

So much for excuses. If you want to move ahead, put yourself on the line and say yes. Then, come up with a plan and figure out how to do it. You’re not alone; there’s always help.

7. Ditch the dated. No question about it, experience has value. It helps in spotting problems, seeing possibilities others miss, and avoids making “beginner’s mistakes.”

Even so, there’s another side to experience. We can give it too much weight. When we do, our skillsets and knowledge base fall behind. That’s when we convince ourselves that our experience makes up for it.

It doesn’t work. Change is so swift, it’s easy to become “dated.” To stay current takes a consistent effort. Moving forward takes a combination of both experience and present knowledge.

8. Listen closely. Jeff Short is a listener. And it’s one reason why he’s the successful VP of Sales at K&W Tire, a wholesaler, based in Lancaster, Pa. He wants to know what his sales team says about the competition.

But Jeff doesn’t just listen — he listens for patterns. “You nibble a big enough piece of somebody else’s pie and you have to be ready when they come back after you,” he says. “Sometimes ‘price’ is a big factor but many times it’s way down the list. Lots of little buying signals jump out at me… years of listening closely.”

In sales, there’s nothing as valuable as gathering and putting together pieces of intel, making the connections, and discovering the patterns.

While a positive mental attitude is always good, it takes something more to propel salespeople forward. It takes the right actions.

• See also: 7 actions to help you end the year on a high note

John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategist-consultant and business writer. He publishes a free monthly eBulletin, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales Ideas.” Contact him at[email protected], 617-774-9759 or johnrgraham.com.



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