Sniff out Sales Trouble

By John Graham

To improve your sales, use this troubleshooting list to pinpoint weak or problem areas, then design an aggressive strategy for correcting them while you continue your climb to the top.

1. Insufficient prospecting. You might have more fun presenting or closing, but aggressive prospecting is like a long-term success insurance policy: As long as you have plenty of prospects, you have plenty of chances to succeed. You can dislike prospecting, but don’t use your dislike as an excuse for not doing it. Commit to making a certain number of calls every day or week, and make cold calling fun by competing with other salespeople to see who can make more calls.

2. Inconsistent effort. No one feels ready to take on the world every day, but even when your motivation wanes, you must persevere. First, know what makes you slack off, then make a list of action steps to help you change. If you give less than 100 percent at the beginning of a quarter, for example, try inspiring yourself with a list of the problems you face when you have to scramble to make your quota later.

3. Lack of commitment. It’s easy to maintain your momentum when things go well, but you need commitment to save your sales when the road gets rough. First, make a conscious decision to do your best and achieve specific goals. Understand the setbacks that may tempt you to quit, and be prepared to face them so you’ll be less overwhelmed when you do. Remind yourself of the benefits of persistence and the costs of giving up.

4. Unfounded biases. Your beliefs and assumptions guide your actions, so they also help determine your success. Salespeople who prejudge prospects, for example, may lose out on sales to less promising looking buyers. The past doesn’t determine the future – the fact that you haven’t had much success with a certain market segment before doesn’t mean you never will. To uncover any prejudices that may harm your sales, question the motives and beliefs behind your current strategy and if necessary, redesign it based on hard fact.

5. Unrealistic expectations. As eager as you are to succeed, you might not reap the fruits of your labor overnight. It never hurts to dream big, just remember that success is a process. By setting short-term goals along with long-term ones, you’ll have a clearer picture of the effort involved. Remember the multiple failures of other famous achievers and expect to have a few of your own.