So you finally landed that first sales job you’ve been after for months. Your dreams of taking expensive steam baths and then wiping your sweat with hundred-dollar bills are about to come true, and everyone who’s ever made fun of you will regret it when they see you drive by them in your high-end sports car, preferably manufactured by one of the losing Axis powers from WW2.
But before you start looking for private islands to rent or exes to make jealous, there are some things you need to know. Sales isn’t for the faint-hearted, and it will chew you up and spit you out if you’re not careful. If you’re new to sales and want to survive, you need to know the following:
1. Pipeline, pipeline, pipeline!
You won’t survive unless you keep feeding a steady stream of new prospects into your pipeline. At first, you can strictly focus on prospecting, but once you have deals that you’re pitching, following up on, and closing, keeping your pipeline full becomes a much harder task that requires prioritization and discipline. Master the pipeline and you will master commission checks that are more than all of the checks you made waiting tables through college combined.
2. Most “be-backs” won’t be back
The first time a prospect tells you that they’re definitely call you back, you will believe them. The second time you might be a bit more skeptical. After the third or fourth time you’ll realize that most prospects don’t call or come back even if they say they will. Closing and follow-up is the name of the game. Don’t take it personal, but make sure you’re doing everything you can to close business. The “be-back bus” is a one-way trip.
3. You’re only as good as your last month/quarter
Yesterday’s news is used to wrap today’s fish. You might have killed it last month or last quarter, but in sales, all that matters is how you’re performing right now. It might sound harsh, but the pressure is always on, and this month’s (or quarter’s) numbers are what matters the most. Celebrate your successes, but not for long because it’s right back at it the next day.
4. Even keel
I used to work with a very high-performing sales rep whose main strength was how consistent he was. He was always either the top performer or the second-best, but it was month in, month out. His secret was how even-keeled he was, no matter how well or how poorly things were going. He said, “When things are great, don’t get too high, and when things are bad, don’t get too low.” Consistency is key. Coffee is also key.
5. Talk less
Perhaps the most consistent bit of sales advice across the spectrum is the importance of listening as opposed to talking. The smooth-talking salesperson is a myth. The best salespeople listen, and then provide solutions to their client’s problems. Listening by itself isn’t enough, you need to listen to understand, not just to let the customer talk. Take notes as you’re listening, and try to listen for the real problem they’re trying to solve.
6. Don’t count the chickens
A deal isn’t final until the paperwork is signed, the payment clears, and any rescission period has elapsed. It’s really hard not to think about how much money you’re going to make from your deals, but you need to make sure you’re focusing on getting them closed first and foremost, and not assuming any commitment is a done deal. You’ll learn very quickly just how much can go wrong between the time you sell a deal and the time you get paid on it.
7. Go for the close or go home
Going through the entire sales process and then not asking for the business is like driving to the gym, getting into your workout gear, and then taking a nap in the shower stall instead. You have to close if you want to succeed in sales. There are plenty of ways to close, and all of them can be learned very quickly. But what you need to do is wipe the fear of asking for the business out of your mind and learn how to go for it. The quicker you learn, the quicker you’ll become the salesperson you dreamt of becoming.