12 Years of sales: This is what I know…

‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.’ Winston Churchill.

The once and still very famous quote is I find quite apt. No failure ever wholly defines you, and one success doesn’t mean it will continue to lead to others. A combination of varying factors at play drives you on an even keel. But even then you may experience periods of highs and extreme periods of lows. It is the very nature of the business beast.

No business is without it’s up and its downs. You ride the wave, create your path and learn and grow. Having worked in varying sales roles over the years and now utilising my experience in my current career path and extending it as part of my strategic planning. Listed below is what I know, and what I continue to use now. It’s relevant to any field in business not exclusively to sales:

1) Remember the small talk

Remember the small talk. It may seem like an odd point but actually it is probably one of the most important.

Being able to create casual conversation is vital in relationship building. It’s important to remember the small talk for each time you meet with a client. It enables you to build rapport, nurture and grow it. It puts you front of mind. Makes you stand out in a large crowd.

If it’s something you find tricky you can of course prepare in advance. Think of questions to ask and your likely responses. Decide on relevant conversational topics. Preparation will save you and in time it will enable a natural flow of conversation and one with ease.

2) Grow a thick skin

Growing a thick skin takes skill and the ability to detach yourself personally. Be personable but don’t allow critique to pierce through your protective under layer. That doesn’t mean not thinking and feeling but it means you wear your business hat and look at it objectively.

Use any negative situation as an opportunity to reflect and take the time to digest before you respond. If it’s consumer critique then see this as an opportunity to positively create resolution. Remember each move you make distinguishes your brand and your business.

An article by Social Media Today discusses the merits of using criticism to your brand advantage. Be truthful and transparent. ‘A recent survey found that 72% of businesses admitted that they were not as prepared as they needed to be to respond to social media criticism.

And if you don’t handle it in the right way, your business can become stained with a reputation of not giving a damn about its audience. In the age in which one disgruntled user has the power of thousands, it could trigger an avalanche of negative posts.’

3) Honesty is absolutely the best policy

Being honest with your clients is a must. If you make a mistake-own up to it. If you can’t deliver-renegotiate. Nothing is more damaging than broken empty promises. You won’t get repeat business and the business may go elsewhere if you don’t put it right and fast.

4) Communicate, communicate, communicate

This can be your saving grace. Keep in regular contact with clients and potential consumers. Strike the balance of course between being a pest yet don’t find yourself at the opposite end of the spectrum with a complete lack of contact.

For example, if appropriate for your business you might visit every few weeks. Maybe drop a call or email. Set face to face appointments in advance for every quarter if it makes sense to do so. More or less frequency may be needed dependent on the nature of your business or indeed if you have a particular project on, or problem that may need additional focus.

5) Set Goals and document them

Setting your own goals and documenting them is important and a driving motivational force. Holding yourself accountable is essential. It helps you to schedule your time. It lets you know when you need to achieve things by and helps you then work out how you’re going to get there.

 6) Be organised

Being a fan of lists- I like to list. Sticky notes, diaries, planners etc. Are all helpful in keeping you on track. The likes of Evernote can also be helpful in documenting your notes and sharing across devices. My tip is to make it memorable. I like to highlight and choose bright notepads.

Automate where appropriate. Use platforms that can schedule posts such as Hootsuite. Save time where time can be valuably spent elsewhere. You can’t be split in all directions. You can manage your time but automating will help to streamline and create efficiency.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t handle your social media platforms with a personal touch. But it means you can dip in and get more involved when your schedule allows.

7) It’ll never be out of date: Build relationships and rapport

It’ll never be out of date. Build relationships, network and curate rapport with clients. A technique for any field, but yet one that’ll ensure your survival. If you can succeed at this you keep the communication channels open.

If the communication channels are open you open yourself to conversations when things are good but also when they are bad. Meaning the opportunity to turn things around.

Don’t just rely on social media and emails. Pick up the phone, if you’re able to visit your clients-do. Keep yourself current and relevant. It makes it much harder for your client to slip away.

Communication creates opportunity.

8) Always be ready to listen

Whilst you and I may spend allot of our time communicating. Successful communicators, business people and leaders are able to listen. Listening effectively is an art form and skill. It can be acquired and isn’t natural for some. Click here to read this article on how you can brush up on actively and effectively listening.

9) Show your concern for your customers problems

Understand your customers problems. Show concern. Linking in nicely after listening it also is relevant in understanding your customers, what problems they face and how you might be able to solve them. Use this as a USP. A unique selling point.

If you can offer a resolution suggest it or if you can’t, be able to suggest how they might be able to overcome them by recommending another service. You again keep yourself front of mind. You show that you care and you can showcase your knowledge and expertise.

10) Make them remember the why they chose you

You, your business and brand are why your clients choose you. Make them remember why they chose you and should continue to do so throughout your relationship.

Never take it for granted or slack on the job. It gets noticed and will start people looking elsewhere. Keep on the ball.

If you missed the links in the piece, some additional reading:

1) The ultimate guide to small talk

2) How to deal with constructive criticism

3) Dealing with consumer critique on social media

4) Effective listening

In summary, the main points discussed in this article are:

1) Remember the small talk

2) Grow a thick skin

3) Be honest

4) Communicate

5) Set goals and document them

6) Be organised

7) It’ll never be out of date: Build relationships and rapport

8) Always listen

9) Show concern to your consumer problems and provide resolution

10) Remind your client why they chose you

Not an exhausted list by far or indeed a conclusive list. It’s a list of my learnings. Who’s learning is ever complete? I know mine certainly isn’t or is ever likely to be. What’s your learnt list so far? Looking back over your career path what would be the key learnings of your journey? Subject of course to change and growth as we all are.

One last and final tip-Ooze confidence even when you don’t feel it, be yourself, be professional and persevere.

What’s your list? 

You can get in contact and find me on LinkedIn Amber L Smith, on Twitter @SimplyamberLou. Send me an email me at ambersmith@simplyamberlou.com and visit my website.

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