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Know What You Want

3 questions to answer that will help you make more money

The most effective salespeople (and those who ultimately make the most money) start every day with a very clear picture of what they are trying to do. Too many salespeople are very busy doing things that really do not get the results they want. The challenge is to have some sort of yardstick to measure your activities against. You do this by answering the three questions provided below:

  • What do I want to sell?
  • Who do I want to sell to?
  • What does a good order look like?

A lot of salespeople give an answer that looks like this: “I want to sell everything to everyone, and any order is a good order.” If this is your answer, it’s not taking you in the right direction.

What do I want to sell? The first thing you have to focus on is the difference between selling and taking orders. You can take an order for anything that the customer wants, but when you make calls, what do you want to sell? Which products have the best margins? Make it easier for you to sell companion products? Pay the most commission?

Now, armed with your answers, how many calls do you have scheduled to talk about the things you want to sell? Who do I want to sell to? Successful salespeople spend time with the customers who are key to the success of their territories. Who are the most important customers or prospects? Who can give you the most business? At the best margins? How often should you be there?

Now that you know where you should be spending your time, look at your schedule. How many calls have you recently done with these customers or prospects? How many are scheduled? Are you spending your time in the right places? What does a good order look like? You’ve heard that time is money. This is more true for a salesperson than any other profession. You “spend” time the same way you “spend” money. You either use it wisely or you waste it.

As a sales professional, your goal is to get the best possible return on your time. You know that it takes about the same amount of time to book a small order with a pain-in-the-rear customer as it does to book a good order with a good customer. So how much of your time is spent working on “good” orders?

To answer that question, you have to start with a definition of “good.” How big is a good order? (I am not asking about an average order, but a good one.) What is the margin? How many items are in a good order? And if you think about the two questions that were posed previously, it would be hard to have a good order without selling the product(s) you want to sell to the customers you want to sell to, right?

Review the pieces of business that you are working on now. How many of them meet your definition of a good order?

The important concept that you should take from this discussion is the need to be proactive. I have labeled this the Platinum Rule of Selling: Do unto others so that you get the results you want.

A lot of salespeople are not proactive. They have set up a route mentality where they visit the people they have always visited at the customers they have always called on, and talk about the things they have always talked about. Over time, this approach will produce diminished sales at reduced margins. Worse is the fact that you now allow others to control your destiny.

Remember that proactive and professional both begin with pro. You need to go to the field (or phone or counter) every day with the goal of accomplishing something specific. How much of Product A do you want to sell? How much do you want to sell to Customer B? How many good orders will you book today? These are the yardsticks that let you know at the end of the day whether you have been successful or not. (To put it one final cliché-way, do not confuse busy-ness with business).

And if you are a sales manager and you are reading this column, perhaps you should take a few minutes and answer the three questions presented above—in writing.

Then ask each member of your sales team to do the same. The results might be satisfying, gratifying, or they might scare you. Either way, at the end of the process, you will all be on the same page.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

Joe Ellers Meet the Author
Joe Ellers is director of Palmetto Associates in Clemson, South Carolina.

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