All of nature has its cycles of birth, maturity and death. Just as spring becomes summer and finally turns to winter, so we salespeople have a cycle of growth and death. Luckily, we can, through hard work and ambition, stay at our peak for many years. Here are the top 10 signs I have noticed over the years that are warnings your productivity as a salesperson is waning. I put them before you, not to be critical, but in the hope that recognizing the early warning signs may help you stay on top of your game for years to come.
'I Close 90 Percent of the People I Demo.'
If you close a very high percentage of the people you demo, it means one of two things. First, it could mean you are one of the greatest closers of all time. More often, it means you have stopped prospecting. If you are selling only the people who call in and say something such as, "The softener we bought from your grandfather broke, can you bring out a new one?" then you are closing a very high percentage. Most people who prospect close about 33 percent. If you close a very high percentage it probably means you have stopped prospecting and that is the beginning of the end of your sales career.
'I Haven't Changed My Demo in Five Years.'
The market is changing, the product is changing and society is changing. If you are not evolving as well, you are on your way to becoming a dinosaur. Remember too that the demo works best when it is fun for you and the customer. Changing your demo keeps you fresh and interesting. Try adding new items to your demo every week or two. Keep the things that work and take out the things that don't.
'I Don't Have Time for New Articles.'
If your kit and conversation are based on old information, your demo isn't effective. Every day new articles come out about water, the environment and health. You and your customers will not be excited unless the information you are using is fresh, local and interesting. As a minimum, I suggest you carry the current edition of your state's guide to how much fish they recommend people eat, the current EPA report on your area (get it at www.epa.gov) and articles about your local area. These easily are obtained on the Internet at no cost with just a few minutes work. The next time a couple says they just aren't interested, remember that part of our job is to make them interested, not find them that way.
'My Company Really Is Slipping.'
Remember how excited you were about getting a position at your company? Ah, yes. It was love, and you had high hopes. If you feel now that your company is slipping, your career is almost over. The day we feel our company is run by fools who are making mistakes, our service department is all incompetents and our advertising stinks, it is time to resell ourselves or find a new job. You cannot sell if you really do not feel your company and products are the best there is.
'Same Old Valve, Same Old Resin.'
If you close 33 percent of the people you demonstrate to, 67 percent turn you down. After years of this kind of rejection, many of us start to lose sight of the great features the products we sell actually have. Try this test. Write out 10 great advantages your customers get from your products. Then write out 10 advantages they get from your company and 10 they get from dealing with you. If you have trouble doing this and using these advantages in your demo, your career is slipping.
'I Didn't Have a Chance. The Guy Was Over 60.'
Many of us start to believe that certain groups will not buy. Maybe it is people over 60 or engineers or people in a certain neighborhood or people who call during December. Once this trend sets in, it spreads to more and more groups until we have an excuse to blame everyone but ourselves for our failure to sell and even to prospect. Remember, when you started in this business you believed everyone would buy your products. Take an honest look at the groups you now believe will not buy. The greater the number of groups, the more your sales are slipping.
'It All Comes Down to Price.'
Once we convince ourselves that people buy for price and not value, our career is on a slippery slope. You see, we can always blame price--it is something we cannot control. We do, however, control the perception of value. Building value can overcome any price challenges. If you have started to believe you lose sales due to the price your competitors charge, you have dark lonely clouds on the horizon of your career.
'I Don't Want to Be Pushy'
"I do not push people. I tell them about it, and then I let them make up their mind." That sentiment means the eventual end of your career in selling. You see, when you truly believe in your company, product and yourself, you want your customers to make the right decision. Your customers want you to guide them to a correct decision or they would not call you. If you know they need it, you owe it to them to get the right product from the right company--that's you!
'They Will Buy Next Week.'
Many times at my seminars, a person will call out from the audience that they get all their customers on a second or third call. I realize that we all get some, but the more you let your mind focus on this fact, the more driving you do and the less selling you do. If you agree the purpose of a demonstration is to get the customer excited enough to buy, they will never be more ready than they are at the end of your demonstration. Believing they will buy in the future is just a way of feeling better about the fact that we did not get the sale.
'I Know More About This Equipment Than Anyone Else on Earth.'
Isn't it interesting that the more we know about water equipment, the less we sometimes sell? You used to sell just from excitement and belief in the product. Many of us get so hung up in the intricate knowledge of water and equipment it hurts our sales. Last week, I met a salesperson whose sales have fallen off lately. In our discussion, he told me what was bothering him. The thing that concerned him was so technical in nature and so far from what customers need to know that it was costing him sales--and lots of them. Be careful as you gain more knowledge. Tape your demo and listen to it. If you find yourself talking about things customers likely will not understand or even care about, you are going down a bad path. The day you start talking about the shape of the resin or which area of the country it came from instead of how soft their skin will be, you have started to sell your impressive knowledge of facts instead of equipment.
Watch for these warning signs and avoid them. Most can be solved by selling yourself every day on how great the products we sell and the companies we work with are. Get recharged, get enthused and your career will last as long as you can carry a kit.