Apr 24, 2003

Top 10 Signs Your Sales Career is Dying

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.

About the author

Carl Davidson is president of Sales & Management Solutions, Inc., a company that specializes in training, recruiting and consulting for the water equipment industry. For more than 20 years, 4,000 companies in seven counties have used its services to increase sales and profits.
To comment on this article or for more information, you can reach Carl at [email protected]; 800-941-0068; visit www.salesco.net