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1. Make a business-oriented portal your home page. Set aside twenty minutes each morning to scan the news about your top three customers, clients, or prospects and their top three customers, suppliers and competitors, including current stock quotes and financial information.
2. Read the 10-Qs and 10-Ks of your most important customers and their most troublesome competitors. Focus on financial measurements and business strategy, then base your discussions with executives and senior managers on these.
3. Over a two-month period, ask several trusted friends, partners, colleagues, or mentors to give you their objective and candid observations on your behaviors and other professional issues. You have to be willing to hear the truth and to make necessary adjustments in the way you see things.
4. For professional growth, escape your "comfort zone." Try the following:
5. Make self-education a habit. Regularly read the following:
6. If you're approaching a new prospect but have not been referred by someone the decision maker trusts, you'll have to earn mindshare with that executive. Make yourself the indispensable broker of information, insight, and expert resources-beyond what the executive can get online, beyond what his company can provide, beyond what your competitor can deliver.
7. If you're preparing to call on an executive, have enough information, insight, and opinion to be able to talk about her world for fifteen minutes longer than the time scheduled for the meeting. If you do this, you will never fear running out of something valuable to say.
8. Realize that e-mail and voice mail are not direct communication. They're more like slipping a note under someone's door. Such one-way communications will keep you from developing the person-to-person relationships you need to be a sales winner. Push out of your comfort zone; strive for person-to-person communication whenever possible.
9. To improve your oral communication skills, join Toastmasters International. Even professional speakers routinely praise that organization and the improvement its members enjoy.
10. Take the perspective of a businessperson. Ask yourself one question: "If I were an executive in my prospect's company-responsible for large sums of money and hundreds or thousands of jobs and careers, knowing what I know about that business and that industry and the competition-would I be persuaded by someone like me?"
11. Consider joining the Strategic Account Management Association, whose conferences, journals and studies provide information and insight on trends, issues and best practices in strategic and global account management.
12. Find someone who exhibits the behavior you want to emulate. If it's someone who's approachable and available to you, consider asking him or her to mentor you through personal or professional changes in that area.
13. Make sure you understand how financial statements represent a company's financial position and how that company compares with others in its market. If you can't read and interpret an income statement, cash flow statement, or balance sheet, learn to do so right away. There are no shortcuts.
14. Sell in the Well. There are four basic approaches to becoming knowledgeable about prospective buyers. "Puddle" sellers know very little about very few industries. "Bayou" sellers know a little bit about a lot of industries. "Ocean sellers" are generalists, believing that they can sell to everyone. You should concentrate your attentions on the "well," where your selling effort, like your knowledge, is deep, narrow, focused and bubbling with certainty.
15. Become an expert in your industry. Immerse yourself. Read all you can. Join the associations and become an active, contributing member. Regularly check web sites that specialize in providing information by industry. Visit www.HowWinnersSell.com. Talk to all your clients and customers about their current and future challenges and opportunities. Read industry analysts' reports. Compare and contrast the main competitors in that industry. Gather enough information to make a prediction (perhaps you should keep the first one to yourself.) Watch the stock prices. Read press releases of the key players. See where they are going and how they intend to get there. Understand what issues they're addressing. Live in that world.
16. Get into a competitive state of mind. Since you have competed and will again compete against sales reps with different ethics, decide in advance what you will and will not do. This frees you to be creative, to focus on winning-and to fight fairly but hard.
17. Go outside your areas of familiarity and observe how people, countries, companies and teams compete. If you watch football, flip to a Sunday morning talk show and see how liberals and conservatives square off against each other. If you're a student of domestic politics, try following the news about a dispute between two nations. This will help you gain a broader insight into the nature of competition.
Dave Stein, after 25 years in sales leadership positions and delivering his own sales training and consulting worldwide, founded ES Research Inc. ESR offers independent, authoritative advice on Sales Training and Consulting and the Companies that provide it through weekly briefs, in-depth reports, online seminars and advisory services. For more information go to www.ESResearch.com or call 508.313.9585
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