A systematic approach will help you build value for your services.

My sales results were awful when I first started working as a salesman at my own company.

Why was I a lousy salesperson? It was a direct result of my lack of sales training.

Looking back, I recall spending more of my time staring at my shoes when talking to a customer than establishing and maintaining eye contact. This is one of the biggest mistakes a salesperson can make because it destroys trust - and trust is what youmustestablish if you ever hope to sell something. People buy from people they trust.

Wait, it gets worse. I would ask a question and never pause long enough to actually let a potential customer answer. Validating the idea that you’ll listen to the answer is crucial when trying to establish trust.

You name the tenets of good sales habits and procedures and I either didn’t know them, didn’t possess them or just broke them.

Here are three more reasons why my sales stunk when I first started in the plumbing and heating business:

1.I was trying to make sales calls during the day when maybe one decision maker might be home. This also is known as trying to make a “one-legged sale.”

I was married. I wanted to get home to my wife, so I didn’t want to book sales calls at night. The problem was that I needed to rework my schedule to accommodate my customers’ schedules if I had any hope of making a worthy presentation after which they’d say yes. Even weekends were not on the table.

2.When I got too many people saying no to me, I went even faster with my sales pitch and spent less time with each customer. I wasn’t building value to what I was offering by explaining what our company did that made us better than our competition.

It’s counterintuitive but I felt I had to see more customers to get more of a shot of getting someone to buy something from me.

3.I was too busy flipping back and forth between running the few jobs I sold and trying to sell new jobs. No one was on the same page, so the few good sales I made were being blown up by my staff.

What changed me from a zero as a salesperson into a top seller at my company?

Good sales training to the rescue!

Training, learning, practicing

I attended many sales workshops, read a lot of sales books and listened to sales tapes. I ate them up. But the real difference came with practice. For the first time, I actually practiced my pitch over and over before I got in front of a customer to make a proposal.

All this sales training and practice taught me:

  • How to get my customers to value my time and still accommodate their schedules. I learned how to maximize my own workday. I did shift my schedule to put in two dedicated nights a week to do sales when all the people who would be involved in a buying decision were going to be home. And I added a half-day on Saturday, which expanded the effective use of time and maximized the impact of my sales presentation.

    One-legged sales became a thing of the past and sales increased.

  • How to keep a portion of my days free to run the existing jobs I had sold. I became better at planning and communicating with those on my staff that I entrusted to deliver the products and services I sold. This kept the fires to a minimum and my time was better spent.

    The only exception I made for running sales calls during a weekday was if I needed to address an emergency job.

    My rededication to proper sales techniques and strategies taught me to interview potential sales leads as much as they interviewed me. I created a script I call the One-Step Close that involved the use of a template for me to follow. It helped me get a better idea about what the prospect was seeking, what was important to him and to build affinity before I even arrived.

    The more I asked good questions and confirmed I was listening to clients by paraphrasing their answers (which I had written down), the more they seemed to like me. It’s true that we like those we trust. And we trust more if we feel we’re being listened to. Do this and you’re on your way to more quality sales.

    I also made a better effort to make sure I was getting in front of the right customers first. That meant homeowners who valued their time, comfort and care for their home as much, if not more than, their money. Good questions asked by our outbound CSRs during the preliminary screening made this a higher probability.

    I took control of scheduling in a new way that sought to serve potential customers’ schedules but still preserve my personal life. I was able to accomplish this by letting them know when I’d be in their neighborhoods and I’d confirm that all the decision makers would be there.

    When I began asking what time would be convenient for them, I saw quickly that I could be out working all weekend long unnecessarily. By sharing the evening and Saturday slots I had, I was able to be flexible but still maintain a life outside work. The offering of time slots actually made them value my time more.

    I learned to slow down and build value through a five-step sales process I always followed. It meant I would need each customer to commit to a two-hour time slot so I wouldn’t have to race between calls. The slower I went, the better my sales got - once I learned to approach sales in a systematic way.

    When I followed this process, I did get in front of the right customers. Surprisingly, my closing rate went up, as did the profit per sale.

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