You're Falling Short. Now - What do You Do About It

By Colleen Francis

Only 20% of all sales people are top performers, which means that they regularly close at least half of their qualified prospects. At the other end of the spectrum, about 20% of the sales force are underperformers, brand new or on their way out. This means that the significant majority of sales people - roughly 60% - can be classified as simply average.

Now, average isn't terrible. An "average" sales rep will close about one in three qualified prospects. But if we look at those numbers another way, that means that an average rep also leaves around 70% of all potential business unclosed.

Now more than ever, none of us can afford to lose sales. So how do you find out where you are falling short, and what can you do to go from "simply average" to the top of your profession?

Identifying - and avoiding - the most common mistakes

I've found that there are four common mistakes average reps tend to make, which prevent them from realizing their full potential. In general, average reps:

1. Don't fully understand the role that their attitude plays in the sales cycle.
2. Use closing techniques that are out of date.
3. Don't accept objections as buying signals.
4. Don't ask questions - or don't ask the right questions.

Understanding where on this list you're falling short is the first step to knowing where - and how - you need to improve. It isn't easy. After all, none of us really wants to know our weakest points. But it's only by understanding our weaknesses that we can overcome them and, eventually, turn them into strengths.

After each major tournament, Tiger Woods takes a day off, and then goes back to his coach for improvement. In sales, we need to do the same thing. Take a few steps back. Take time to reflect and receive objective feedback on our skills. Use objective sales benchmarking tools like Upward Motion, Profiles International Myers Briggs or True Colours to understand where we can do better. Then work with someone we trust - a colleague, manager or coach - to help us to improve.

Mistake #1: Check your attitude at the door!
For today, let's begin by looking at the first mistake on our list, which I feel is also the most widespread oversight in the industry: attitude.

Almost without exception, reps with a positive attitude about themselves, their customers and their products build rapport and gain the trust of their clients more effectively, because they firmly believe in the value of what they are selling. Closing a sale is grounded in trust. No trust means no sales - it's as simple as that.

With that in mind, here are 4 essential things to remember about attitude:

1. Nobody can choose your attitude for you. If you're waiting for someone else to come along and motivate you, then you're letting your circumstances control your thoughts. Only you can motivate yourself to have a better attitude, and only with a better attitude will you be able to improve your circumstances. No matter what extraordinarily spectacular sales techniques you learn, they will fail every time if you don't believe in yourself, your products and your market. This is the only guarantee I will make to you. Ever.

2. Your attitude determines how others perceive you. How often have you thought someone had a bad attitude just by observing them? Whether we like it or not, over 90% of conversation is interpreted through non-verbal communication, including facial expressions, physiology, body language or positioning, and tone of voice. Because of this, your prospects are much more likely to react to what your body language is telling them than to what you actually have to say. We therefore need to ensure that our body language is communicating a positive attitude. Trust can be built or eroded in less than a minute based on non-verbal communication alone, so make sure your non-verbal communication conveys an attitude that is open, positive and confident.

3. The people around you are a direct mirror of your attitude. I am constantly amazed by individuals who consistently display a poor attitude, yet expect their family, co-workers, friends or employees to remain upbeat. Remember: who you are is who you attract. It's the law of magnetism.

4. Maintaining a good attitude is easier than regaining one that's lost. If you already have a good attitude, great! Do everything you can to maintain it. If on the other hand you're having difficulty expecting the best from yourself and others, don't give up. Just go back to principal #1, and remember - you choose your attitude. So you can change it.

Keeping your mind strong, and your attitude positive
Tennis great Chris Evert tells us: "The thing that separates good players from great players is mental attitude. It might only make a difference of 2-3 points over an entire match, but how you play those key points often makes the difference between winning and losing. If the mind is strong, you can do anything you want."

How can you keep your mind strong, and your mental attitude positive? Here are 4 exercises you can try every day to make sure your attitude is a winning attitude:

1. Associate only with people who leave you feeling more positive. You have complete control over who you spend your time with, so choose wisely, because being with positive people will improve your outlook and your attitude.

2. Change your physical behavior to change your attitude. The following exercise is something I learned from the master of human performance, Anthony Robbins. Take note of your physiology when you're feeling your best - when everything is going your way, and you're in a terrific mood. How do you walk? How loud is your voice? Do you gesture? Are you sitting or standing? Do you talk fast or slow, stand tall or slouch? Once you've made your list, carry it with you. Memorize it. Then, the next time you're in a negative mood and want to change your attitude, pull out your list and begin consciously to act the way you do when you're feeling great. It may feel unnatural at first, but in a short time you'll actually find yourself in a better mood. Truth be told, it's easier to act your way into a new sense of feeling, than it is to feel your way into new sense of acting.

3. Laugh, learn and take responsibility. When something bad happens, look for the good in it, and take full responsibility for the bad. Unfortunately, it's a rare sales person who's willing to own up to their mistakes, fix them and move on. But those sales people who aren't afraid to admit when they're wrong are also consistently among the top performers in their business. Customers don't have time for mistakes and blame. Being honest or "coming clean" makes you more trustworthy, and earns you something that's truly invaluable: a reputation for integrity. So the next time you make a mistake, ask yourself what you can learn from it. Then take that lesson and use it.

4. Train your mind for success by achieving a realizable goal every day. (See January's Newsletter article for more on Goal Setting - Plan & Go Ahead). Many people get into a rut of negativity because they feel they aren't making progress. If that sounds familiar, then try setting a small but achievable goal for yourself, every day. Write them down, and when you've achieved them, cross them off. Before too long you'll have a pattern of successful achievement that will help you develop a pattern of positive thinking.

See you next month, when we tackle "average sales mistake" #2: outdated closing techniques!

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Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions ( Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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