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The First Step to Becoming an Effective Salesperson

Salespeople tend to love to be out and about, networking, problem solving and securing deals.  An affinity for constant activity is part of what makes a good salesperson.  Unfortunately, it can also be a hindrance to our ability to sell because we fail to take the time to sit down and be really specific with what it is we want to sell, who exactly we are selling to, and how to best execute the sales process.  Do yourself the favor of putting thought and planning into everything you do.  It will make you smarter, faster and a more effective sales person.

If you were going on a trip, for example, you would do a fair amount of research on the place you were visiting.  You would want to know what the best hotels were, what sights you should see, what the weather was going to be like, maybe even researching the language and history of the place.  The more information you could get, the easier and more enjoyable your trip would be.

The same applies to selling.  The more information you have, the more effective your sales plan will be.  Even if your company provides you with background basics, you will greatly benefit from creating your own system of collecting, storing and utilizing information.

The Process of Collecting Information

You can create and maintain your own system of information gathering in a few very simple but specific steps.

1.  Think of the different categories of information you want and make a list.

2.  Within each category, get more specific and list all the pieces of information you would like to have.

3.  Create a system for finding all that information.

4.  Store it.

5.  Use it.

One: Categorizing

Think of the different categories you could use to organize your information.  What kind of information is going to help you be most effective with your customers?  For example, you might want to have different categories for customers, competitors and the products or services you sell.

Two: Getting more specific

Do this step for each category.  Begin with your customers and prospects.  Think about everything you would like to know about them.  Start with the most basic elements about the account, such as numbers and information on their past and current usage of your product or service, approaching deadlines or upcoming contracts, or information on what other products they are using and where they are buying from.  Although this is all very basic information, what is going to make the difference is creating a specific process for collecting and storing it all.

You’ll give yourself the competitive edge if you can gather good quantitative marketing information about your customers and prospects.  For example, what is the account’s potential? What kind of equipment do they use and what year is it?  Who is the manufacturer?  If you develop a good system for cataloguing all the information you are collecting so that it is readily available at all times and easy to update, your sales plan will become infinitely more effective and efficient.

Three: Creating a System

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to create an Account Profile Form.  An Account Profile Form is a basic form with all the questions you need to answer about each of your accounts.  The questions stay the same for each account.  The answers are what change, and ultimately the more important part.  Derive your questions from the specific pieces of information you wanted to obtain in step two.

You should also then create Personal Profile Forms for the main players and decision makers within each account.  This way you’ll never have to worry about remembering their spouse’s name, their favorite baseball team, where they grew up, etc.

Be disciplined about keeping these forms up to date.  The information is useless if it is old and therefore no longer applicable.  Make a few notes about every meeting or conversation you have with a customer or prospect.  Did you learn anything new about them?  What was discussed?  What is your goal for the next time you meet?

A fair salesperson probably already does this in their head to some extent.  However, by putting the information in a concrete form that is easily accessible makes you more efficient, accurate, and therefore a much better salesperson.  As with becoming a master at anything, discipline is one of the things that will make you truly great.

Four: Storing

By now you should have amassed a great wealth of information, but if you can’t find it easily, its not going to do you any good.  Use a system that works best for you, whether it be a filing system on your computer or an alphabetized folder system in your desk.  Keep it all in one place, keep it updated and keep it organized.

Five: Making Good Use of Your System

Look through your information before every sales call.  After the call, make any necessary changes.  Having this information readily accessible is going to help you make better and faster decisions about your sales plan, be more specific with your goals and therefore enhance your performance as a salesperson.

Gathering Information About Your Competitors.

One of the most important aspects of your business is actually your competitors.  To win the game, you have to know the team you are playing against.  Ignoring what your competitors are doing is setting yourself up to be blindsided.  Don’t make this mistake.

Start by gathering pieces of information, no matter how small they seem to be.  Talk to your customers.  Talk to other sales people.  Be aware of what your competitors are offering their customers.  If you loose and account, learn from it.  See if you can find out why you were dropped.  Was it merely a price factor or was is something else?

Keep a file on your competitors and store any information you find there.  The bits and pieces may not make sense by themselves, but when you put them together you might start to see the bigger picture.  You’ll find you have a lot to learn from your competitors.

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