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Think a Lot

Copyright 2003, by Dave Kahle.

It's a difficult year for a lot of sales people. The world is changing rapidly, and every new headline seems to some how impact business in a significant way. The competition is more active, customers are more discriminating, and no body has enough time.

There was a time, just a few years ago, when it was easier. You could work hard for awhile, and then you could relax and enjoy the fruits of your labors. You'd reach a point where life became easy, your customers were buying from you consistently, and you had your job figured out.

That's no longer advisable. Pressures are growing on your company to reduce their costs and become more productive. The bottom line is this: You, personally, must become far more productive than you've ever been expected to be in the past. Today's performance, no matter how good, will not be sufficient tomorrow.

Easier said than done. How do you go about dramatically increasing your results? My suggestion: THINK A LOT.

I'm not suggesting that you spend your time day dreaming. Nor am I encouraging you to ponder the meaning of the universe, do a crossword puzzle or memorize the birth dates of all your relatives. All of those exercises would represent ways to think a lot, but they are not the kind of thinking I'm advocating.

Rather, I 'm encouraging you to invest your greatest single resource, your mind, in focusing your mental energy on specific portions of your job. That means thinking about certain things, thinking in certain ways, and doing a lot of that.

It's easy to do your job by mindlessly going through the motions. You see the customers with whom you are comfortable, quote the products they ask you about, grumble about the paperwork, and complain about price competition.

That's easy. Unfortunately, it's also a prescription for eventual failure. The world is changing too rapidly today to do your job "mindlessly." Your customers are changing, products and vendors are changing and adapting, and new competitors and technologies are springing up. If you go through your job mindlessly, you'll soon be outdated and ineffectual.

So, on one hand you have the need to improve your productivity to keep up with the pressures on your company, and, on the other, you have the temptation to get into a rut, and go about your job "mindlessly."

The most effective strategy to battle these double temptations is to "Think A Lot." What should you think about? Here are three of the most important things.

    Think about your customers.

    Ask yourself a series of questions about your customers. As you develop the answers, write them down in your account folders, and repeat the process a few months later. Here are some questions to get you thinking:

      • What's changing for this customer?
      • What do they want to accomplish this year?
      • What can I do to help them meet their goals?
      • What is the competition doing in this account?
      • What progress have I made in the past few months?
      • What can I do now to increase my sales in this account?


    Thinking about these questions keeps you constantly close to the changing conditions in your accounts, keeps you insulated from the tendency to get "mindless," and provides you with a method to uncover lucrative opportunities within each account.

    Think about each sales call.

    Your face-to-face contact with your customer is the one part of your job that sets you apart from everyone else in your company. It is that aspect of what you do by which you bring value to your company.

    If you honestly think about it, you'll probably observe that everything else you do can be done by other people in your company. Someone else can accept orders, train end users, check on back-orders, etc. The only thing you do that no one else in your company does is call on your customers face-to-face. So, your eyeball-to-eyeball interactions with your customers are probably the most important part of your job.

    Yet, most observers estimate that the average salesperson spends only about 30% of his time face-to-face with his customers.

    Put those two facts together, and you have the sobering conclusion that you spend very little of your time doing that thing that is the most important aspect of your job.

    That being the case, doesn't it stand to reason that you ought to invest some time and energy planning for those rare moments when you're face-to-face with your customers?

    Ask yourself these questions, and think about the answers, before every sales call:

    • What do I want to accomplish?
    • What forces are working on my customer that may influence his behavior today?
    • What value am I bringing him today?
    • Exactly what am I going to ask, say, or communicate?
    • What can I do to understand him better?
    • What can I do to deepen the relationship?
    Going through this disciplined approach to "thinking about your sales calls" will be the single most effective thing you can do to improve your productivity

    Think about continuously improving yourself.

    First, commit yourself to the challenge of continuous improvement. Be discontent with the level of proficiency you have obtained. Be discontent with your results. Think about everything you do and examine ways to improve and wring more value out of it.

    Challenge and question everything you do. Is this the best way to write up a quote? Should you be visiting this account, or would the other one hold more potential? Should you really be spending your time promoting this product, or is another one more important? Should you really be lunching with this customer or should you invest that time in another? Is this the best way to file your old quotes, keep track of customer contacts, and file product literature?

    It was during one of these introspective "continuous improvement" thinking sessions, that I developed one of the strategies that proved most effective for me. Early in my tenure as a distribution salesperson, my manager told me that most salespeople don't make it a point to present a product or product line at each sales call. So he encouraged me to always have a product or product line to present on every sales call. I thought he knew more than I did, so I followed his advice.

    And then the thought occurred to me, as I was questioning everything that I did, that if it was a good idea to present one product, it may be twice as good an idea to offer two or more. By doing so, I could multiply the number of sales presentations I made in roughly the same amount of face-to-face sales time. It was a way of improving the quality of my sales time by increasing the quantity of sales presentations. From then on, I made it a point to have several items or products to present on every sales call, and dramatically improved my results. That's just one example.

    Got the idea? Never rest. Be discontent with every aspect of your job in order to provide the stimulation to improve on it. Question everything. Think a lot. It'll be your key to continuous, life-long improvement.


    Dave Kahle offers a variety of resources that can help your business stay competitive in changing times. To learn you can reach Dave by phone at 800-331-1287 or send him an email request.

    Transforming Your Sales Force for the 21st Century
    Transforming Your Sales Force for the 21st Century
    Buy it now!
    Only $69





    Distribution companies, by their nature, should be sales-oriented companies. But, most distributors don't do sales very well. That's the premise behind this new book.

    The book, written for sales managers and executives in the distribution industry, provides a blue print for executives to transform their sales forces into highly directable, effective, focused performers.

    The book begins with an analysis of current conditions that pressure the distributor to revise the way he/she thinks about his sales force. Kahle then paints a picture of the distributor sales force of the future. The sales force will be:
    1. more specialized
    2. more directable
    3. more flexible
    4. more professional
    5. more productive.
    His advice begins with "See it as a system," a concept that is based on one of the key principles for the book, "When you change the structure, you change the behavior of the people who work within that structure."
 
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