Things I have learned in my first year as a salesman.
After at least 9 years of running operations in the freight forwarding industry I decided to take a full time position in sales within the same vertical. I did not give it much of a thought regardless the fact that I am kind of an introvert, as after all, who could better sell a service that someone who has spent all his professional life dealing with Airlines, Shipping lines, bulky stuff, angry customers, tricky truckers…. You name it. I could build solutions to customers knowing by heart what it was best for them. Well, it has not been that easy even with the knowledge I have about moving freight around. Selling is an art itself and there is way more than meet the eye when it comes to engaging customers and trying to persuade them to buy your product or service. I wanted to share a few things that I have learned so far. This article is not about (as some people would expect) how a guy became the best sales man in the country as I am not even the best sales man in my company yet (yes, you read that right, just yet) but I wanted to share this anyway as I am sure it might help other people who are considering jumping off the cliff and engaging in the art of selling just as I did.
- Your powerbase is a valuable asset:
By moving out of my comfort zone in operations to a much unknown zone in sales, I realized that I needed to (obviously) call those customers I had had the pleasure to support in the past and try to persuade them to move with me to my new company. I found out that it was not enough and that many of those customers were incapable of making that decision due to a variety of reasons. So, as I was running out of prospects I decided to knock on friends and family members’ doors and also started touching base and finding out what my old colleagues or class mates were up to nowadays. To my surprise some of them had positions in companies that were very close to my target. Up to this point, two of my dearest customers are a very close friend of mine and an old coworker I had in the early days. Go out there and let your friends, family, acquaintances, even old enemies know what you are doing right now. There might be a surprising network you might take advantage of.
2. Find a mentor:
So, I have moved to sales. Now what? I am not kidding; this was the first question that came to my mind. Although I had some ideas, I was not really sure where to start. After a couple of weeks of doing what was most obvious, calling my old customers, calling my friends and searching on data bases I decided I needed some sort of guidance on the many things that the selling process entails. Although I have great and very knowledgeable coworkers none of them would have the time to sit with me and guide me through the darn thing. So I went on line and started searching for information on this matter. I found many people with a wealth of experience in the field however most of them were Americans. I live in Colombia so I was doubtful that their methods could be applicable locally but for some reason I decided to ignore that fact and just started watching and reading their material. There are great guys out there, Cardone, Hopkins, Vaynerchuck, Kawasaki, Lopez, Worre, Burt all of them with a lot to tell about sales, marketing, coaching, business related matters. Whoever you choose make sure you completely dive in the Kool-Aid of their knowledge and most important pay especial attention to the things they have done right but even more to the things they have done wrong so you can stay away from that or at least you are able to recognize a difficult situation when it slaps you in the face.
3. Procrastination is the devil:
Yes, I know, there is nothing new about this, we all know that but in a sales position this could mean keeping your job or not. As I see it, the key to sales success (among other things of course which I will probably discuss in some other article) is your ability to fill up your pipeline as fast as you can. The “I don´t feel like cold calling today” or “I will follow up my quotation in 30 days” will simply not help your cause. Take my word on that, I have suffered it and still struggle to avoid it. You sent a quote today? Pick up the phone and call the customer right away or if you don´t want to be pushy call him in the afternoon but call him. More often than not you will realize that customers won´t consider this rude from your side as you are doing your job anyway. However if they get mad, well, that is part of the job too but you won’t stop because of that, will you?
4. Early bird gets the worm.
Living in a city with a traffic that is chaotic for the most part of the day you have to find ways to make the most out of your time. I never considered myself neither an early bird nor a night owl but given the circumstances I decided to get to office before the daily mayhem started. I start my day by 4:30 or 5:00 am and get to office normally by 6:30 am. That gives me some good hour and a half to write down my goals and tasks for the day, sort and filter phone numbers and people I am going to call during the day and check any pending tasks from the day before. Then I start cold calling, which truth be told, is one of the tasks I considered most annoying but by attacking the things I hate the most first I am seeing better results as prospects seem to be more open to a 2 minute chat with me in the morning rather than me calling them at 5:00 pm when everybody wants to call it a day. I don´t mean by the above that one should only prospect and call during morning hours but in my case I find the time window from 8:00 to 11:00 am the most productive one. Anyhow, prospecting, calling, selling and closing must be an anytime, anywhere approach one should interiorize. Having troubles being a morning person? Well, quit watching soap operas at night (they won´t teach you anything anyway) checking Facebook for the hundredth time and get your ass in bed earlier.
5. Frustration and tons of rejection are part of the deal:
It sounds tough but it is what it is. You will get a lot of those two in this business. Way more than you will get a “yes” you will get a “no” at least in the beginning. It is all part of the process. There will be some days where you will wake up hating it and not willing to take it. Been there, done that and still feeling it but you need to keep going. It is ok to faint one day but next day you need to wake up, get your butt off bed and hit the pavement or kill it in the phone and get back on track until you learn how to deal with it on a daily basis or you simple don´t give a rat´s ass about it.
I truly hope you find the above interesting and of help for yourself. If you don´t that is fine. That is also part of the process, isn´t?. If you have some advise for me it is more than welcome. Share and Like it at will. See you in the top as I know I will reach there sooner or later.
Your pal, Camilo Nuñez.