It’s my favorite time of year. Early sunrise, dew on the grass, longer days, and warm summer nights. It’s the perfect time of year to dig your hands into the soil, plants some seeds, and see what nature delights you with in the coming weeks.
Kind of like sales. In order to reap the harvest of hearty commission checks, great salespeople know how to plant seeds. Working in a focused way on their prospecting list, they see the value in digging deep, turning the soil, and tending to their crop of opportunities on a regular basis.
As a sales trainer, I’ve met countless men and women who are eager to enjoy the harvest, but aren’t willing to toil over the land and work up a sweat on their brow. I reflected on this during my daily gardening ritual, and it occurred to me that sales people could benefit greatly by following the some basic principles of gardening:
1) Right Plant, Right Place. Every plant has unique needs for soil, sun, water, and amendments. Salespeople – please – respect every person, but don’t treat every person the same! Get to know your prospects so well that you know their unique needs and desires, and then figure out how to deliver it to them. Make your product or service the solution to their problem, and present it in a way that makes you wildly unique.
2) Water Appropriately; Too Much or Too Little Kills the Plant. Just as water is a necessity for plants, conversations with our clients keeps our relationships thriving. Make sure you call often enough that they never forget who you are, but not so often that they drown in your communications.
3) Good Gardeners Keep Good Records. When you’re new to gardening, everything is interesting and exciting and you may assume that you’ll remember every detail of what you’re growing, where and when you planted it, and how well it performed. Veteran growers, however, know that the details start to fade quickly over the course of a busy season. That’s why the most experienced and successful gardeners keep careful records.
Similarly, outstanding salespeople keep copious records of their activities. Communications with prospects, clients, and business associates are recorded and analyzed over time to identify strong points and areas for improvement. Often one small change in daily activities can yield big results in the sales world. For example, one of our clients in Brighton, Michigan doubled his call-back ratio simply by changing one line in a prospecting letter. That opportunity was created as a direct result of keeping accurate records and striving for improvement.
4) Pull the Weeds – Early and Often. Weeds are nasty little buggers that not only look bad, but can be stunt the growth of other plants as well. They start out small, but quickly grow larger and stronger, making them more and more difficult to control. In the life of a salesperson, I think of the “weeds” as any person, thing, or habit that detracts us from meeting our personal goals.
For example, one weed could be spending time with a non-productive or negative co-worker. Although you may like the Nancy-the-Naysayer personally, her attitude and work ethic can create a less than positive environment for you to thrive in. Consider weeding the garden of anything that does not add value; if the soil is occupied by weeds, there is less room for the desirable plants to thrive.
So – for all of our friends in the sales world – how is your garden shaping up this year? Have you put the right plants in the right place? Are you watering appropriately? Keeping records of your activities? Keeping the weeds at bay? Take these four tips to heart, and you will have a rich harvest this fall, (and a fat paycheck to go along with it!)
Susan Dooley is Sales Trainer with Dale Carnegie/Ralph Nichols Group, providers of professional development and management development courses and information in Michigan. A new Sales Course is starting up in mid-June – please contact us for more information. We would love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter @MarkWillDCT.