Sales Success: Nowhere to Go Today?

Copyright 2006 Daniel Sitter

Tommy Shaw, guitarist and songwriter for the popular rock band, Styx, wrote a song several years ago entitled “Too Much Time on My Hands” where he included the lyrics “I have a nowhere to go and all day to get there” and “I’ve got nothing to do and all day to do it.” That is indeed a sad commentary on a non-productive lifestyle. If that has also been your approach to planning and executing your sales day, it’s no wonder why you have not found the success that has been eluding you for so long. Too much time on your hands spells disaster if you make your living selling.

How does one get to be in this mess? While I suspect that there are many reasons for this phenomenon, two immediately come to mind: Lack of training and lack of desire. The first is epitomized in the rookie salesperson who has little training and only a vague idea of what her plans and goals might be. She has entered the world of selling equipped with nothing but her own preconceived notions and some level of enthusiasm. The second is the seasoned sales professional who is tired of the same routine and has become somewhat sedentary in his ways or has earned enough money to be comfortable and he now is stuck in the rut of his comfort zone. An ensuing lack of desire and sales soon becomes evident.

A lack of training is easily fixed. There are many fine sales training methods and programs, coaches, authors, speakers and the like that avail all of the resources imaginable to get the job done. With proper training and instruction, role playing, critique and practice, our rookie will be on her way to sales excellence in no time. It will be necessary, however, to have training both in sales as well as product and service training. All the product training in the world won’t help you if you do not know what to say when you have the opportunity to be in front of a prospective customer. That too will only happen if you first learn the skills to contact and establish appointments with the appropriate decision-makers.

There is no substitution for training and practice. Don’t ever make the mistake of believing that once your formal training is completed that your education is over. Nothing could be further from the truth. Adopt an attitude of continuous life-long learning to keep those skills sharp and your mind challenged. Abraham Lincoln once said that if he had an allotment of four hours to cut a small grove of trees, he would spend three of those hours sharpening his axe, and only one hour actually cutting. Yes, there is no substitute for proper preparation in the sales field.

A lack of desire is a much more complex problem to solve because its roots may be in several different places. We’ll look at a couple of them here. Boredom might be a factor. Perhaps the product mix, territory and customer base have remained unchanged for years, so our salesman decides to “lie back” a little. Although it may not become evident at first, time will reveal that a steady reduction in business has begun. The salesperson will soon become distant, somewhat out-of-touch with his customer base. The products that he once knew so well will become more unfamiliar; their features, advantages and benefits will elude him. Unless the salesman schedules calls and develops new customers on a regular basis, his base will erode and his earnings will suffer as a result. A dangerous trend may commence that is often difficult to reign in.

Another reason is fear. Many industries present the challenge of continuous technical developments and new modes of operation. A new breed of customer, usually young, smart and technically competent arrives on the scene and the salesperson no longer feels confident to engage in dialogue with these individuals on a regular basis. He becomes intimidated by the new technology and verbiage.

Regardless as to the reasons why, this lack of sales calls, or call-reluctance is a typical problem that challenges many salespeople. Usually, some fresh training, additional new products and services or a change in territory can offer real solutions for this potentially grave problem. It actually boils down to an attitude shift on the part of the salesperson. He must truly want a change for the better and be willing to work at achieving it.

When a salesperson opens his calendar for the coming week, disclosing little but white space, he is definitely going to experience “too much time on his hands” with ”nowhere to go and all day to get there.” This is neither a desirable nor profitable position to find yourself in. Begin your day early with a plan. Set at least one appointment for each subsequent day and establish a listing of potential prospects for which you can research or cold-call. Go to the library or log-on the internet and investigate each prospect. Discover what they do. Get the names of some key persons. Do this planning before you leave your office. The last thing you want or need is to jump into your car, heading out with little knowledge as to your direction or destination. Believe me; you will be far better off staying in your office, planning the next few days’ activities rather than heading out unprepared and clueless.

Always have a qualified destination mapped out before you leave. Establish some kind of plan. Do not stop working on a Friday afternoon until you have at least a rudimentary plan developed for the next week. Setup a minimum of one firm appointment for the following Monday and Tuesday. Plan for several calls and emails on Monday and throughout the week. If overnight travel is necessary, make those reservations now. Have an outline of your week and your coming month prepared in advance. Gather the necessary literature, samples and other materials and have them readily available, at your disposal prior to the coming work week.

You will feel both a great sense of accomplishment and relief as a result of these efforts. A general plan, some specific calls and appointments, a list of prospects targeted, materials gathered, wardrobe readied and reservations made will provide you with a measure of confidence and self-esteem that would be missing otherwise. In this manner, you will be ready for action on all fronts come Monday. It is guaranteed that you will have a successful selling week if you are properly prepared in advance.

Consider this time spent planning as an investment in yourself, expecting an extraordinary return on your investment. Yes, Tommy Shaw will have to write a new song with you in mind: “So much to do, So many to call on.” To borrow from another song, “The future’s so bright; you’ve got to wear shades.” That is a revealing picture of you; riding down the sales highway, prepared for that next appointment and anticipating your resulting success.

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