Nothing lasts forever — so the saying goes. So after 39 articles and roughly 35,000 words, this will be my last column for Mentor. I cannot begin to tell you what a privilege it has been to share my thoughts, ideas, and (sometimes) strong opinions with you on a monthly basis. Even if this is the only column of mine you’ve ever read, I say, “Thank you!”
Thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing the column with your colleagues or finding me at industry events to say hello. But most important, thank you for making me a better sales professional. You read that right. While I hope some of these articles have helped you, I’ve benefited from them at least as much if not more than you, and for that I am grateful. The very act of writing has forced me to sharpen my selling skills, experiment with new approaches, assess how sales is evolving as a profession, and learn to adapt to those changes — the very things I’ve encouraged you to do each month. Sales is my craft too. We’re in this together.
As you know, this industry is changing rapidly and many of you are nervous, uncertain, and even downright scared. Not me. I’m more bullish than ever. I’m more convinced than ever that if you’re willing to do the following things, your future is very bright.
Invest in yourself. I talked about this in my January 2016 column and still believe it to be one of the most critical components of sustained success. “Having a clear and defined way to gain better perspective, see the opportunities in your market more clearly, generate ideas, and gain skills is … fundamental for individuals who want to be seen as different, unique, innovative and valuable.” How invested are you in your own personal development? If you haven’t recently read a sales book, attended a course or invested in sales coaching, it’s time to start.
Understand what value is. Value isn’t what’s written in your marketing brochure and it’s not what you were taught in training. Too often we assume what’s valuable to our clients and prospects. The reality is, the clients decide what’s valuable. Your job is to invest the time to understand who they are, what they value and why they value it. That takes time and skill — specifically the ability to ask powerful questions and listen at a deeper level. Sadly, too many salespeople want a shortcut. There are no shortcuts in the value equation. If you’re constantly being reduced to price, odds are you have a value problem.
Take action. Reading books and articles like this is a great start. Attending webinars or sales courses is also smart. But none of it matters unless you take action, unless you move, unless you do something with the new information. Creating momentum requires movement. Sure, you’ll get a lucky deal here or there — someone you’ve never met buys something from you at a trade show or a rep leaves and you take over his account. That’s not selling, that’s order taking, and it’s not enough to create momentum. Some things will work and some won’t. But the sales professional who keeps taking new action is the one I want on my team. Don’t be afraid to push the limits of what you think is possible.
Although this is the last time I’ll write here, I hope it’s not the last time we talk. I’ll be at shows and events throughout the year and always welcome the opportunity to talk about sales and this great industry. Thanks for reading. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
MENTOR February 2017;8(2):5.