The best sales people aren’t simply satisfied with being above average. They are always striving to do better and improve their skills. This drive to constantly improve their craft separates top performers from the mediocre ones.
Here are 8 actionable tips for get better at your job:
1. Become a self-learner.
No matter how many deals you close, there’s always more to learn about sales. Especially as technology and markets change, salespeople need to keep up and adapt. Take advantage of the many resources available to you to learn about new tactics and strategies.
A few places to help you start:
When you learn new things, try putting what you learn into practice as soon as you can. So if you read a blog entry about communicating with prospects effectively, try to keep those tips in mind during your next sales call. You may find that some advice just doesn’t work for you, even if it’s from a well-respected sales expert. That’s okay. In the process of exposing yourself to new perspectives and giving it a try, you’ve still learned something about sales and what works for you as a seller.
2. Become an industry expert.
Your initial training probably wasn’t enough to help you master a complex industry. Make a point to continue your industry education. Set up Google Alerts to keep you informed on major industry developments. Find out who the major influencers are in your industry and follow them on social media.
To make sure that your industry education doesn’t slip on your to-do list, set aside time every week for it. Your prospects will notice your knowledge.
3. Practice your empathetic listening abilities.
Selling is oftentimes more about listening than it is about talking. Developing this skill should be at the top of any salesperson’s priority list.
To help yourself remember to display empathetic listening while talking with a prospect, devise a note-taking system that emphasizes your prospects’ needs. If you walk into a meeting prepared to focus on their needs (rather than cramming in all of your talking points), you’ll be primed to listen better.
Your non-professional life is also life with opportunities to practice empathetic listening, so take advantage of them. When you chat with your barista every morning, that’s a chance to practice a critical sales skill. Once you get used to activating the “listening” part of your brain, it will stay active in all your interactions.
4. Ask for feedback on your performance.
Getting performance feedback isn’t always fun, but it is necessary for growth. The best salespeople don’t wait for their quarterly or annual performance reviews to seek feedback. It’s helpful to ask for feedback in informal settings as well. You also don’t need to limit yourself to your direct supervisor; other colleagues may be able to offer useful insight into your performance.
Get used to asking questions like “How could I have handled that situation better?” When you receive criticism, don’t react defensively. Thank the person for their time. You don’t have to agree with all feedback, but you should spend some time mulling it over. If something resonates, come up with a game plan for how to do better.
5. Find a mentor.
Your manager is hopefully providing you with helpful guidance on your performance, but it never hurts to seek additional mentorship. If you don’t already have a mentor, try to find one either inside or outside of your organization. Many successful salespeople seek multiple mentors for different purposes.
Select someone who is a successful seller, has a personality compatible with your own, and is willing to provide long-term guidance. Once this person has agreed to offer mentorship, try to meet with them on a regular basis. They can help you with your long-term career development.
Express gratitude towards your mentor for their time and make sure that you are offering them something in return. Cultivating a good mentorship relationship is another good opportunity to exercise essential sales skills.
6. Set goals for yourself, targeting progressive improvement.
Every quarter, set a goal to improve on a specific skill. If you can, select a measurable goal. For example, you might decide that you need to do a better job putting yourself out in front of new prospects. Then your goal would be to show a 15% improvement in the number of cold calls you make per quarter.
While there’s no need to be obsessive about monitoring your progress, it is helpful to check in on how you’re doing every once in a while. That helps keep you on track.
You may choose to select a goal that’s a little more subjective, like improving your listening skills with clients. That’s fine, but you still want to implement a system for tracking progress. Maybe in that instance you can rate how well you displayed listening skills after every customer meeting. That allows you to track your progress over time and remain conscious of your goal.
7. Develop time management skills.
If you’re not performing as well as you’d like, the problem might actually be your time management skills. Even if you think you have good time management abilities, spend a few days tracking everything you’re doing on the job. This process can help you to identify inefficiencies in your processes.
Seek help from productivity tools as necessary. Even something as simple as alerts on your phone can help you to stay on schedule. More advanced productivity software can also be helpful. Ask your most organized coworkers what they do.
8. Learn from your mistakes.
Every sales representative will make mistakes. There will be a deal that didn’t go through or a meeting that just didn’t go as planned.
Instead of wallowing in your misery, be analytical about your mistakes. Ask what you’d do differently if you got the chance at a redo. How will you change your process from here on out as a result of what you’ve learned?
Mistakes happen. The ability to learn from them distinguishes great salespeople from everyone else.