Go From Good to Great:
How to Boost Your Sales Career
By Chip Eichelberger
Many experienced sales professionals
don’t see the need for continuous improvement. They often think,
“I’ve been selling for fifteen years, so I must be great.”
However, number of years experience is not a measure of excellence
(any honest golfer knows that). Such thinking can limit sales
professionals from achieving a higher level of success.
Just because you’ve been doing
something for years doesn’t mean you can’t or don’t need to
improve. Oftentimes, people get satisfied at just being good at what
they do. Then they stop doing all the little things that made them
great, such as using a pre-call checklist, asking for referrals and
testimonials, conducting timely follow-up, and sending thank-you
notes. But these little things make the difference between good and
In fact, a great chasm exists between
good and great performance. Realize, however, that this doesn’t mean
you have to work harder.
Rather, you need the discipline to execute the little things in an
extraordinary way every day. Consider U2 front man Bono’s example of
taking something good and making it great. “An early version of our
first single Vertigo was
massaged, hammered, tweaked, lubed, sailed through two mixes, and got
U2’s unanimous stamp of ‘very good.’ Very good is the enemy of
great. You think great is right next door. It’s not. It’s in
another country,” Bono told USA Today. Instead of releasing
the song at “very good,” the band rearranged Vertigo
with new melodies and rhythms. They soon discovered untapped reserves
of ideas and fortitude, and the song went on to become a number one
your sales performance been “good” or “great”? Have you been
on cruise control in your job? When was the last time you went back
into your “studio” and reevaluated what you do and how you are
doing it? If your performance could use improvement, consider the five
Ask “What Can I Do Better?” When was the last time you asked a
client what you could do to improve his or her experience with you?
Years? Months? Never? If you want to continuously improve your sales
skills, your clients and prospects will have the most valuable insight
into how you can become better. So make it a priority to regularly ask
them for their suggestions on how to improve and add more value.
Although asking “What can I do
better?” is an excellent way to continuously improve your
performance, asking is really only the first step. The key is to
listen when someone offers a suggestion. When a client starts talking,
don’t try to defend yourself or justify your actions, just listen to
what he or she has to say. Take your client’s suggestions seriously
and follow up with the person later to ensure you make progress.
Set a Clear Goal for Each Day: What activities drive performance for
your business? Is it number of contacts? Referrals? Phone calls?
Appointments? Determine this factor and set a measurable goal for
doing a certain number of these activities each day. Many sales
professionals think in terms of a sales funnel, and they need to keep
a specific number of people in that funnel at all times to remain
successful. How many new prospects do you need to contact to keep your
As you do this, don’t forget about
past clients. Many sales professionals become so focused on
acquisition that they forget about retention. Past clients are easier
to sell because they already know you and love the service you
provide. But your competition is constantly trying to take your past
clients away, and they may succeed if you lose contact and show
indifference. Keep in touch with past clients in a way that is simple
and adds value. So, how many
past clients are you going to call today?
Keep Track of Your Progress:
A good way to track your progress and
ensure continuous improvement is to keep track of what you do. Create
a scorecard to record your key performance numbers for each
day—number of appointments, sales, referrals, etc. For example, if
you want to make ten cold calls each day, then keep a record of the
number of calls you make as well as the number of days you achieve
your cold calling goal. Repeat this procedure for each goal or
activity and post it where you can see it easily. You can’t mange
what you can’t measure, and the quickest way to lose momentum is to
stop tracking your results.
Tell an Effective Story:
Everyone has a success story, and you
may notice that businesses and products often use their story as a
marketing tool. Whatever your story is, it must be unique, solve the
customer’s problem, and be compelling. Real estate agents, for
example, may take pictures of their clients in front of their new
homes and then show these photos to their prospects. Even a bottle of
wine or a consumer product can tell a story to differentiate it on the
shelf. Consider how you can document your success with quotes,
testimonials, case studies, and pictures, and then creatively use your
story to attract new business.
No one likes to admit they aren’t
good at what they do. Even if a person fails, he or she won’t likely
admit that individual performance was to blame. But people are often
mediocre or just plain bad at sales, and they don’t even realize it.
Have you ever recorded yourself while
you’re meeting with a client or prospect? Most people haven’t.
However, recording yourself is an excellent way to identify your
strengths and weaknesses.
How do you record a sales presentation?
Explain to your client or prospect that you are consistently trying to
improve the way you tell your story and your listening skills. Then
ask if you can record the meeting for personal use. Most of the time,
the prospect won’t have any objections and they’ll admire your
professionalism. If you are speaking to a group, ask to use a video
Once you have the recording, the moment
of truth arrives. Yes, it takes guts to review the tape! On your first
review, takes notes on all the good things you do and write down all
the questions you ask. Then go back, ideally with a more experienced
peer, and review what you need to improve. The danger is the more you
know, the more you tend to talk. So you’ll often find that you need
to ask more questions and talk less!
Improvement in Your Future:
You may think that if you want to take
your sales career to the next level of success, you just need to work
harder. In reality, you need to work smarter.
Start by asking your clients what you can do to improve. Then use
their suggestions to set goals for yourself and track your progress.
Know your success story and ensure that you communicate it effectively
to your clients and prospects by recording yourself in a meeting.
Most sales professionals use
these strategies initially, but people tend to fall out of good habits
quickly. They become satisfied with providing a mediocre experience to
their clients, when they should really be trying to amaze them.
Providing a superior experience means constantly improving and
refreshing what you do. One of the best ways to gain momentum is to go
back to these habits and start doing them again. When you do, you can
achieve limitless success.
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