Learning new sales skills and tools, should be a lifelong part of being a professional salesperson. Adapting those new skills and tools to your unique style, and then using them to increase your effectiveness, is another skill all by itself.
There are many different kinds of salespeople, who sell many different kinds of products and or ideas, they all use different methods, and the really good salespeople let those methods evolve and morph into what will work for them.
The kind of selling I do involves calling on established accounts about once a month, and as many new prospects as I can qualify to fill the holes in my schedule. Most of my sales calls now begin with an agenda of what I want to cover during the meeting.
This was not always the procedure I used, the salespeople who broke me into my industry did not use an agenda, most of them just came in with a handful of promotions, asked a few questions, and made their presentations, most were not very professional. The businesses I called on at that time were being called on by 5-6 of my competitors each month, and they all seemed to use the same approach.
The problem I had was being the new kid on the block and how could I differentiate myself from the pack. We all sold the same products, at about the same price, and all with similar terms, it seemed as if you just had to spend a lot of time to form some relationships, and after you had been around a long time you would get the business, I needed to find a short cut.
I decided to use a more formal approach to the sales process, first I broke the dress code, which at that time in that industry was slacks and a polo shirt with your company logo, and began wearing a sport coat and tie. Industry lore had it that you would be kicked out of most shops if you showed up in a tie, well in over 25 years, that has not happened once, to the contrary the almost immediate result was that most of my customers began to relate to me on a higher level, than before I made the change.
Next I began using a simple one-page agenda that listed a few housekeeping items, customer name, account number, sales figures for month, and year to date, and what they spent the previous year. A few carefully crafted open-ended questions to gather information and guide them to what I wanted to discuss. A listing of any promotions or new products, they should be aware of. And finally contact information for the sales desk, credit, corporate office, and myself all on a separate page.
There are a few subtle cues in this document:
Has this worked? It has been a part of my overall sales strategy for more than 20 years, in that time I have firmly established myself among the top 5% of sales people in my field.
Finding and implementing ways to differentiate yourself from the competition is a sales skill you must develop and use.
Jim Newell is the publisher of http://www.roadwarrior.com/rw101blog Resources, Information, and Survival Tips for the on the road Sales Professions