As discussed in previous posts, Sales Departments are at their best when each salesperson develops a sales strategy based on personal strengths. In this post, I want to discuss how to do this with self-evaluation, external skills analysis, and critical business thinking. The goal of this plan is to use the traits and skills that are second-nature to you as your primary sales weapons. You don’t want sales to be hard. You want it to be as easy and painless as possible so you can do it a million times without getting tired.
First- Self Evaluation. The best way I’ve been able to to this is by making a resume. As a disclaimer before you get started- this is something you should probably do at home- or you might frighten your boss.
Craft your resume as you normally would- make it look nice, add your experience, education, etc. Now stop. Instead of listing what you did underneath each job- list what you learned. What skills did you hone working at company X? What were you good at? Where did you place your focus to get the job done? Here’s an example of what I mean, taken from a resume draft I wrote once:
Technician/Service Writer- Mad Dog Cycles:
As a service writer and technician at Mad Dog Cycles, I learned to sell services person to person. I focused my efforts around demonstrating my passion for the service I was providing, and keeping promises. I learned that by actually treating each bike I worked on like it was my own, I could build a following of intensely loyal, very vocal customers. I excelled especially when presented with complex customer problems with internal and external concerns.
Notice- nowhere in that description did I mention that I worked on all types of bicycles and all kinds of repair, that I used a scheduling tool, prepared warranty claims, or any other “duty.” Keep it strictly to what you learned, what you focused on, and what you excelled at.
Want to take this to the next level? Put in non-work related experience as well; anything you can point to that taught you something, that you excelled at, or that you placed a focus on (for me, this blog would be a good example).
Next- External Skills Analysis. Do you have a LinkedIn Profile? In the skills endorsement section- what’s listed? Who is endorsing you for what?
This is an excellent way to see what others think you’re good at. As you can see from mine- people see me as primarily good at Customer Service and Management. I’m also pretty well known for proficiency in Microsoft Office and Leadership.
What if you don’t have a LinkedIn, or your LinkedIn is not revealing for one reason or another? No problem- another handy tool for some external evaluation comes from http://www.idealcandidate.com/ – which is a recruiting service specifically for salespeople. Whether you are actually looking for a new job or not- they will have you take a 10 minute personality test right off the bat that helps you better understand your sales skills profile. I found it to be pretty accurate-
There will also be a list of core strengths in the results, which will help you in the last phase of developing a personal sales strategy-
Critical Thinking. This is the important one. This is the point where you develop a sales strategy. There are three steps:
- Step one: Analyze your business. How do your customers buy? What’s the value? What do they want out of a sales interaction? What gaps are there in the overall buying experience? What have you seen that improves your chances of winning? What decreases those chances? Pull out some numbers, get organized.
- Step two: Analyze your skills. What are you consistently good at, and what skills relate best to the gaps you found when you analyzed your business?
- Step three: Formulate a plan. How can you utilize your skills to fill gaps in the buying experience? How can your skills improve your chances to win? Spell it out. Make it adaptive. Make it yours.
Here’s an example of what I mean- taken from when I did this at my first B2B sales gig:
Step one: Buying through formal purchase orders- with payment after shipping. Value in the quality of the parts, features, and availability of technical resources. Customers want help with their technical questions, and for the logistics to be taken care of without issue. Sales cycle is very lengthy. Customers often deliberate or get distracted from their projects. If first interaction goes really well, chances improve dramatically. Identified + defined markers and waypoints for increased likelihood of success.
Step two: Consistently good at customer service, really excel in competitive environments. Able to articulate value and adapt sales strategy to meet specific customer needs. I’m all about building relationships.
Step three: I will use my ability to understand what my customers want and adapt to help build a relationship with the first interaction, making my brand very difficult for the customer to dismiss. To help keep the focus, I will make goals around contact frequency to continue to articulate value- which should drive customer activity towards the next waypoint. I will push for competition around the office with other salespeople to help drive my internal motivation.
It’s worth noting that soon after instituting this plan, my sales numbers shot quickly to the top of the team. Because I was playing to my strengths, my success wasn’t as limited or hindered as it had been previously. Develop your plan in the same way- think of skills that are as easy to you as breathing, use them to address the problems your customers face, and watch yourself start to deliver value on record pace.