An Open Letter to a New Account Executive: Part 1

I’m overjoyed that you accepted the sales job! I believe everyone can sell, but you come across as a natural at it on first impression. That’s how you got the job—you sold yourself, and that’s a big asset.

When you start a new job, most organizations will spend several weeks teaching you about the company, their products and their services, as well as things like how to help a new client or buyer sign a contract. They may even spend time familiarizing you with the territory. This is the standard routine for almost every organization, but what they will not do is teach you how to sell. They hired you because they think you already have that skill.

In my experience, most sales executives are hired because they can talk—not because they can listen. Before you start out in your new role, I want to give you some advice that will help you rise to the top and be the best you can be. Here are six things to do if you want to be successful in your new position:

1) Strive to be the best. This should go without saying, but if you work hard, cope with the rejection, learn new selling techniques, constantly refine your pitch and keep yourself motivated, you will be among the highest-performing salespeople at your company.

Make an effort to rub shoulders with the most successful salespeople and avoid the “sludges” who don’t put in the effort. You can’t fly with the eagles if you hang around with turkeys. If I learned anything from the classic TV show “WKRP in Cincinnati,” it’s that turkeys can’t fly.

2) Get close to your sales manager. Most sales managers got into their position by being good at sales—not necessarily by being good at managing people. Many of them spend most of their time pushing their team to “sell, sell, sell!”

If you are doing everything in Step 1, the sales manager will concentrate on the people that actually need motivation—and will probably reward you with good leads and very little interruption. Why would the sales manager want to hinder someone who’s doing the job right?

3) Be diligent. Closing a sale requires making multiple contacts with the prospect. Whether you call it persistence or diligence, that’s what it takes to succeed. Most people drop out or just do very little in selling, but sales is a process, not a one-time event. If you see what you are doing in the big scheme of things, it will help you deal with day-to-day issues.

Sales executives will often give up on a lead after making five contacts with a prospect because they assume the buyer isn’t interested. But sometimes, it can take over 20 contacts to make a sale. Understand that while they may be at the top of your priority list, you may be 17th on theirs. Be patient and persistent.

I almost never quit on a lead until they ask me to, or I find out they have no money or interest in what I sell. I can trace almost every sale I’ve ever made to a bunch of phone and email contacts I made in advance.

4) Make friends. People don’t hate salespeople—they hate lazy or pushy salespeople. How did you buy your house? A salesperson helped you. How did you buy your car? A salesperson helped you. Do you own furniture, recreational equipment or clothes? Diligent salespeople assisted you in all of that, and now you benefit from their efforts.

But to sell someone a product or service, you have to sell yourself. Most people buy from people they like and trust, which means you have to be likable, honest and authentic. Be a resource everyone can turn to for solutions—someone from whom your prospects and clients regularly want input and advice.

5) Get personal. When clients and prospects tell you about birthdays and other life events, remember them. Take careful notes of conversations and keep them in the client’s file. And remember their contact preferences—if they only want to hear from you once a month, don’t contact them more than once a month. If they prefer email over a phone call, don’t call them.

When calling commercial prospects, get to know the gatekeeper or receptionist. Starting with their name, find out what you can about them so they will be more accommodating in helping you get to the right person. It’s always helpful to have the gatekeeper working on your side.

6) Be inquisitive. You can’t present a solution until you understand the problem. A lot of managers call this “qualifying your leads,” but I call it “diagnosing” your leads. Don’t just ask two questions and then go into your spiel. Ask as many questions as you can in order to diagnose the problem that your product can solve.

Asking questions will also help you find out what product or service a prospect has been using up until now, why they like it, why they don’t like it and what they’d like your organization to do for them. Try to steer away from closed questions, and encourage open dialogue. Essentially, you’re encouraging prospects to talk themselves into doing business with you.

Most important? Ask for the sale! Many sales are lost because the salesperson simply didn’t ask the prospect to buy from them.

Jim Mathis is the Reinvention PRO™. As an international platform-certified speaking professional, bestselling author and trainer, he helps leaders who want to reinvent themselves in challenging economies. To subscribe to his free personal and professional development newsletter, send an email with the word “SUBSCRIBE” in the subject line. An electronic copy will be sent out to you every month.

For the second installment of this article, stay tuned to IAmagazine.com and upcoming editions of the News & Views e-newsletter.