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Time to reflect on the origin of your sales knowledge

In my early intensive days of learning sales and attitude (1972-1973), I was taking a four-hour sales and attitude training class every day, from 8 a.m. to noon. Every day.

All of my fellow learners (there were nine in the group) immediately took a lunch after the training except for me. I scheduled a sales appointment every day at 12:01 p.m.

I was full of fresh information to make a sale. I had new attitude lessons and new sales ideas, and if you can imagine a daily sales lesson lasting four hours, I was on fire.

Why would I waste that energy on having lunch with co-workers? No way. I wanted to channel that energy, harness that energy and direct it toward a sales prospect.

My strategy was to practice what I had just learned. Whatever the lesson was about, that’s what I used in my presentation. And I did it with an incredible positive attitude and the enthusiasm of a child.

Note well: Keep in mind, this occurred in 1972. There were no computers, no videos of any kind and no CDs. The new technology was cassette tapes, and credit cards were just coming into vogue. Notes were handwritten (yes, I still have those notebooks), and everyone sat around the tape player or record player or we watched a movie on a 16 mm projector.

My objective when I was first learning how to sell is the same as it is today: Be the best in the world. I loved it and couldn’t get enough.

As you can imagine, everyone on my team thought I was nuts, teased me, called me whatever. But I just smiled and went about my business, making sales.

The appointment at 12:01 p.m. had mixed results. While I was on fire, the techniques and strategies I employed from the morning lesson didn’t always work.

Some had to be modified and tried again. Some I had to eliminate. Some were way too manipulative (not my style). Some were more engaging and suited me because they engaged the prospect and created dialog.

I made a lot of mistakes. I made a lot of sales. Either way, I was learning. I was learning something new every day, and I was putting those lessons into practice one minute after I learned them.

I eliminated what didn’t work and refined what did.

Once that era ended, I went out in the world to start my own business, something way more difficult than having a sales job. As owner of the company, I always made all the sales.

I began to interact with other businesspeople and gain more insight from them. Not just sales information, business wisdom. I wanted to know what happened after the sale was made. I was as interested in outcome as I was in transaction. Are you?

I discovered that by studying what happened after the sale, it was easier to make the next sale. I could tell stories about similar situations and give examples of customer successes.

It made my sales presentations much more conversational, and the customers’ level of interest peak. It seemed that the more I asked questions and told stories, the more customers bought from me.

Those experiences led me, 25 years later, to my trademarked phrase, “People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy.” That was almost 20 years ago.

I have employed that strategy and philosophy throughout my career of selling, which, by the way, still takes place every day.

Where did you learn to sell? And how comfortable are you with your selling process?

Take a few moments to reflect on where you gained your knowledge. And then take a few more moments to ask yourself how you documented it and how quickly you were able to put your knowledge into action.

If you think about each of these elements individually, they will help you recall the best of or important ideas and stories that you may have forgotten over the years.

Here are some categories to get you thinking and documenting:

  • Family (especially your mom and dad)
  • Close friends. Maybe just one lesson or experience.
  • Watching other salespeople. Think of the best salespeople you’ve encountered.
  • Interacting with co-workers. Stories they told or ideas they had.
  • A book you read book. “Think and Grow Rich”?
  • A CD you listened to. “The Strangest Secret”?
  • A video or movie you watched. “Glengarry Glenn Ross”?
  • A sales course you took in a classroom or online. Was it your style? Was it too manipulative?
  • Your mentor. Were you taking notes?
  • Your sales manager or boss. Who did you respect? Who did you learn the most from?
  • Your customers. They teach the best lessons when they say “yes” and when they say “no.”
  • Little kids trying to get their way. They’re persistence personified.

My accidental secret of scheduling a sales call one minute after training, and practicing what I believe to be true, has served me well for 39 years. Try it.

What are you doing after your sales meetings?

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of “The Sales Bible” and “The Little Red Book of Selling.” President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs sales meetings and conducts Internet training on selling and customer service at www.trainone.com.

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