How to Fix The Most Critical Mistake In Sales

Runner in Hamster WheelThe older I become, the more convinced I am that everything runs in “cycles”.  Music you once loved, eventually comes back around.  Sports teams you follow, no matter how good they are today, inevitably wind up in a disappointing “rebuilding year”.  Sales, once coming in as fast as you can take the orders, eventually slow to a crawl…along with the commission checks.  And that is when it happens. The critical mistake most sales people eventually make…  They dust off the same old presentation they’ve always given, complete with what they think their customer, prospect, or suspect already knows about their product or solution.

Take a close look at your sales team.  If you are a sales team of one, it is time to be completely honest with yourself.  Here’s how to do it:

  1. Get back to basics.  Instead of dusting off the same old script or [worse] old power point slide deck, start with a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. Jot down what it is you really want your customer to know. How long has it been since you reminded your customer how your company found success in the first place? Remember that this is your story to tell…so tell it your way!
  2. Set aside some time to practice.  Yes.  Practice.  Your favorite band still has rehearsals. Can you imagine a top performing sports team relying on their raw talent to get them to the championship game?  I know a LOT of successful people who use their commuter time practicing speeches; rehearsing upcoming, difficult conversations; and simply talking through issues they are attempting to work out – even if they are talking to themselves. [You will be surprised how helpful it is to hear yourself OUT LOUD…but more on that in a minute.]
  3. Creativity needs space.  Once you have sketched out the outline for your presentation, planned that critical conversation, and even practiced it a few times, put your notes away for a couple of days.  Let the ideas steep.  During your commute, I challenge you to turn OFF the radio and just drive. Let your mind wander into and out of that presentation.  Think about the message you are wanting to get across, at a higher level, and consider the phases of the presentation.  I like to call this the 20,000 ft view.  The details are not important, just focus on the “bigger picture”.
  4. Record yourself delivering your presentation. Audio is good.  Video is better. Video of you in front of a “live audience” is perhaps the best.
  5. Critique the presentation. This is the hardest part for most people. It is time to set aside your ego, and remember that the ultimate goal is to make such a favorable impression in the room, the buyer will not have  a decision to make, because they will be too busy placing the order.  You will want to review your video three times:
    1. Listen only.  Turn your back to the screen and simply listen to the presentation.  Keep a timer handy, and make notes of your impressions while you write down where you were in the presentation as you had those thoughts. Examples:  “1:42 – sounded uncertain” or “3:02 – confusing explanation”.
    2. Watch only.  For the second pass, watch the video of your presentation without any audio.  Make notes of what your gestures, expressions and body language are saying.  Do you look like you are enjoying the presentation?  Do you appear trustworthy?  How much are you moving around?  Do you display confidence, or discomfort?  How about 90 seconds later?

    3. Watch with audio.  On the third pass, you’ll finally watch and listen at the same time, to your presentation.  Make a third set of notes.  It should be fairly easy at this point to know what areas of the presentation need the most work.

Feedback accompanied by a willingness to re-tell your story in a new way helps to keep your message fresh, and your topic / product relevant.  Stop relying on “tenure” and your “years in the business” to get you by.  Ego may have gotten you here, but the most successful salespeople know it won’t keep you here. Avoid that critical mistake, and you will have more business than you can handle.

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