Making a Living

Are you a person who makes their living selling or are you a professional salesperson? They are not the same thing, they are not even close.

People who make a living by selling try to make the best of whatever selling circumstances they find themselves in. When business is slow or the market is soft they tend to slow down as well. They accept their fate.

Professional salespeople create their circumstances. When business is slow or the market is soft they work harder to produce excellent results. They do not accept their fate, they create it.

Many people in sales who read this will say it’s BS because many people in sales may make their living at it but they are far from professional. I remember a conversation with a salesperson several years ago where he was lamenting how slow business was. He told me that he could sit on his boat all day and the phone would barely ring. He said all he could do was hope for a turnaround.

He made his living selling, a pretty good living at that, but he was not a professional salesperson.

If he was a professional salesperson his boat would have been docked until HE turned his business around. He would have been making calls, not waiting for calls. He would have been creating opportunities for his customers to buy. He would have been taking advantage of all the salespeople who make their living selling. He woukd have proactively been calling on their customers while they were waiting for their customers to call.

I very recently heard with my own ears a sales manager and the sales manager’s boss tell their sales team “not to worry about the numbers.” They said “if the market isn’t there it isn’t there” and “no one will hold that against you.”

I’m sure they didn’t realize it but what they were telling their sales team was to be unprofessional. They were giving them an out and I’m sad to say that when you give someone who merely makes their living selling an out, they will take it.

The sales team resigned themselves to a bad year and they are now collectively waiting for the business to return.

Salespeople who wait never win. Period.

If you’re a sales leader then you need to find the balance between supporting your people and keeping enough accountability in place to help them be professional about their efforts. Salespeople who are held accountable for their efforts are more likely to succeed. We know that’s true because people who are accountable for their efforts are more likely to succeed and the last time I checked salespeople are people.

 

Whether or not you’re truly a professional or just making a living at what you do is a good question to ask yourself from time to time regardless of your field of work. Do you want to be okay at what you do or do you want to be recognized as one of the best. The choice as always is up to you.

How to Sell More

I’ve been involved in sales training a long time. I’ve been selling even longer than that. I suppose that would be obvious that someone should actually be in sales before they start teaching others how to sell. But it shouldn’t be obvious. There are many people and companies around that offer sales training that have little or no sales experience. What they actually offer is sales theory, not professional selling skills training. 

 

Sometimes they offer “people skills” or “soft skills” but those are very different than actual sales training.

 

My suggestion is that you never accept a single word of advice on how to sell from someone who has never sold. If they have not experienced first hand the incredible high of earning a challenging prospects trust and their business along with it, then they don’t know enough about sales to teach you a thing. 

 

If they have never felt the utter hopelessness of losing a sale they know they should have had then they don’t understand the psychology of professional selling and they should offer training on how to be a fraud instead.

 

So, now that I have that out of my system I have another suggestion if you want to sell more….stop trying so hard to sell. Instead start helping your customers and prospects buy more. 

 

The difference between selling and helping people buy is not just words. When you help people buy rather than trying to sell them something everything changes. Your approach changes. The questions you ask customers change. How you advocate your product or service changes. 

 

How the customer perceives you changes. 

 

Salespeople who sell ask questions to determine if they might be able to convince the customer to buy their product. Salespeople who help customers buy ask questions to see if their product will really help the customer. 

 

Salespeople who sell are prepared to negotiate a price lower than they want. Salespeople who help customers buy know they are far less likely to be asked to negotiate the price. The customer sees the value in the product AND the sales professional representing it. 

 

Salespeople who sell see every question as a potential objection. Salespeople who help customers buy see every objection as an opportunity. 

 

Salespeople who sell work hard for their sales. Salespeople who help customers buy work incredibly hard too yet often feel as if they are hardly working. 

 

Salespeople who sell manage customer transactions. Salespeople who help customers buy manage customer relationships. 

 

Salespeople who sell can make a lot of money. Salespeople who help customers buy make more…and they have a heck of a lot more fun doing it. 

 

If you’re not sure which type of salesperson you are I have a question for you that might help. Can you say, with great specificity, exactly how your product or service helped your last five customers reach one of their goals or objectives?


If you can’t answer that, with specifics, then you might be doing too much selling and not enough helping. Think about that before your next sales call.

882 Hours to Succeed

I remember several years ago a player on the Minnesota Timberwolves was quoted as saying that “you can’t really expect someone to give a 100% effort for 48 minutes of each game for all 82 regular season games.” 

 

Well…I kind of expected it. Especially considering he was making around $20 million dollars a year. But I did get his point, it’s hard to go full out all the time. No one can be at peak performance all the time. Too much “stuff” gets in the way. 

 

But here’s the thing, very successful people find a way to keep that “stuff” to a minimum. 

 

If you’re a professional salesperson as of May 28, 2019 you have only 882 selling hours, or what I call “money hours”  remaining this year. 882 hours to make or break your year. Here’s how I got to the 882 number. Depending on your industry, depending on how many vacation days you take, depending on what you consider holidays and depending how many money hours you have in a day your number may vary but not by much. 

 

By my calculations there are approximately 147 selling days left in 2019 as of May 28th. 

 

Money hours are the hours that you can be face-to-face selling to customers and prospects. You can work 12 hour days but if you’re in a business to business selling role then it is unlikely you have more then 6 hours a day to actually be face-to-face with the people who make the purchase decisions for your product or service. Which of the 24 hours you have in a day are your money hours will vary by industry but 6 hours is the limit if you are a highly productive professional. 

 

That gets you to the 882 number. 

 

If you’re reading this during your money hours then you have less!

 

How you use your 882 hours will determine your level of success. A trip to the post office during money hours is incredibly expensive. It matters little who picks up the check for that lunch with your old friend, if that lunch is during your 882 hours it could cost you a small fortune. 

 

I get that dropping the kids off at school and getting that last hug before you start your day is a priceless gift. I just want you to understand it’s cost in terms of money hours if you’re doing it during your 882 hours. It’s a choice I hope you’re blessed enough to be able to make, I also hope it’s a well informed choice for you.

 

If you’re knocking off for the day at noon for an afternoon of golf that’s a choice too. If you happen to win 20 bucks from your golfing buddies you may want to hold off on celebrating. If that round of golf was happening during your 882 money hours it might be the most expensive round of golf you’ll ever play. 

 

As of May 28th there are 5208 hours left in the year but only 882 of them are money hours. That’s less than 20% of your remaining 2019 hours. How will you invest those hours? Will you let “stuff” get in the way of your success? Will you accept the false “fact” that you can’t be at the top of your game for every one of those 882 hours? 


Or will you do what top performing professionals do and develop a plan to maximize your use of those 882 hours? I strongly encourage you to develop your plan as soon as possible and here’s one final suggestion, don’t use money hours to do it.


Do You Know What People Buy?

I was being interviewed a while back for a magazine article and the writer asked me a question that I had to think hard about before answering. 

 

She asked in all my years of working with professional salespeople what surprised me the most. 

 

I couldn’t boil it down to one thing. There are two. One is that in all my time in sales and sales training I’m surprised by how many salespeople are unprepared to respond to customer objections. Even objections they hear over and over again like the price objection. Each time it comes up it’s like the first time they have ever heard it. A sales professional should have a thoughtful, well prepared response that speaks to value.  Instead many salespeople stammer and stutter and basically begin the negotiations process. 

 

They will not receive full price in return for the full value they offer. 

 

The other biggest surprise in all my years of working with salespeople is also the reason salespeople hear the price objection so often. The second surprise is that the vast majority of salespeople have no idea what they are selling. 

 

Charles Revson was the founder of the cosmetics giant Revlon. He was once asked what business he was in. He said that “in the factory we make cosmetics; in the store we sell hope.”

 

If you understand his answer then you might be a successful professional salesperson. If you don’t understand his answer then your success in sales will always be limited. You’ll also hear a whole lot of price objections. Your customers will want a reduced price regardless of whether or not your product is the least expensive in the market. 

 

Charles Revson understood that no one buys cosmetics because they want to spend hours a week applying chemicals to their body. They buy what the cosmetics do for them…which is make them more attractive in the HOPE of attracting the attention of other people….maybe even that special someone.

 

No one buys a drill, they buy the hole it makes. No one buys a book, they buy the adventure or information contained within it’s pages. No one buys a picture frame, they buy a place to display their precious memories of events and loved ones who make their life matter. 

 

No one buys your product because they want the product, they buy it because they want what they can get from the product.

 

The vast majority of salespeople do not fully know what their customers want from the products they sell. The professional salespeople who do understand what their customers want discovered that information by asking questions. The type of questions that less successful salespeople didn’t ask. They didn’t ask because they were lazy or they didn’t have the courage to ask or they just didn’t care enough to ask. 


Salespeople who don’t know what their customers are buying have no way of knowing how to present their products to people who want them. That is very surprising to me and it’s most certainly not a recipe for sales success.

 

 

The Costliest Mistake in Selling

Many salespeople and sales executives, especially sales executives, believe that the costliest mistake in selling is losing the sale. That’s not quite accurate; the bigger mistake in selling is taking a long time to lose a sale that you should not have lost. I‘d say the costliest mistake in selling is learning nothing from the experience. 

 

A professional salesperson should never feel good about a losing an opportunity to help a customer. But even the most honest and professional salespeople will sometimes lose a sale. What makes them so successful is that they rarely if ever lose a sale they could have earned. 

 

The average sales cycle across all industries is changing and much of it now happens out of the site of the salesperson. Most customers have done at least some research online before reaching out to a salesperson. In business to business selling many of the purchasing decisions are becoming more complicated. They are driven not by price alone but by brand, service, timing and tax considerations as well. That takes much of the decision away from a single buyer and leads to more “committee” type decisions. That takes longer.

 

There are lots of challenges with a longer sales cycle. There are usually more people involved. There are more objections to overcome. Second chances are provided to competitors. The good news is that most of those challenges can be overcome by effective information gathering. The longer the sales cycle, the more influence required to earn the business. Influence in sales comes directly from information. 

 

Do you influence your prospect’s and customer’s decisions or stand on the sidelines and observe from a distance? Are you in the deal, making a difference for your customer, your organization and yourself? Do you have the information needed to do that?

 

Are you selling products and services or showing them? To really sell requires influence. That can only come from taking the time to understand your customer’s true wants and needs and most importantly, why the need exists. 

 

You should have no problem with a longer sales cycle, so long as it leads to a sale. Your challenge today is that it can take just as much time and effort to lose a sale as it does to earn the business. 

 

When you invest your time with a customer make sure it counts. Ask the tough questions and get the information that leads to influence and the sale.


Don’t commit a too common mistake in selling, using your time to watch a competitor take away your business and your income.