I received the following email from Virginia in, of all places, Virginia:
Mr. McCord, I’m a recent college graduate and have just accepted my first professional position. I will be selling employee benefit packages to small companies. Quite honestly, I’m both excited and scared. Athough my friends and have always told me I’d be great in sales, I’ve never had a sales job (if you don’t count working in a clothing store while in high school).
I want to really make my mark and do it quickly. I think your referral training is great, but a little advanced for me at this point. I’m expected to be out selling pretty quickly but have NO idea what I’m doing. How am I supposed sell something I don’t know?
I’m excited, scared and confused. I don’t expect you to solve my problem but what suggestions do you have?
Virginia is certainly not alone. There are thousands of salespeople on the street everyday who are in her position. Wondering how to hit the streets when they haven’t the slightest idea what they are really selling. They tend to be pretty easy to spot becasue their greenhorn status sticks out like a sore thumb. They demonstrate a serious lack of confidence, stumble through their presentation, have a blank look when asked a question they don’t know the answer to, and rush through their presentation, just hoping to get done and get out.
First, Virginia, keep in mind that most companies do a very good job of product training and a really lousy job of sales training (if they do any sales training at all). I would suggest you rely on your company for your product knowledge and look elsewhere for your serious sales training (which is not to say to not to take advantage of whatever sales training your company offers).
Secondly, if you wait until you believe you are throughly prepared to get out on the street, you’ll fail in your career before you even start. New salespeople want the confidence to hit the street fully prepared. Consquently, they’ll try their best to avoid getting into the fray as long as they possibly can, thinking they’ll be better prepared the longer they study their product without having to get the scars of battle until “fully prepared.” Becoming fully prepared can take months–years–depending on the product. Can you afford to avoid battle for months or even years? Even if you can, your company won’t let you.
Third. Selling is something of a chicken and egg affair. You need the confidence to get sales, but you need the sales to get confidence. You need knowledge to get confidence, but you need exposure to questions to really know what knowledge you need. You need toughness of mind to work through sales rejection, but you need rejection to get toughness of mind. And so on.
What selling really comes down to is attitude. You must develop a professional image, attitude and persona. And, fortuantely, you don’t have to be experienced to develop these. It is possible to quickly develop the confidence and attitude of a professional salesperson. It is possible to learn how to professionally deal with tough questions you will be faced with as a new salesperson. It is possible to hit the streets quickly and effectively while still learning the basics of your product or service.
I encourage you to register for a free tele-seminar to be given on January 30 just for new and relatively salespeople that will discuss all of the issues and give some solid, concrete help in addressing them. I’d also encourage any sales managers and executives, if you have new or relatively new salespeople in your organization, register them. This seminar will help them set the stage for their first years in sales.