I can point to two specific moments in my life when I realized I could sell. My first job was at “The Ark” pet store, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Our big ticket item was salt water aquariums. One day a customer came in looking at a small, “starter” fish tank. But I could tell the customer really wanted something more, even though justifying the purchase was difficult. About an hour later, that customer left the store with over $2,000 worth of fish and aquarium gear!
I learned many important sales lessons that day which have stuck with me. I learned that if you are a knowledgeable expert, you can earn the trust of others. I learned that when you are honest with a prospective buyer about the shortcomings of your offer, they will believe you when you present the benefits. I learned that price is relative. What might seem like a lot of money to one person is pocket change to someone else. This was an important experience which revealed my potential as a sales professional.
My next job was selling lawn care service. I had been selling for several months and soaking up every sales tip I could find in books and from more talented co-workers. One day my sales manager told me there would be a group of new hires in his office monitoring my next phone call. He asked me to really try and do everything I could to sell that next contact.
As luck would have it, an older gentleman who wanted nothing to do with lawn care was my next call. I used everything I could think of to sell this guy. He almost hung up on me at least ten times. After about fifteen minutes of rebuttals and objections, I knew this guy really didn’t have a need for our services. So, I let him off the hook. My manager came out with a big grin on his face; I will never forget what he said to me: “James, that was awesome – the best sales call I have ever heard. Don’t ever do that again though.” In other words, my sales skills had reached a point where I needed to be careful not to convince prospects to buy something not right for them.
When I came to the merchant services industry, I was really flying high and thought I could sell anything to anyone. Like many of you, I did have significant sales skill. However, as I got started in this industry, I was amazed at how difficult it was. After a few weeks of following up on appointment scheduled leads, I had to take a step back and ask myself, “Why am I not making as many sales I should be?” What I realized that day was just as important for my sales career as the two days mentioned above.
That day I realized a simple truth about sales success that has since made me a lot of money. Sales skill means you know how to talk and act in front of prospects. This skill is only going to produce value when you are speaking with or in front of prospects. Every minute of my day spent not talking to a prospect, was a minute that was not going to produce value. The reason I had been so successful in my other sales jobs was that I had structure and accountability. I had to go to work; I had to make calls; and I was recognized for doing well. As an independent rep, I had none of these things unless I created them for myself.
I started looking back at my first few weeks and realized I had made about $2,000 in commission. Next, I looked at my database and tried to add up all the time I had spent speaking with a qualified prospect who had not said “yes” yet. I discovered I had only spent about five hours in several weeks talking to a merchant who wasn’t my client. If you think this sounds insane, I challenge you to start tracking for yourself. There are so many other things to do – follow-up, installations, customer services, data entry – that you can lose track and spend only a few minutes a day speaking to a qualified prospect.
I realized I was making $400 per hour at the time spent talking to a qualified prospect. Once I had this number in my head, my goal became more focused. I decided to spend more hours doing this high value task and applying my sales skills. Not only did I begin tracking this number and spending more and more time in front of qualified prospects, my hourly rate actually went up! The last month in which I tracked my compensation per hour spent talking to qualified prospects, including the value of the accounts I sold, was over $1,000 per hour.
So, here is your challenge for today. If you know how to sell, realize that your skill is only producing value when you find yourself in front of qualified prospects. Think about how you could increase the number of minutes you spend doing this activity and watch your income increase dramatically.
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