Learning How to Sell

Selling is an art—but it can be mastered

Customer flowchart on a blackboard depicting the process of how to sell.
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Selling is an art. But unlike many other art forms, the art of sales is something that most can learn. This doesn't mean that everyone can be good at sales, however.

Many people new to sales are tempted to jump right into learning how to close a deal instead of learning the foundations of sales.

Customers Are Priority One

For a sales job to be a sales job, you will be expected to sell something. Whether you are expected to sell a tangible product or a service, you will always sell to a customer. The foundation of sales begins with a simple yet powerful rule that your customers are your first and primary priority.

While you will have to meet the expectations of your employer and sales manager, never let your focus on your customer weaken. If you start every workday by asking yourself how you can improve the service you provide to your customers, you will be well on your way to a long and successful career in sales.

The Sales Number Game

Activity is the key to sales success. In general, the more prospects you talk with, the more likely it is that you will find someone who is ready to buy what you are selling. It's a numbers game. When rookie salespeople begin their careers, their sales skills are often raw and rough around the edges. To compensate for their "less than fully developed skills," most sales managers will have very clear activity level expectations.

Those new to sales should focus on not only packing in as much activity into each working day as possible but also to learn from their activities. Doing 100 cold calls in a day is impressive but possibly useless if your cold-calling method produces no results. If you learn from your cold-calling mistakes while improving on your cold-calling successes, your activities will produce better and better results.

Make Time for Training

Sports and sales are very similar. Both athletes and professionals seek the thrill of victory, suffer through losses, and need to train every day. What would happen if a professional athlete decided to skip training for a few days? If the training days skipped fell during the off-season, missing a few days would probably do more good than bad. But here's the thing: in sales, there is no offseason. Sales professionals don't just sell on Sundays during fall and winter. They need to have their sales hats on every working day.

An opportunity can come out of nowhere, anyplace and anytime. If you had been slack on your training for a few days or weeks, the opportunity that you weren't expecting wouldn't be an opportunity for long. If, however, you devoted at least 15 minutes every day to improve your sales skills, you'll always be ready to turn an opportunity into a sale.

Spend Time With Veterans

One of the most effective and quickest ways for a rookie sales professional to learn the finer art of sales is by modeling. Before you start practicing your "runway" walk, understand that "modeling" means to learn from someone successful. The formula is fairly simple: if you do what someone successful does, you'll be successful as well.

Many would argue that if success were as easy as doing what successful people do then everyone would be successful. The truth is, however, that successful people do what unsuccessful people don't want to do. Their commitment to doing what is difficult, boring, challenging, hard and "un-fun" is what makes the successful salesperson, successful.

The day after you start your new job, you need to find out who is the top sales professional for the company. Ask them if you can take them to lunch. During lunch, ask them what makes them successful and if they would be willing to meet with you on a weekly basis to mentor you. Most successful sales professionals are very busy but are also usually willing to help others earn success.

Having a mentor from whom you can learn and who is willing to point out your strengths and weaknesses is probably one of the greatest secrets to success that any professional should learn about.