Your Most Important Sales Investment: Yourself
A few simple tricks for staying ahead in the selling game.
- By Ken Thoreson
- November 01, 2006
Recently, I read a newspaper article emphasizing the importance of annually
reviewing your various investment plans. That advice brought to mind the
partner-company salespeople I've met over the past decade. Right about
now, many are conducting their year-end reviews, looking at their year-to-date
earnings and thinking, "Am I where I want to be?" But in doing
those self-evaluations, salespeople often forget to consider one important
factor: how well they've invested in their own professional growth.
In sales, as in most other fields, what distinguishes the professionals
from the amateurs is a high-level combination of education, expertise
and dedication. So in undertaking their annual self-assessments, serious
salespeople should evaluate not only their numbers, but what they've done
to enhance their commitment to their profession by improving their knowledge
The best in the business consciously strive to increase their value by
investing in themselves, often following steps like these:
Read several good, general-business books per year. Many executives
read business best-sellers. Doing the same provides you with fresh business
insights -- and the opportunity to discuss them with your prospects and
customers. Such increased business acumen can strengthen relationships
by generating new levels of respect.
Read sales-training books. When I interview prospective sales
candidates for our clients, I always ask about the last sales-training
book they read and how long ago they read it. The answer is a sure sign
of the candidate's commitment to the sales profession. Look for guides
focusing on strategy, complex sales, solutions and negotiation tactics.
Tip: If you're on the road a lot, consider listening to audio books
Subscribe to relevant business and technology magazines and newsletters.
This constantly updated reading program will keep you current on important
topics that are relevant in the business and technology sectors-as long
as you actually read them. I read such publications while relaxing and
have even carried them along to the beach in the summer; I consider this
Practice for perfection. Professionals in every field get ready
for important events. Musicians rehearse. Baseball players go through
spring training. Salespeople should prepare as well. Before every sales
call, plan your opening comments and responses to potential objections.
If you're making sales calls with your colleagues, be sure everyone understands
who's leading the discussion, when other participants will present and
who's playing on the prospect's team.
Analyze your own performance. This is the most important step-and
the easiest. Train yourself to review every sales call you make, whether
it's a phone call, a face-to-face meeting, a presentation or a demonstration.
Ask yourself, "If I could do it over, what would I do differently?"
Professional football players analyze post-game films; professional salespeople
should adapt that approach to assess how well they're performing.
Draw on Microsoft resources. Visit www.msreadiness.com
for a variety of free sales resources. You'll find Microsoft Solution
Selling content, as well as 23 new sales-training courses created by Acumen.
There will be four additional sales-management courses rolled out this
I challenge you to evaluate your professional growth this year and develop
a game plan for investing in yourself next year. Your efforts are likely
to pay off -- literally -- in higher earnings. Meanwhile, if you'd like
suggestions about useful books, magazines and newsletters, e-mail me at
the address below and I'll send you our list of recommended resources.
Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.