Six Rules for Sales Success in 2012. Are you following these rules of success, or are you on a path to irrelevance?

So, let’s look at the six rules for success
within the context of the selling profession, and how to use these rules to measure your success.

1. Control your destiny, or someone else will.

2. Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it were.

3. Be candid with everybody.

4. Don’t manage, Lead.

5. Change before you have to.

6. If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.

1. Control your destiny or someone else will.

From a sales perspective, what is your destination and how are you getting there? That’s the question every professional salesperson must ask themselves. Technology has created a global world where you can no longer measure your relevancy against the person in your designated town, state or even country. The world is small, and your competitor (although thousands of miles away) is now as close as a mouse click. The result of this ever-smaller world is the competitor’s ability to build, create and sell a product just like yours at a cheaper price thus reducing your product to a commodity.

You have to know your destination as clearly as you can. If you know your destination, you can control your destiny.

2. Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it were.

The sales profession began in the 18th century as the economy transitioned from manual labor and draft-animal-based economy to a machine-based manufacturing economy. Salespeople were hired to introduce potential buyers to products or services, because there was no other way to learn about products or services, except through a newspaper. The traveling salesperson was born.

According to Selling Power Magazine CEO Gerhard Gschwandtner, 70 percent of all purchasing decisions are now made online before the buyer has even seen a sales representative. One of the reasons for this is that buyers are now unable to effectively differentiate products and services from those of the competitors and therefore consider each and every product to be the same. The new reality is that if you sell a product you are irrelevant.

The following statement is from a distributor representative that I recently interviewed. “In 90 percent of the calls I make there is no issue, and therefore no opportunity – unless I am significantly cheaper, and even then the incumbent usually matches the price.”

3.  Be candid with everybody.

Being candid means being honest and trustworthy. This is the foundational principle to success as a 21st century salesperson. Being honest and authentic is now more important than ever, considering the availability of information and options via the Internet. It is important to remember that relationships are no longer enough to safeguard an account: you must create value.

4.  Don’t manage, lead.

Simply being an account manager is no longer of value to the buyer. You must lead the buyer out of the status quo and down the path of goal achievement. Managing an account can now be accomplished through sales 2.0 practices and an inside customer service team.

However, leading a customer towards the successful accomplishment of their business objectives cannot be achieved from the inside team. You need to become an insightful executive: someone who possesses a skill set of product knowledge, industry knowledge, questioning skills and executive insight. Executive insight is the ability to help the buyer impact their income statement (P & L statement) by linking your product to the achievement of their organizational goals or by improving the company’s external and internal pressures.

Buyers do not want your product:  buyers want your insight.

5.  Change before you have to.

Trying to convince the majority of people that there is a new and better way to do something is a complete waste of time. If you want to see what the future looks like, look at what the innovators and early adopters are doing. I am referring to the work of Everett Rogers, a professor of rural sociology who popularized the theory in his 1962 book Diffusion of Innovations (Distribution of advancement.) Rogers suggests the population is segmented into a five categories. The categories (with population percentage) are: innovators (2.5 percent), early adopters (13.5 percent), early majority (34 percent), late majority (34 percent), and laggards (16 percent).

In the sales realm, the innovators create the technology (example: Twitter, Facebook) that allows the flow of information to be accessible in real time, on demand. The early adopters are the ones crying in the wilderness for the sales professionals to hear (Neil Rackham, Mark Miller, Jill Konrath and Jeffery Gitomer, for example.) The time is coming and is already here. Will the early majority embrace the change, or will they become casualties? Will they join the late majority and laggards, and fade into irrelevance?

6. If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.

Nobody has a competitive advantage with their product for more than 6 months. Then, the competition imitates and enters the market. In fact, there is only one product that can never be copied, duplicated or replicated. This product can be the differentiator in your market and a competitive advantage for your company now and 20 years into the future.

Your competitive advantage is you. There is only one, and therefore can never be a commodity.

The successful salesperson in the 21st century is going to need an innovative mind, ambition and a strong sense of self to rise to the top in an overcrowded and noisy marketplace. Irrelevance can be avoided by abandoning the old conventional wisdom and embracing a new way of thinking.


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