Aspire for first-class

It’s tough to be in sales right now. Budgets are tight. Competition is stiff. While the economy is showing signs of improvement, companies are still wary about spending money. Now more than ever, you need a competitive edge to be a top sales performer. What’s yours?

If you answer low prices or a faster, better widget, I’m here to tell you that those differentiators won’t make you the top sales performer in the long run. Here’s why: if your customers selected you on price alone, they won’t be customers for long. Somewhere in the world somebody’s going to do what you do for less. Low prices may win business, but they don’t keep it. And if you’ve got that faster, better widget with technological advances, your competition will too, eventually.

Enhance your offering and your image (personal and corporate) by being first-class in everything you do.
This may sound old-fashioned, but it works. If you doubt this is true, do this exercise. Name three places of business that you patronize on a regular basis. What keeps you coming back?
My guess is that it may have something to do with price or technological advantage, but it has a lot more to do with how you’re treated. A consistently positive (first-class) experience will keep you coming back even if you pay more for that experience. What’s more, not only will you keep going back, but you’ll refer other people as well (being referable).

Are you referable?

Okay. Let’s look at what it takes to be first-class (referable) in all that you do. First, I want to stress that I mean “all that you do.” It’s not enough to be attentive and professional only when you’re with your customers. You have to be first-class in every facet of your professional life. This includes interactions with co-workers, direct reports, managers and everyone else inside your organization as well as prospective customers, referral sources and colleagues outside the organization.
If you’re trying to improve your sales performance, why worry about anyone other than your customers? Leaving aside the fact that it’s the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do. You never know where your next opportunity is going to come from, or who will influence a buying or hiring decision. How you are perceived both inside and outside of your organization could make the difference as to whether you get the order, the referral, or the job.
If you accept the wisdom of this, then the first step to achieving this goal is to honestly assess where you are now. Evaluate yourself relative to everyone you interact with professionally in all of the following areas:
  • Overall behavior
  • Attitude / work ethic
  • Relationship skills
  • Written and verbal communication
  • Ability to manage time and priorities
  • Follow-thru and execution
  • Quality of work

Be brutally honest. Take responsibility and own what you need to change. It’s human nature to deny our weaknesses (unfortunately). However, you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge. So, look in the mirror. Admit what needs to change. And make a plan to improve.

We all prefer to work with people who are conscientious, reliable, smart and nice. So, if you want to be on other people’s lists of who they want to do business with, be first-class in everything you do. The business, referrals and internal support will follow.

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