You've been there. It's 4 p.m. and you're leaving your last appointment. You made every sales call on your schedule. You weren't just an order-taker today. You sold stuff.

A sense of confidence, an energized “I-can-do-this” feeling fills you like the rush you get when you hit a perfect 250-yard drive. Now it's time to drive back to the branch to claim bragging rights — maybe.

Just ahead on the right is the office of a customer who wasn't on your call list today. The owner's truck is parked outside. Do you stop, keep heading back to the branch, or just call it a wrap and go home? After all, you have had a successful day. You deserve a little rest and relaxation. What would you do?

I won't bore you with stories of sales reps who stopped and walked away with big orders they might have missed if they kept driving. I'm not even going to load you down with statistics and hypothetical math equations such as, “One extra call per day times a 20 percent probability of a sale, divided by, blah, blah, blah.”

You probably have heard the stories but weren't impressed. Maybe you didn't even believe them. Believe this: If you make that extra call a day, it will make a significant increase in your monthly salary. Even one extra call a week can make a noticeable difference in your next paycheck. Guaranteed.

More importantly, make this technique a habit in your sales routine and you have taken the first step in joining the distinguished ranks of highly successful salespeople.

You know them. They lead the branch in sales and profits. They drive expensive trucks, win the top awards and seem to have all the luck. But highly successful salespeople know luck has little to do with it. They apply a set of habits that their less successful counterparts are either unaware of or too lazy to use.

Thomas Edison wrote, “The art of selling goods is as difficult to acquire as any other art. The proper methods can be acquired only by actual experiments. The one who tries the greatest variety of experiments will become, finally, a master of the art.”

Experimentation and on-the-job trial-and-error will help you nurture these habits. Some come at great expense; others reveal themselves by accident. Now you can benefit from the experience and knowledge of those who went before you. Here's how.

Habit 1: Make one more sales call. Commit to see one customer per week beyond what's on your call schedule. Unless it throws you behind schedule, make the call while you're in the area. Keep a record of these calls, but make it simple. Make a check mark in your planner if you get an order, jot down a “P” if the call was productive and write in a “B” if the whole thing was a bust.

Habit 2: Take risks. Pursue opportunities that others say are beyond you. Take a chance on the long shot and leave your complacency zone. Go outside your circle of friends and your regular contacts because new friends can lead to new opportunities.

Take a risk on you. Spend some time and money on your education — highly successful salespeople don't wait for their company to provide training.

Habit 3: Be trustworthy. Long-term relationships result from long-term trust. In the beginning, you must produce evidence of your trustworthiness. That means displaying trustworthy qualities such as dependability, punctuality and accountability. Over time, consistency supports the evidence. Be dependable in the small things as well as the large. Follow through, keep promises and take ownership of every interaction with your customer.

Habit 4: Ask the right questions. Three months into my promotion to outside sales, my boss began to rethink his decision due to my lackluster performance. One day during a heart-to-heart (you know, the talk before they fire you) he came right to the source of the problem. “Mike, I don't think you're asking for the order.” He was right. I thought all I had to do was show up and customers would give me orders just for being present.

It rarely works that way. Many salespeople are afraid of being pushy. They think they're asking when they say, “You don't need anything today, do you?” or “Guess I can't talk you into buying something.” This attempt at homespun charm may have worked in Mayberry, but if you use it in the real world, you'll starve to death. Use simple open-ended questions. “What do you need today?”

Habit 5: Now hear this! Ah, yes, the difficult art of listening. Listen interactively and you'll see things from the customer's perspective. This approach will make you better prepared to offer customers personalized solutions.

Listen respectfully. Leave yourself out of it. Don't try to “mind read” by anticipating what the customer is going to say. Pretend as if your livelihood depends upon what your customer says. It does!

Habit 6: Act enthusiastic, and you'll be enthusiastic. Many skilled salespeople fail because they don't have any spark or excitement in their performance. The customer thinks they simply don't care. Maybe you feel it's not in your nature to show enthusiasm, but the good news is that “feeling follows action.”

The next time your morning begins with a flat tire and the neighborhood dogs turns over the garbage can and scatters trash all over your street, instead of saying, “It's going to be one of those days,” try this instead. Find a secluded place, pump your fist in the air and shout three times, “Act enthusiastic, and you'll be enthusiastic.” You'll be amazed at the difference it makes in your day.

Habit 7: Go the extra mile. Many salespeople talk about great customer service. Few deliver.

The stories are legendary. The hardware salesperson who mowed the customer's yard after he sold him a lawn mower. The deli manager who delivered a hot meal when a customer discovered an item missing from her order. The rental car employee who has a cold drink waiting in the cup holder.

The extra mile is about action, not words. Exceeding your customer's expectations is a sure way to earn their loyalty.




Mike Dandridge is the founder of High Voltage Performance, a consulting firm that specializes in designing customer experiences for the industrial marketplace. He has 25 years experience in electrical wholesale distribution. You can reach Dandridge at (254) 624-6299 or via e-mail at md@theperformancepro.com Visit his Web site at www.highvoltageperformance.com.

Asking the Right Questions

When used intelligently, questions can help put you on the road to big business. Asking a customer the right questions can help a distributor salesperson succeed in any selling situation. Consider just a few of the things you can accomplish by asking the right questions.

  • Change the subject and focus attention on the topic that you want to discuss.
  • Put the other person to work.
  • Obtain information in the form of facts and opinions.
  • Force the reluctant customer to talk.
  • Stop, or at least slow down, the over-talkative customer.
  • Provide you with an opportunity to collect your thoughts.
  • Demand proof when you are presented with unsubstantial charges.
  • Flatter the customer by requesting his views or opinions.
  • Identify the key influence or the decision maker in a group.
  • Serve as a subtle probe for the customer's reactions.
  • Cut through smoke-screen objections and flush out the customer's real objection. — Longtime EW author John McCarthy


For more questioning techniques, visit http://salestips.ewweb.com/key_questions/index.htm.