Selling For Dummies
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Like any serious effort to make positive changes in your life, changing how you sell begins with an honest assessment of your current skills. Until you admit that you could be doing something better and then identify that something, you have no idea what you need to work on.

Taking a sales skills assessment test

A sales skills assessment tool can help you evaluate your knowledge of the selling process and identify your strengths and weaknesses. If your company doesn't offer a skills assessment tool of its own, search the Internet for "sales skills assessments." Most of the tools require that you complete a questionnaire online. The assessment service analyzes your answers and delivers a report highlighting your strengths and weaknesses.

Gathering insight from colleagues

If you work around other salespeople, they may see your interactions with clients, either over the phone or in person, and they usually form an opinion of how you handle various situations. If they're polite, they may keep their comments to themselves, but keeping a secret doesn't help you identify areas for improvement.

To break the ice, encourage your colleagues to open up by asking them to provide you with honest feedback. Tell them that you're trying to sharpen your sales skills and that you would appreciate any insights or recommendations they have to offer.

Don't kill the messenger. No matter how harsh the criticism, accept it without holding a grudge. Remember: The person who cares for you is the one who tells you when you have something stuck in your teeth, not the person who keeps it a secret.

Collecting customer feedback

Customers see you as nobody else sees you. They can usually purchase whatever they want from three or four other people, but they chose you (or didn't choose you) for some reason, and you should know why. And when you want to know why, ask.

Whether someone chooses to buy from you or not, try to find out what went into the decision and how your sales presentation affected that decision. Avoid yes/no questions like "Are you satisfied with the purchase?" Instead, keep your questions open-ended to encourage customers to identify areas for improvement.

Customers who are also in sales often provide the most insightful feedback. Getting feedback from salespeople who buy your products is like getting coaching from a professional golfer instead of some weekend duffer.

Listening to the boss

The quality of feedback from a manager or supervisor can range from totally clueless to remarkably perceptive, so don't blindly follow your boss's advice. You should, however, listen to what your manager has to say . . . he could be right, particularly if you've heard the same thing from someone else.

Your manager's compensation is probably tied directly to the success of his sales force, so everyone's best interest is served through collaboration. Consider discussing your proposed personal improvement plan with your boss before your annual review and requesting your manager's support in achieving your goals.

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