By Tom Hopkins

To become and remain a professional in the selling business, you need to develop and maintain five essential skills. If you aren’t sure of what skills to work on first, certainly someone in your life will gladly assist you — your manager, your spouse, your children, or a trusted friend.

One of the most important life lessons is that no one else is going to look out for you as well as you look out for yourself. So recognize that you are in charge of your own business education and act on that fact.

Choose just one of the five areas and dedicate yourself to improving in it this month. Then, next month, choose another. Once you get started on this journey of self-education, you’ll be amazed at what you learn and how simple things can have a powerful impact on your overall success in life.

Negotiation

Trained negotiators and effective salespeople can quickly and effectively analyze the details of situations and determine the best route to resolution. If that brief description doesn’t fit you, make an effort to find a book, audio recording, or seminar on negotiating, and schedule the time to learn from it.

Voice

Because your clients choose to own your products or services based on what you say about them and how well you present them, doesn’t it make sense that you train your voice to give the highest level of professional presentation? If you’ve never considered voice training before, record yourself giving a portion of your presentation, then listen to it. Most people hate the sound of their own voice, so consider how a client might feel listening to yours. To project your message with clarity and power, consider at least one session with a voice coach.

Public speaking

Many sales professionals find that giving short speeches in their communities helps build their name recognition and their businesses. Public speaking is also a great way to build your confidence. Test your skills by speaking to your child’s class about what you do for work or a hobby you have. Teachers love to have their students learn about careers firsthand. Join Toastmasters International — they have chapters in just about every city. They also provide excellent opportunities to hone your skills and meet other business professionals you can connect with to do business or share referrals.

Memory

Having a good memory is critical to anyone in today’s world, and especially for salespeople who meet many new people every week. Try to make a game of it. Challenge yourself to remember as many people and their stories as you can. There are some great courses and books written on improving memory. Even if you learn and use only one small strategy, you’ll see the benefits.

Math

Don’t cringe because you hate math. In the sales business, you need to know some basic math skills really well. Taking too long to calculate figures will raise doubts about your competency in the client’s mind. Also, when clients toss out figures in their projections, you have to be quick to apply those numbers to your business as far as calculating the quantities of supplies they’ll need, projecting delivery dates and times, and so on.

Practice your math skills. Every time you hear or see a number in a conversation or even in a bit of advertising, take a moment to work with the number and see what it means. Compute unit costs for grocery items. The favorite computation of every salesperson who works on a fee basis is to determine their percentage of every sale. Don’t stop there. Play the numbers game often and you’ll get better at winning it.