The idea for this month’s column comes from my co-worker Donny Drennan. He developed what I call the “Up Philosophy to Sales,” and he stresses it to his team at every opportunity. Drennan believes great salespeople show up, listen up, follow up, and live up.
Here, I’ve put my own spin on the strategy and I hope you’ll find it useful.
Show Up: It’s often said that showing up is half the battle. Showing up means you work hard every day, seek new business opportunities every day, and work efficiently every day. When things go sideways, as they do from time to time, show up also means don’t hide from a negative situation. Get in front it, attack it head on, fix it, and move on. Nobody likes bad news, but people generally deal with bad news better when they know about it early and can plan for it. Working through bad news is also easier when the customer knows the salesperson is not hiding from it, but instead is working diligently to fix it. The word “hustle” can have both positive and negative meanings, but I’ve often heard it used to describe a good salesperson who shows up every day. Be a hustler … in the best sense.
Listen Up: Listening is easily the most overlooked skill that salespeople need to develop. Many salespeople believe they already listen very well and are not in need of improvement, but when meeting with customers, they spend an inordinate amount of time talking instead of listening. People will tell you what to sell them and how to sell it to them, if you ask the right questions and listen keenly to their responses. But that’s easier said than done. As salespeople, we have our own agenda, and we listen through our own filters, which are obstacles to true listening. When speaking to people, try to clear your mind and focus on understanding their message. People have a natural desire to be understood, and when we, as salespeople, let others know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we seek to understand them, it draws them nearer. It builds trust and deepens connections, which facilitates the rest of the selling process.
Follow Up: Many skills are needed to be a successful salesperson, but at the top of that list are a person’s organizational skills, especially in the world of building materials distribution sales. Most people I see struggling in this business do so because of a lack of organizational skills, which will follow them from job to job until they figure it out. Following up is all about an individual’s organizational skills, and it’s all-encompassing: notes taken during sales calls, updating task lists, calendar management, territory management. Basically, it’s the ability to get things done. When you agree to do something for a customer, how do you document it to ensure it gets completed? People like to deal with people who can get things done. This also puts you in a strong position to fend off any of your bottom-feeding, riffraff competitors who are out there selling against you.
Live Up: Working every day to improve your aptitude on the first three “ups” will be all you need to accomplish the “Live Up” process. The challenge is to not be satisfied with the status quo; understand that you can always improve; and know that your hungry and unscrupulous competitor is not satisfied either. It’s a mindset that you’ve not only reached the mountaintop, but now you have to fight like heck to stay there.