Pick up nearly any food product you can find on the shelves of your local supermarket and it will be stamped with an expiration date. Best-by date. Or sell-by date.
This useful bit of regulation is designed to protect consumers from products that have sat unsold on the shelves for too long at the store. That have turned moldy and stale.
You have an expiration date, too.
If you don’t adapt your selling to keep pace with changes in your products and customers, then you risk turning into the sales equivalent of spoiled milk.
Too often I’ve seen sellers experience strong starts in sales, who then hit their peak after five or six years and then, by the 10th year of their career, are scraping along as also-rans. Living off past glories.
They didn’t stay on top of the market forces and technological changes that were affecting their buyers’ business. They didn’t stay fully educated about all of the products and services that they sold.
So, who’s checking your sell-by date? That has to be you. You can’t rely on a manager to tell you. If it gets to that point, then it’s too late.
In my career, I kept fresh by working with mentors, talking with customers, and from learning and reading on my own.
Here are 3 quick tips to help your selling stay fresh.
The biggest barrier preventing you from learning something new is…you. You believe that you know more, are smarter and more capable than you actually are. We all suffer from this delusion to one degree or another.
For me, the best way to stay humble was to talk with a mentor. I was fortunate enough to have several mentors in my career. I gravitated to them because I knew they would challenge me in ways that would force me to admit to myself that I wasn’t as smart or as capable as I thought I was.
Yes, it’s important to be modest in your dealings with other people. That’s the classic definition of humility. However, it’s intellectual humility that keeps you honest about what you are and what you really need to learn in order to improve.
If you can’t convince the person you see in the mirror that you still have a lot to learn about sales, then a good mentor can do that.
In order to learn from your customers, you have to put yourself into more sales situations.
Make that extra call. Have more conversations. Be interested, Build trust. Extend your curiosity. Ask the extra question. Listen slowly. Confirm your understanding. Take a risk. Suggest something different.
In short, you learn from your customers when you give yourself more chances to practice. In my career I found that by becoming really adept at building authentic human connections with my buyers that they would often show me how to win their business. That took practice.
Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, arguably the greatest shooter in NBA history, still takes 2,000 extra practice shots per week. (When’s the last time you did 2,000 of anything?)
Nothing breeds confidence, and success, like experience.
However, that’s just one element of staying fresh. Benjamin Franklin wrote “Experience is a dear teacher. But a fool will learn from no other.” Which leads to the next tip.
When was the last time you deliberately learned something new? Anything. It didn’t have to be about sales. Or, our latest collective obsession, how to bake the perfect loaf of sourdough.
My favorite quote about learning comes from the British philosopher, Thomas Huxley. He wrote that in life you should: “Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.”
To learn “something about everything” read the news; watch documentaries; read a book on a challenging subject. For instance I recently finished reading “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” by Adam Grant and “A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking with Statistics and the Scientific Method” by Daniel Levitin. Give yourself permission to think deeply about something that isn’t work.
The something that you should learn “everything about” is sales. You should be obsessed with learning everything you can about selling (and buying.) That’s why millions of sellers have downloaded my podcast, Sales Enablement with Andy Paul. I have conversations with the best and brightest minds about anything and everything that will enable you to have effective knowledge-based interactions with your buyers.
What are you doing to keep you sales fresh?
Bestselling author of Amp Up your Sales and Zero Time Selling, Andy Paul is #8 on LinkedIn’s list of the Top 50 Global Sales Experts to follow. With more than 170,000 followers, Andy is a highly sought-after speaker and sales sage who interviews the world’s foremost sales minds and extraordinarily interesting people to bring you strategies and insights that you can use to generate epic wins and massive value.