A SPB reader recently reached out to me with some trouble he’s having in his new sales job. It’s a commission only, business development role and he’s struggling.
First of all, from my experience, the thing that many sales people don’t realize (including myself once upon a time) is that full business development/commission only roles are incredibly difficult for a new sales person to take on. Valuable experience but rarely does a rep last long in their first business development role.
Those who are successful often already have a lot of industry experience, a lot of contacts in the industry, or are with a major brand name/large company that can support their prospecting efforts with incoming leads and/or other marketing initiaves.
Now I’m not saying someone can’t be successful without the above criteria. It’s absolutely possible, just rare I would say.
And from what the reader told me about himself, he most definitely could be successful. It just is going to take a lot of work and a little more creativity.
Knowing that I laid out a few options that would help him be successful in his new gig.
The first thing I suggested was that he get a mentor. Ideally this would be one of the more senior Salespeople at his company but its also possible to find someone from a different company or industry. As long as you two are selling to the same market they should be able to provide some great feedback.
Having a mentor is a great way to figure out how they are getting their leads and appointments. It’s likely that many of them are referrals or from networking. But you can still learn a lot from how they interact with their current clients and referrals. I directed him to my past post about shadowing other sales reps.
If they are a good mentor they might also give you some of their own referrals. If they have been successful they probably have more leads then they know what to do with. Or maybe just some deals that are smaller then they prefer to work with.
These would be perfect for the reader since he’d be able to get his feet wet and gain some valuable experience.
Second, I suggested that he really grind away at in-person networking.
Although its easier to find and target prospects online through LinkedIn and other social sites, it’s much harder to make a personal connection. And remember, people buy from people they like. It’s hard for them to like you solely through social media.
So I suggested he try to really put himself out there at networking events and industry trade shows.
Third, I suggested that he try mixing up his prospecting messages a bit more than he had been previously. There aren’t too many products or services that are sold on the first cold call. It happens but he should not expect it to be the norm.
Again, he needs to focus on building relationships. So his messages should be more focused on being HELPFUL; not trying to sell.
I suggested that when he reaches out, make the main reason for doing it to be to provide value.
For example, let them know about some industry changes he read/heard are coming up, or big developments he’s seeing in the market. News that would affect their business and bottom line.
Since he was reaching out to C-Levels. That is the kind of outreach they would respond to….not “I can save you money”. That’s what everyone else says.
Fourth, I suggested he reach out to partner sales reps and ask to shadow them. Almost every business has software or service partners that aren’t direct competitors. Find out who the top rep in your area is and ask to meet them for coffee.
Get to know them and they may offer to make some introductions for you. And since they are selling into the same market, they know exactly who the decision makers are.
I remember being in his exact shoes. At one point I stuck it out for over 11 months without a single sale. It sucked. I was killing it on my cold calling numbers though. That’s why I was able to keep my job for so long with no sales.
But I was broke from not making any sales so had to move on. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Sales is such a finicky profession sometimes that the slightest change to industry or product can make a sales rep go from the top to the bottom.
The last words of advice I gave him is that if he didn’t think he could stick it out any longer then its not a failure to start looking for other opportunities. But I did suggest that if he interviewed with another company that he should ask to speak or sit with one of their top reps before accepting an offer. This way he could get a feel for the business and industry.
My last words?
“Remember, you’re awesome and you’re doing awesome. Don’t get discouraged because it all hasn’t “clicked” yet. It will, here or at your next gig.”
I hope this helps you too if you’re struggling in your sales job. Let me know if you have any words of wisdom you would give this budding sales pro. Leave a comment below.
Image courtesy of Uddhav Gupta /Flickr