Outside Sales Representatives Can Get Caught in a Difficult Trap
Company is sold, merged or closes division/location. Major mainstay account is lost. Competitor offerings are enticing your prospects. Close rates are declining. A critical lead source fades. Established relationships and warm market are not generating sufficient revenue and your earnings. Your income and maybe even your outside sales job, is in jeopardy.
All of a sudden, an outside sales person who was happy and comfortable for a long time with legacy accounts, a warm market that served up accounts and lead sources that converted, wakes up to realize that it has slowly been drifting away, and a final straw (or boulder) has tipped that comfortable cool existence into the fire.
Ouch. Where do I see it most frequently with outside sales jobs? It can happen to anybody, but correcting it is harder for outside sales representatives age 50 and older.
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Big problem. If you fall too far behind it is much much harder to right the ship employing outside sales techniques that are rusty at best. When your outside sales environment changes, the sales techniques that brought you success before are not likely to bring you success now.
Two questions. How do you avoid this situation? How do you fix it?
If your sales offering stays relatively the same, you are at risk.
If your income (your job) is relatively dependent on one or a few accounts, you are at risk.
If your outside lead sources for new accounts are not evolving, you are at risk.
Your greatest enemy and challenge? It is not “sales techniques.” Selling tips, know-how and outside sales training is easily available and can be adopted by those ready and willing. Your real enemy? Change.
Change in your outside sales environment that runs by you while you stand still is the enemy. You can be falling farther and farther behind and at great risk and not feel it because checks keep clearing and life is good. Until it isn’t.
When change hits you like a hammer to the head, change becomes your challenge. Because now YOU have to change. A challenge that many are ill equipped to meet. Because the mindset resists it and the skillset is not up to par.
It’s not that you have to learn how to do outside sales from scratch, but the reality is that we get very comfortable with dialogue and sales behaviors that we are used to. But when your world changes and you must reach out to a crowd you are not used to, you do have to learn how to do outside sales in your new reality. That is hard, particularly when selling habits are long established and you don’t want to change.
No amount of great outside sales tips are going to help you if you have neither the inclination or discipline to adopt new sales behaviors.
“When people have to choose between change and proving they don’t have to, most people get busy with the proof.” Not sure who said that but it is absolutely true.
Change is hard. People do mental gymnastics that would earn a perfect score in the excuse Olympics to avoid it. Even in the face of overwhelming facts and sliding down a path of doom, most outside sales representatives find change very hard. Particularly when we are older.
How do you avoid this outside sales challenge ?
Don’t be lulled by having long time accounts and warm sources of new leads. Things change.
Particularly if you are working in a complex outside sales environment where closing cycles are long and making new connections is tough, you do not want to wake up some day short of goal with a non-existent pipeline.
Savagely seek new business opportunities even when you are comfortable.
Force yourself to find new lead sources and work them from cold call to close or inquiry to close.
Even if it is a small percentage of your time and revenue it can save your economic life (and maybe your outside sales job) in three ways.
Bringing in new accounts cushions the loss of current accounts.
Bringing in new accounts, particularly colder leads from new sources forces you to modify your sales process and become proficient using new sales techniques.
Bringing in new accounts changes your mindset.
Yes, your mindset.
Your interactive sales process and dialogue is different when approaching a colder lead, with less connection and familiarity with you and your company.
Change is your enemy. If an event compels you to all of a sudden drum up business to survive and change your outside sales process, if you don’t have the mindset and skillset to meet and close colder accounts you have a serious serious problem. You can’t flip that switch very easily and mere access to great selling tips is not going to help you. If you are in a long sales cycle environment, your situation is multiple times worse, as good solid accounts don’t tend to magically fall out of the sky quickly and bosses have less patience with outside sales representatives not pulling their weight.
You will need to change your outside sales mindset.
You will need to change your sales process and dialogues.
You will need to change.
If you are really caught with your pants down and need to turn on a dime, the faster you let go of your comfort zones and try new things, the better chance you will survive and thrive. Outside sales training and coaching that is direct will help, if you are open to receiving the message. The more you deny your situation and merely massage your previous selling approach, the more likely it is that you will be eating the dust of co-workers and competitors blowing by you. Dipping your toe in the waters of a few new selling tips is not going to save you.
So don’t get fat, happy and comfortable. Focus on bringing in new accounts from different sources all the time. Practice, practice, practice. Selling is a craft. Practice it and take conscious steps to improve.
When faced with company sale, loss of a major account or a new competitor that starts mopping up the floor with you, you will be in a much better position to compete.