Sun Tzu, Copier Salesman??? From Katun Blog

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“Fail to plan, plan to fail.”  Sound familiar? One of the most overlooked realms in business is strategy. Too many salespeople in particular attack their day by doing whatever seems most urgent first and proceed to flail from one fire to the next.  Would you believe that an ancient Chinese general and philosopher has something to say about this?

35year-BannerAd-240-120Sun Tzu is attributed with writing a book called The Art of War over 2500 years ago.  The fact that it’s still in print today should tell you it’s pretty good.  Everyone from generals to CEOs read it.   Try this gem: If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”

You may not face too many enemies each day, but you face lots of customers. What if you knew your company and your product so well, and your customer and their needs so well, that you were fearless in every meeting?

A good rule of thumb for me is to spend at least as much time preparing for a meeting as the length of the meeting itself. One hour meeting? One hour planning.  Think through the flow of the meeting, the questions you want to ask, what questions your customer may have? Anticipate. Show up ready for every contingency you can foresee.  See if you don’t have better sales calls!

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 12.58.33 PMHere’s another wise nugget from Sun Tzu, He who knows which battle he should engage in and which he should avoid, will win.” Do you ever feel like you’re chasing your tail with a particular prospect? Maybe it’s because you are! Sure, there are some sales opportunities where you come close and lose, but aren’t there times where you just know there’s no business there? Don’t be afraid to walk!  Rather than spending the next two weeks…months….quarters playing footsies, get out there and find some new prospects. Wasting time with a non-buyer is costing you commission, and maybe your job.

One last word from the General, “If officers are unaccustomed to rigorous training they will be worried and hesitant in battle; if generals are not thoroughly trained they will be inwardly quail when they face the enemy.” Salesperson, you have to be trained, even if it means training yourself. Some companies have great training programs, and others don’t.  But your career is up to you, not your manager and certainly not HR.  Spend at least 30 minutes each day training yourself.  Maybe it’s brushing up on product knowledge, or reading a good sales book (or an OK sales blog!).

Make time to prepare yourself, so that when you face down a particularly menacing buyer, you’ll know you’ve already won.

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