I sat in a Jim Rohn seminar one day in 1995 and heard him say, “Formal education will earn you a living. Self-education will earn you a fortune. You decide how much of a fortune you want to earn by how willing you are to self-educate.”
I was frozen in my front-row seat. This stunning piece of “obvious” that created self-awareness remains with me nearly 20 years later.
Insight to personal wisdom: The toughest educational questions in sales are the ones you have to ask yourself — self-educational questions, if you will.
Here’s a list of the toughest questions to ask yourself:
• Why are you having trouble making connections?
• Why are you still making cold calls?
• Why are you having difficulties setting appointments?
• Why are you unable to get to the decision maker?
• Why are your presentations boring?
• Why is your closing percentage nothing to brag about?
• Why are your follow-up calls going unreturned?
• Why are your emails getting deleted?
• Why are your customers price-oriented?
• Why do you lose sales to inferior competitors?
• Why do you lose customers to a lower bid?
• Why does your competition win?
• Why are you unable to get referrals?
• Why are you unable to get testimonials?
• Why are you unable to build trusted relationships?
• Why are you complaining about circumstances you can change?
• Why are you unable to achieve your sales plan?
What are the answers to those questions worth? Jim Rohn already told you: a fortune.
I have studied sales for more than 40 years and salespeople for more than 25 years. The difference between their success and failure is found in front of and behind the word “rather.” It’s an educational process that starts with self-evaluation and opens the door to discovering your own answers.
Below is what I have found to be a salesperson’s biggest downfalls and pitfalls (and their biggest opportunities). The challenge for salespeople of all kinds is to ask themselves “why?” and educate themselves in the process.
• Why are you trying to be informative, rather than inquisitive?
• Why are you trying to be reactive, rather than proactive?
• Why are you trying to be defensive, rather than offensive (in a positive way)?
• Why are you trying to be aggressive, rather than assertive?
• Why are you blaming circumstances, rather than taking responsibility for your actions?
• Why are you talking, rather than doing?
• Why are you going for the sale, rather than going for the customer?
• Why are you “making your quota,” rather than building a relationship?
• Why are you manipulating the conversation, rather than harmonizing with the prospect?
• Why are you trying to find the prospect’s pain, rather than finding their pleasure?
• Why are you trying to overcome objections, rather than lowering the barriers to purchase by reducing the risk?
• Why are you trying to “make the sale,” rather than uncovering the motive to buy?
• Why are you focused on price rather than value?
• Why are you “numbers-oriented,” rather than “relationship-oriented”?
• Why is your social presence and online reputation nonexistent, rather than being No. 1 in your industry?
• Why is your online presence lacking, rather than having a dominant Google and social position your customers and prospects would respect?
• Why are you trying to measure customer satisfaction, rather than seek and earn, and then measure customer loyalty?
• Why are you asking for referrals and testimonials, rather than doing everything you can to earn them?
Take each “rather” and think about it twice: once seriously and once strategically.
Then make notes on where you are in relationship to each process. Rate yourself and make an action plan to improve. Then ask your peers or partner to evaluate your self-assessed findings. They may (probably will) differ from yours.
The secret to each sale: Be in a winning position before the sales call to put yourself in a winning position during the selling process.
All you have to do to be a top 1 percent performer is: Do the “rather.”
I have just given you an education, an evaluation and a set of strategies that will educate you in a way that is both understandable and actionable.
Editor’s note: Jeffrey Gitomer is on sabbatical. This column originally appeared in the Sept. 2, 2014, Business Journal.
Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of 12 books. His “21.5 Unbreakable Laws of Selling” is available as a book and an online course at gitomerVT.com. For public event dates and information about training and seminars, visit gitomer.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.