21 things I've learned about sales

June 1, 2012

By Joe McGonigal

1. Everyone is in sales, no matter your title, role, or job description. Embrace it.

2. It's worth learning to do well. Consider it a life skill, even if it's not how you make a living.

3. Sales isn't easy and there aren't any shortcuts. A lot of people who "think they'd be great at sales" aren't.

4. It's a profession worth pursuing and really honing your skills at. Too many do the first part, not enough do the second. Most likely because the first part is easy. The second part, on the other hand, requires an investment of time, money, and effort.

5. Be prepared that the training your company gives you won't be the only training you need. I learned a lot about persistence from my first job. I learned a lot about building relationships from my current role. In between, I've had to find courses, books, and mentors to fill in the gaps. I still have a lot to learn.

6. The fastest way to learn a new skill is to teach it to someone else.

7. Being a people person doesn't mean you can sell. I actually believe it is not an indicator at all.

8. Persistence, perseverance, creativity, risk, fearlessness, consistency, authenticity, and transparency are all prerequisites.

9. No one sale is really that important. It might seem like it at the time, but it's not.

10. Knowing when to walk away from certain deals is very underrated.

11. Being able to sell ice to Eskimos is overrated.

12. Have a value proposition. Hint: It should attract certain people and repel others. You can't be everything to everyone.

13. You need an entrepreneurial spirit. There usually isn't someone there to get you on the road before 9am or to ensure you make that last call of the day. If it won't be you, who will it be?

14. Focus less on features, benefits, promotions and products. Put more emphasis on learning to listen and asking powerful questions that stimulate insight.

15. Be prepared to challenge your clients to go places they wouldn't normally go on their own. Do it artfully and with clear intentions and they will thank you for it later.

16. Ideas can be the most difficult thing to sell. They can also be the most valuable and produce the highest ROI.

17. The most successful salespeople in today's economy will know as much, if not more, about their client's business than the actual client.

18. For some reason, "no-brainers" are the hardest things to sell.

19. The expectations, rules, and requirements change constantly. Flexibility and adaptability are essential.

20. Prospects will lie to you. Not because they are mean, but it's what bad salespeople have trained them to do. Take the time to build the trust and credibility necessary to avoid this.

21. It can take years to develop a great client, but only one mistake to end that same relationship. Treat each one with care.

Joe McGonigal has been with Patterson Dental for 11 years, both as a territory representative and a branch manager. He blogs regularly at www.joemcgonigal.com.