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Back to school for sales people

The summer holidays are rapidly coming to a close

The shops are filled with signs enticing us with “Back to school” offers. As summer fades, a new academic year begins. Can we take anything from this long-ingrained regenerating spirit?

Motivation and performance are ever present themes in sales: Could this “back to school thinking” help us get a leg up for the final months of the calendar year?

Yes, it can! Here are 3 simple ideas.



“We cannot not communicate”

Paul Waltzalwick




1. Personal image upgrade

Paul Waltzalwick coined the phrase “We cannot not communicate” – both through our verbal and non-verbal language. Because we always influence in sales, one good way to give ourselves a lift is to systematically go through all our “influence kit” (car, briefcase, folders, sales materials, clothing, personal grooming) and make sure it’s 110%. Buy a new suit, a new folder, a new shirt, anything that communicates a high quality professional image appropriate to your sector. Go through your car, case, sales folder and make sure it passes military “passing out parade” image standards.

The aspiration to set our standards higher than our customers is a very good start in terms of creating and maintaining positive influence. The act of regularly checking everything in our influence kit induces the core of professionalism: Leaving nothing to chance and helping us feel more confident in our ability to perform.

Also, by putting ourselves in a new, consistently smarter environment, we make ourselves feel more professional. This is the “Fake it till you make it” psychology, perfectly described by Amy Cuddy in her TED talk below:




Getting Things Done

David Allen




2. Time management workout

Let’s face it, isn’t time management a continual challenge to every professional? It is therefore, something we should continually challenge ourselves with and work to improve. With some summer reading time left, now is a great moment to learn and apply some time management tips. David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” is a time management classic, and includes a lot of pragmatic advice on becoming less stressed and more productive.

Half a day in your home / work office with the “helicopter view” can enable you to make great improvements to personal organisation and time management. Key areas to look at in sales are:

  1. Prioritisation of customer base – where to spend your valuable time for maximum return?
  2. Standardisation of administration – how to decrease time spent on routine paperwork / data entry?
  3. Filing & in-trays – have a good clear out and think carefully about optimising workflow
  4. Delegation – are there any areas of your work than can be delegated e.g. proposal writing, looking after smaller accounts, replying to RFPs, dealing with stock
  5. Journey planning – Try reviewing your last month’s diary with a colleague and ask them how they would plan their month given your territory



Research on supplier complacency

Journal of personal selling & sales management



3. Fight supplier complacency

The Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management (March 2017) featured interesting research on supplier complacency, defining 3 key themes of:

Rigidity (e.g. Strict adherence to company rules)
Inadequate resources & attention (e.g. infrequent contact)
Problem resolution apathy (e.g. issue avoidance)

September can bring us a new sense of energy to think about our existing, perhaps under-loved customers, and make a proactive plan to show them we very much value their custom. After all, the last quarter is probably the worst time to find out you will lose a key customer.

Why not use the principle of reciprocity and proactive giving:

Provide something of value “out of the blue” for these customers, asking nothing in return.

Also, do a thorough sense check:

Are the touch points working well with our regular customers?
How would they actually rate our service?
What else can we provide for them which will be valuable and build loyalty?
Is there anything else we can do to keep them on board?


Ride the wave

Back to school thinking gives us a window of opportunity to reinvent our way of working, to improve, to find new energy. While the “Back to school” signs in the shops might be met with misery by our children, perhaps they can work in our favour!


Special call to sales management

With budgeting in play for many organisations, what will you do to make a step change in your sales team in 2018? This is the time to think strategically about the future development.

Not sure where to prioritise improvements to get sustainable growth? A good start point is to do some diagnostic work:

Sales Excellence Diagnostic to assess the sales organisation overall

Revenue engine analysis to quantify conversion rates

Sales team capability assessment to profile your existing team against job requirements

For more information, visit https://sellinginteractions.com/services/diagnosis/