True sales professionals need to bring value to their prospects. Gone are the days of handing out brochures and taking orders. Instead, sales professionals need to deliver ideas and insight to their prospects. And, if you want a prospect to invite you to the table to bring ideas, you need to position yourself as someone that can help.
Where do sales professionals get these ideas and insights? They come from reading.
There is a difference between a sales rep and a sales professional. This difference is seen in the approach. Sales reps look to sell products. Sales professionals look to deliver ideas and insights. In turn, sales professionals sell more and are highly compensated.
Here’s the bottom line: if you want to be a highly-compensated sales professional, you need to bring ideas and insights to your clients. That means you’re going to have to read.
What To Read
There are three types of information sales professionals need to read:
1. Information About the Prospect’s Business
You need to understand the people and industries you serve. If your target audience is CFO’s you need to read books, magazines, and articles that give you deep insight into the challenges CFO’s face. Look for content that solves these problems.
Here’s a great example. Over the past few years, I noticed that many of the dealer principals that I was talking to were reading the book Traction by Gino Wickman. As I read this fantastic operations book, it gave me context to talk to my clients and prospects that use the Entreprenurial Operating System. It also gave me ideas to share with my clients that are looking for ways to operate more efficiently. Just yesterday on a sales call, I shared ideas from Traction that helped build my credibility with a prospect. Last week I had a prospect share their entire VTO and business plan when they found out I understood the EOS. (Read Traction to learn about the great systems behind these acronyms!)
Look for books, magazines, and blogs that provide ideas that will be valuable to your prospects and spend a little time every day reading.
2. Information About What You Sell
The second thing you need to read is information about what you sell. Yes, you need to go through all of the product training. But if you want to be a highly-compensated sales professional, you need to take it to the next level. Look beyond your product or solution to the results you deliver.
Many years ago I became fascinated with document management software that was available through the copier company I worked for. At the time, I discovered two books: Reengineering the Corporation and Business at the Speed of Thought. These books laid out a vision for how technology could be used to streamline business processes. After reading these books, I began to see that my prospects didn’t really care about scanning and archiving documents. However, they did care about streamlining business processes. So, I began to talk about processes, bottlenecks, and how they impacted business goals.
In the process of reading I discovered that I didn’t sell software, I sold process improvement. Out of this, I began to sell software and ultimately built an international business coaching hardware sales reps how to talk to prospects about their business challenges and processes. None of this would have happened if I had not read a book.
3. Information About Sales
Sales reps need to continually hone their craft. This means we need to be reading and listening to great sales training. This is the fastest way a sales person can increase their income.
Here are a few great sales books I’ve been reading recently:
- The Art of Commercial Conversation by Bernadette McClelland
- Not Taught by Keenan
- Whale Hunting by Tom Searcy
How To Read
While what you read as a sales professional is important, it’s also important to consider how you read. We need to read for learning and for sharing.
1.Read To Learn
As you read, look for ideas that could be helpful to your prospects. Write these ideas down. Keep a notebook–I like Evernote. That way you have a library of ideas ready to share with prospects by email, in conversation, during presentations, and in proposals.
2. Read To Share
You should also read with the goal of building your brand. Sales professionals must position themselves as subject matter experts in today’s world of online research. Buyers check out your LinkedIn profile before, during, and after sales engagements. Smart sales people continually share ideas on their LinkedIn profiles.
These ideas can come from what you are reading. I like to read digital books on my Kindle. This allows me to share content from books I am reading directly to LinkedIn. If you’re more old-school like the co-host of the Selling From the Heart Podcast, Larry Levine, use your phone to take a picture of what you are reading and share it online. Either way, use what you are reading to position yourself as a true sales professional.
The Bottom Line
You need to read. I believe this may be the highest leverage time a sales rep spends. So, close this article, jump on your Kindle and get to work.
For more insight on becoming a value-added sales professional, check out the Selling From the Heart Podcast.