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Plant In The Spring Or Beg In The Fall

Most salespeople mistakenly believe that it's what they do while they're with a customer that has the greatest impact on their income. The reality is that it's what a salesperson does in between customers that puts him over the top, or keeps him near the bottom. When a salesperson is with a customer, he has to play whatever cards he's holding. What a salesperson does with his time in between customers determines whether the "hand" he's holding will make or break the sale. The level of a salesperson's preparation and practice will certainly determine the level of his play. Follow these three steps to plant in the spring (the time during your daily routine when you're not with a customer) so you don't have to beg in the fall.

1. Prospect constantly. If you're going to wait for your company to bring your leads to you on a silver platter, get accustomed to a career grounded in mediocrity. Set a goal to meet or contact "x" number of prospects per day. Prospecting doesn't mean going out and finding a stranger and trying to sell him or her something. Prospecting simply means letting people know who you are, where you work and what you do. Just open the door, plant the seed and follow up regularly. The exponential effect of adding 2, 3 or 5 prospects per day to your working file is tremendous. The next time you buy groceries, fill up with gas, go to the movies, dine out, purchase clothes or wash your car, pick up a prospect. It's not hard and will only take 30 seconds. Say something like this, "You all do a nice job serving us food here every time we come in. My name is …… and I work at….. Here's my card. The next time you're in the market for ……, would you give me a call?" You can expand this approach to ask for prospects or get more specific about what you do as the conversation progresses. Your goal is to momentarily market yourself and open the door. Once it's open, you'll be amazed at what you can uncover: but it's not going to open itself. You have to turn the key.

2. Follow-up. After you make a contact, follow-up quickly with a brief thank you note: "Thanks for taking the time to chat today. I look forward to our next visit." Enclose a business card and mention anything specific that came up during the conversation to make the note more meaningful. If you publish a newsletter, have a brochure or other promotional material, send it as well.

3. Use repetition. Even if people like you, they normally don't go to much trouble to remember you. That's why repetition is important. If you don't have a regular mailing of some sort (newsletter, company update bulletin, etc.) come up with one and send it out 6-8 times per year. When you can, blend in a phone call every 90 days or so just to see how things are going, notify your prospect of a special or even better ask for a referral. Balance phone calls with mailers for the best effect. E-mail is also a viable option if you get their permission to keep them posted on specials or what's going on. Spam mail is deemed as such an imposition these days you risk turning your customers off by sending them too many unsolicited e-mail messages.

Prospecting is not rocket science. It is work, which is why so many salespeople won't go through the trouble of doing it. But if you examine the highest paid professionals in sales, they have prospecting in common as a regular discipline. It sets them apart from the 'wannabes' in sales and helps them turn pro. You can't take potential leads for granted. You must plant seeds over and over again if you want to harvest an income worthy of your family's needs and wants. Start prospecting today. If you're going to be in front of people every day anyway, you've nothing to lose. If you're too lazy, you should find another line of work, or resign yourself to being a speck in the mosaic of other also-rans in sales.

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