Hero image of Brian McCauley, ProSales columnist

Man, what a year 2020 has been. We’ve all been challenged both professionally and personally. The way we’ve conducted business was turned upside down in March of this year and nobody knows when we may get back to some semblance of normal. As we’re nearing the end of 2020, I thought it might be useful to look back over the Uncommon Value columns this year and pick some key takeaways that could springboard you into 2021.

1. Be Different. Build a differentiated sales message that encompasses you, the company you work for, and the products you sell. The key here is meaningful differences – not the same old song and dance of “we have great service”, “we have great products”, and “we have fair prices.” Know the competition, know how you’re different, and communicate impactful reasons why customers will be better off buying from you.

2. Don’t Make Excuses. Excuses are just a way to let ourselves off the hook for performance not up to standards. People don’t care about excuses…they care about results. Hold yourself accountable and own your results.

3. Know Your Product and How to Sell It. Product knowledge is important. You must know your product; what it does, what it does not do, what it competes against, how it stacks up, etc. There’s no way around it and you can’t take any shortcuts, you must know your product inside and out. However, I would offer that it’s not the most important determiner of sales success. How you communicate these differences, and what you choose to focus on during sales presentations, is more important. You can determine what that is by asking questions, listening to the customer’s responses, and observing what you see. Show your customer that you care about them, and their business, and are looking for ways to help them be more successful and then tailor both your company story and product presentations to their situation and the issues they are facing. That’s the sign of a true sales professional.

4. Show Up. It’s often said that showing up is half the battle. Showing up means you work hard every day, seek new business opportunities every day, and work efficiently every day. When things go sideways, as they do from time to time, showing up also means not hiding from a negative situation. Get in front it, attack it head on, fix it, and move on. Nobody likes bad news, but people generally deal with bad news better when they know about it early and can plan for it. Working through bad news is also easier when the customer knows the salesperson is not hiding from it, but instead is working diligently to fix it. The word “hustle” can have both positive and negative meanings, but I’ve often heard it used to describe a good salesperson who shows up every day. Be a hustler … in the best sense of the word.

5. Positive Attitude. It’s often said that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it, and at its core that is our attitude. That is played out in the story about two friends out on a hike. They come across a bear and one friend bends over to tie his shoes tighter. The other friend reminds him he can’t outrun a bear. The first friend replies “I’m not worried about outrunning the bear, I need to outrun you.” 2020 was a challenging year in many ways and it appears we’ll be dealing with similar challenges for at least the first half of 2021. We don’t have a choice in that reality, but we can choose how we react to that reality.

I wish everybody a Happy New Year and continued success in 2021. Happy Selling!!