Spencer Johnson in his classic parable, Who Moved My Cheese, has presented to the world a new understanding for dealing with change.  

As Dr. Johnson relates, change is universal since we are all confronted with change on an almost daily basis.  The only variable to change is how we deal with it.  Nothing could be more profound for salespeople than the way this story deals with change. I believe those who have found success, in spite of circumstance, have applied the principles discovered in the charmingly written and exceedingly simple story, Who Moved My Cheese.

Nothing is more revealing of a salesperson’s skills and abilities than their individual performance.  There is no doubt that sales results are influenced by the strength of the economy, but not determined by it.  In a recessionary economy, a great salesperson will deliver stellar results, while an average salesperson will deliver excuses.  In a booming market even a novice salesperson is capable of delivering a strong performance.  As quickly as the phone is answered, a salesperson can write an order.  About the only skill needed, is the ability to pick up the phone and then deliver what the customer has ordered.  Most business owners have no idea how poorly trained their salespeople truly are, until the market begins to soften and selling skills are actually required to make a sale.  

A few years ago I called on the president of large window manufacturing company.  We talked about the necessity of sales training to improve the performance of his salespeople.  He was in total agreement in principle, but when it came right down to enrolling his people in our training program he declined.  He looked at me and said he knew his people needed training.  He even went so far as to say that they were pretty lousy salespeople.  However, the building market was so strong that even though his salespeople were in need of improvement, they were selling every window the company could produce.  Their production facility was working three shifts per day, seven days per week.  There was no way they could produce any more windows.  Training the salespeople would not only increase sales, but also increase lead times and cause their customers to be unhappy.  

I mentioned the example of salespeople and their performance in both strong and weak markets because the weak market requires a change on the part of the salesperson if they are going to continue to produce stellar results.  As in the story, Who Moved My Cheese, Hem would go to cheese station C every morning, even after all the cheese was gone, hoping it would be there.  Haw, on the other hand, spent each day wandering through the maze looking for new cheese.  He realized since the cheese was no longer in cheese station C he needed to find another source.  Meanwhile, Hem would get up every morning and do what he had always done, go to cheese station C expecting to find cheese, but none was to be found.  He was unwilling to change, to do something different, in his quest for cheese.

For every salesperson within the sound of my voice, the cheese in cheese station C won’t always be there.  The day will come, if you want cheese you are going to have to quit doing those activities you have done in the past and do something different.  You will need to go out into the maze and look for new cheese.  In other words, the day will come when doing the things you have done in the past won’t be enough to book new sales.  Here are five areas of focus that will help you find new cheese and increase your sales beyond your wildest dreams:

  1. Get up early every morning and work smart and hard at selling.  Don’t believe for one minute that just because the economy is worse than it has been in twenty-five years your sales can’t be your best ever.  Believe in yourself and then work to make it happen.  You will need to work harder and smarter than you have ever worked before.

  2. Review your sales process and then follow it diligently.  Don’t become complacent.  Prospect every day.  Find new opportunities to tell your story.  Present solutions to problems and prepare quotes for the sale of your products or services.  Follow-up with each opportunity, resolve concerns and ask for the business.

  3. Focus your activities on the very best potential opportunities.  Remember, current customers present the best opportunity for new sales, repeat sales and referrals.  Look beyond your current product base and discover potential niche markets for your products or discover new products that could complement your current product lines.  Think outside the box.

  4. Set goals for your daily, weekly and monthly activity.  Establish activity goals as well as performance goals.  Set goals for the number of calls, appointments, follow-ups and quotes you will make.  When you are doing the right things on a daily basis you will finish the month with the right results.  Keep a monthly goal sheet identifying those customers and prospects that will allow you to reach your goal.  Setting a goal without identifying where the goal will come from is a waste of time.

  5. Ask everyone you contact for referrals.  Let them know receiving referrals is the way you make your living.  Everyone knows someone they could refer you to.  Demonstrate you are working hard to provide the service and products they need.  When the prospect or customer is satisfied with your performance they will gladly give you referrals when asked.  Never let a day go by without asking for and receiving at least one referral.