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Go from Good to Great

Just because you've been doing something for years doesn’t mean you can't or don't need to improve.

By Chip Eichelberger

Often, people get satisfied at being good at what they do. They stop doing all the little things that made them great, such as using a precall checklist, asking for referrals and testimonials, conducting timely follow ups, and sending thank-you notes. But these little things make the difference between good and great.

Providing a superior experience means constantly improving and refreshing what you do.

Consider U2 front man Bono’s example of taking something good and making it great. An early version of their song “Vertigo” was “massaged, hammered, tweaked, lubed, sailed through two mixes, and got U2’s unanimous stamp of ‘very good.’ Very good is the enemy of great. You think great is right next door. It’s not. It’s in another country,” Bono told USA Today. Instead of releasing the song at “very good,” the band rearranged the single with new melodies and rhythms. They soon discovered untapped reserves of ideas and fortitude, and the song went on to become a No. 1 hit.

Has your sales performance been good or great? Have you been on cruise control in your job? When was the last time you went back to your “studio” and reevaluated what you do and how you are doing it? If your performance could use improvement, consider the five following strategies.

1. Ask “What can I do better?”
When was the last time you asked a client what you could do to improve his experience with you? Has it been years, months or never? If you want to continuously improve your sales skills, your clients and prospects should have the most valuable insight into how you can become better. So make it a priority to regularly ask them for their suggestions.

Asking is only the first step. The key is to listen when someone offers a suggestion. When a client starts talking, don’t try to defend yourself or justify your actions; just listen to what he has to say. Take his suggestions seriously and follow up later to ensure you are making progress.

2. Set a clear goal for each day.
What activities drive performance for your business? Do they include the number of contacts, referrals, phone calls or appointments you make? Determine this factor and set a measurable goal for doing a certain number of these activities each day.

3. Keep track of your progress.
A good way to track your progress and ensure continuous improvement is to keep track of what you do. Create a scorecard to record your key performance numbers for each day—number of appointments, sales, referrals, etc. For example, if you want to make 10 cold calls each day, keep a record of the number of calls you make, as well as the number of days you achieve your cold-calling goal. Repeat this procedure for each goal or activity and post it where you can see it easily. You can’t manage what you can’t measure, and the quickest way to lose momentum is to stop tracking your results.

4. Tell an effective story.
Everyone has a success story, and you may notice that businesses and products often use their story as a marketing tool. Whatever your story is, it must be unique, solve the customer’s problem and be compelling. Real estate agents, for example, may take pictures of their clients in front of their new homes and then show these photos to their prospects. Consider how you can document your success with quotes, testimonials, case studies, and pictures, and then creatively use your story to attract new business.

5. Record yourself.
No one likes to admit they aren’t good at what they do. Even if a person fails, he is not likely to admit that individual performance was to blame. Have you ever recorded yourself while you’re meeting with a client or prospect? It is an excellent way to identify your strengths and weaknesses.

Explain to your client or prospect that you are consistently trying to improve the way you tell your story and your listening skills. Then ask if you can record the meeting for personal use. Most of the time, the prospect won’t have any objections and he will admire your professionalism. If you are speaking to a group, ask to use a video camera.

Once you have the recording, the moment of truth arrives. On your first review, take notes of all the good things you do and write down all the questions you ask. Then go back, ideally with a more experienced peer, and review what you need to improve. The more you know, the more you tend to talk. So you’ll often find that you need to ask more questions and talk less.

Continuous improvement in your future
Most sales professionals tend to abandon good habits quickly. They become satisfied with providing a mediocre experience to their clients when they should really be trying to amaze them. Providing a superior experience means constantly improving and refreshing what you do. One of the best ways to gain momentum is to go back to these habits and start doing them again. When you do, you can achieve limitless success.

Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Chip Eichelberger is an author, peak-performance strategist and speaker. His latest book, It Just Might Be You! will be published this spring. A sought-after expert in sales and personal development, Eichelberger has more than 20 years of experience in sales and marketing. For more information, go to

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