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Is it possible to create a “no luck needed” strategy to make 2011 the best year of your career? Here are five keys that we think will do it!

Contrary to popular belief, lots of selling is happening in our economy. In 2010, more than 4.7 million home sales occurred – on par with historical trends (excepting the bubble) – according to the National Association of REALTORS. Bloomberg reports online holiday sales are up 15% over last year. U.S. stock markets are also enjoying year-over-year gains.

From homes to retail goods to investment products, someone’s selling something every day.

Whether or not that will be you in 2011 depends upon what you’re doing right now to prepare for positive sales. It might take longer, or require new tools, but the right plan could make you part of the “sales were up” crowd next holiday season. To help create that plan, remember these five keys to sales success:

  1. Define clear goals. Identify what you’re working towards. Place that goal “front and center” every day – on your computer desktop, cell phone or an index card on your bathroom mirror. Focus on goals and good decisions will come easy. You’ll know which customers to call, which to engage, and which to avoid. Focusing on why you’ll be working hard – prospecting, training, closing – will motivate you to do the activities required for success.
  2. Know the customer. Past markets aren’t ever going to “return” and neither are past customers. The reasons people buy your products, desire your service and pay your fees change as customers evolve.  Constantly collect research about customers to understand what they value, how they want to interact and their goals. Go beyond “market” research: learn how your customer works, plays, lives. Then refine your sales approach to reflect those values.
  3. Get with it. There’s an “it” when it comes to your industry. Maybe it’s technology – like social media or video marketing. Maybe it’s financial – mastering economic and investment conditions. Maybe it’s sales skill – moving from “I’m the greatest!” to “You’re the greatest!” marketing. Whatever the “it” is, make sure you “get” it sooner rather than later.
  4. Prune. We tend to constantly add to our lives, but consider finding things to prune from it. Especially negative influences. Prune or limit time spent online in vitriolic discussion groups. Managers might finally eliminate negative or low-producing sales people (or high producers who are also high complainers). It might even mean pruning some existing customers from your business mix. Look for ways to eliminate negative energy, frustrating interactions or goal-sapping busy-ness from your plan.
  5. Keep it simple. You know where business comes from: friends, family and past clients. All sales industries are referral-driven. Few experience success from “cold” customers. So contact one existing relationship daily. Not two or five or ten. One a day is enough. That’s 20 a month and probably more than you contacted consistently last year. Keep it personal and simple, too. Avoid mass-produced letters or e-blasts. One personal email. One thinking-of-you social media comment. One short telephone call or text message. As Bill Hogan, who won 13 consecutive annual sales awards at IBM says in his book: Eat the elephant one bite at a time!

You’ll probably need a few more things in your plan, but when it comes down to it, these five are certainly essential. Don’t make it harder than it has to be: Focus on your goals, know how your customers think and engage them every day. Avoid time-traps and get with “it” in your industry. You won’t even need any luck, when you stick to it, to reach your sales goals next year.

P.S. If you have another “key” to success, we’d love to hear from you! Write to us and let us know how you’re planning to be a success in your career next year!