If you want to improve on anything, you must be able to evaluate your current position. In order to know where you are, you need to know where you should be or what you should be doing.

A good example is the game of golf I recently took up (because I don't have enough frustrations in my life). I have had instructions from a golf pro to show me how to swing and how to address the ball. So I spent some time practicing but I knew there had to be something to help me hit the ball better. People kept using terms like "open face" and "close face" the club when hitting the ball. I didn't know what they meant until my next lesson - what a difference that made in the way I hit the ball.

Selling and the skills needed to be a good salesperson are very much like learning the game of golf. Until you fully understand all the skills and how they are used, how can you expect to be a better salesperson? It is amazing how many people in my selling workshops have been "out selling" for many years, but they've never been formally trained to sell. Selling is a learned ability like math or reading; you don't just start out and know how to sell. You may have some of the traits needed to be a super salesperson, but you'll never learn the skills until you attend a sales seminar.

Just like golf, you can go through trial and error to discover what is needed to be a good salesperson, but you'll never be a top salesperson until you acquire and feel comfortable with the skills of selling.

Evaluate yourself

This brings us to the subject of this column: evaluating your own sales calls. If you don't know what you're doing wrong, you can't make the corrections to change poor habits. This is why a lot of salespeople get depressed when their wheels come off and they can't seem to find anything that will get them back on track.

You haven't obtained good sales training until you are able to analyze your own selling faults and know what to do to correct them. My advice is to forever make yourself continue to upgrade your selling skills and continue to build your sales know how. Every sales trainer has a sales message different from the one you last heard; take what you can use and apply it to your daily sales.

Now with the selling skills learned, you are prepared to enter the world of self-evaluation. The only way we improve is by understanding our mistakes and correcting them. Now that you know how you should be selling, you should know the kind of preparation you need prior to a call and how to execute the presentation to make the call successful.

Prior to making the call, you need to refresh your memory and recheck your material to make sure you are ready. Evaluate all aspects of the call you are about to make just prior to the call. I suggest that on the way to the call that you don't have any distractions such as a radio or music playing. Focus on the call and what you intend to accomplish.

Once the call is completed, ask yourself some probing questions before you go home:

1. Was I successful? Why or why not?

2. How was my attitude?

3. Did I present the material in a way that the prospect understood?

4. Did I sell myself? Did they believe me?

5. Did I sell my company?

6. Did I answer all questions to their satisfaction?

7. Did I let price become a big question?

8. What would I do different?

9. What material changes should I make to make selling easier?

10. What is my follow up for this prospect?

The self-evaluation can be an impressive way to grow as a salesperson. It is from your own thoughts that you will be able to see things you must continue or change to make your job easier.

Remember, you can't get better until you know what the right things are to improve.

(Dave Gleason has more than 40 years of experience in contracting, engineering and wholesaling. He has put these experiences into a comprehensive consultation and training company called Systematic Selling Inc., which offers customized sales seminars and workshops. Contact him at 1165 Antioch Campground Road, Gainesville, GA 30506; phone 800-447-7355; fax 717-698-6555.)