The way to be productive is to have a plan and work to make it happen. I’ve found there are three types of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder “what happened?” To be successful in selling, you must be in control of your life and the selling situation.

Here are a few suggestions to help you become more productive and creative:

1. Set goals for yourself and your sales area. Write them down at the beginning of each year, month and week. Keep them with you and refer to them to keep yourself on course. Determine how you will reach these goals and where you are in reference to your final objective. Always make your goals a stretch, but attainable. Goal-setting should involve not only your professional side but your personal life as well. A goal might be getting so many leads per week, improving your closing rate, making five cold calls per week, making more appointments, etc. The goals must be yours and fit your needs.

2. Take a close look at your presentation. What does it look like to a potential buyer? Ask a trusted friend or your spouse to be objective; would they buy the product from you? You’d be surprised at the good advice you can get from a good friend who is willing to help you.

3. What kind of first impression do you make? What image do you project? I really believe in asking questions and listening to the answers. Be objective and don’t get upset by negative comments; they are only trying to help you. You can’t have a poor self-image and be a good salesperson. And making a good impression does not only mean the way you talk or present yourself— it may be the way you dress. Conservative dress for a male or female is required to be successful in sales.

4. Make a list of why customers buy from you. This is something each salesperson needs to make after every successful sales call. Examine why each customer bought from you and keep the list with you. Prior to each call, review it, keeping fresh in your mind why you are successful.

5. Eat meals with customers as often as possible. Eating alone is a waste of time. Time is money; spend this valuable time with a prospect or customer. It’s a time to relax while helping cement a relationship.

6. Network where your prospects and customers gather. Join civic groups and associations like the local Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club or any other group that will help you increase your customer base.

7. Ask others in your organization to evaluate your performance. Ask “How am I doing?” and listen to the responses. Change what needs to be based on the responses.

8. Join speaking groups like the Toastmasters. It will give you the chance to speak in public and get an evaluation of your speaking skills. It’s a great way to have some fun while improving yourself.

9. Every day learn something new about your company, a product or how your products are installed. Take time every day to learn something new about the products you sell. Learning keeps you fresh in your selling abilities. Keep track of the things you learn in a diary. Check to make sure you’re using these new facts in your presentations.

10. Make a tape of one of your presentations, especially when you are not closing like you should be or have in the past. Listen to yourself and be honest: would you buy from a person like the one you heard on the tape? Make the changes necessary to make your sales pitch believable and honest.

There are so many things that must be accomplished and so little time. Don’t waste yours.

(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.)