Game plans are not solely for National Football League teams. Every salesperson should have his or her own game plan to ensure success. Why? Because selling is a game. And money is how you keep score.

Before we review various game plans, I submit for your consideration a few apropos remarks made over the years. Robert Louis Stevenson said it well, "Everyone lives by selling something."

An amusing anecdote attributed to the Wharton School of Business says:

"A salesman is a problem identifier first¿ problem solver second¿nd a prescriber third. Let me give you an example of this from a story I have heard. There was an old English church where the minister had placed a message on the announcement board out front. It said: 'If you're tired of sinning, come on in.' Right below it an enterprising soul had written in chalk: 'And if you're not, call Chelsea 4758.' On this one little sign we saw the problem identified, solved, and prescribed."

The Wharton story creates a call to action - either step in or step out. And as part of this process, you must get your customer into the act. Monologues are for comedians, not salespeople. Nothing is more boring than a salesperson perched on his soapbox orating endlessly about his products or services.

Engage in sales conversations

Instead, ask the right questions to involve the prospect in a sales conversation. Questions help the prospect to objectively look at his or her needs, desires and wishes. Have your questions prepared before you make the sales call. And, above all, listen closely to what the prospect is telling you. One former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives - an old timer - always told new congressmen, "If you're talking, you ain't learning." And so it is in the sales game.

Selling is one of the most rewarding of all professions. Every day presents a new challenge. Every day has its failures and successes. But for every downer, there is an upper.

Salespeople get paid for hearing NOs. One challenge is to accept the inevitable NOs and learn from them, rather than let them beat you down. Determine what you may have done to elicit a NO. Did you talk too much (come across as boring)? Did you fail to bring the customer into the sales conversation to adequately determine his wishes? Did you not know your product or service completely? Were you unprepared to field the customer's objection? Did you come off as overbearing?

Determine your game plan

Let's talk a little about game plans. First, you must force yourself out of bed and energize yourself. (Having a goal helps to get you moving.)

When you approach the prospect, you must sell yourself early on in the conversation. It has been said that the most important words a salesperson utters are the first words out of his mouth. Think about this. Make your potential customers realize that you are helping them buy rather then selling them. It works.

Remember, no monologues. Initiate a conversation. Get your customer into the act. Energize your customer and create excitement. Also keep in mind that your potential customer doesn't want to be "sold." A discussion of pricing comes later.

Be prepared to meet your prospect's objections. Almost all customers have been psyched into putting up a barrier. As I said before, they don't want to be sold. Objections can take many forms - a show of indifference, negative remarks about pricing (also known as "poor mouthing"), a claim of not being sure what they want, etc.

Meet objections head on. For instance, if one of the objections is about your high price, brag about it! Explain what enhanced benefits they get for the extra cost. Objections of any kind allow you to make a score. Don't be aggressive, but meet an objection positively and you have just given your customer one more reason to buy from you.

Once you have determined your customer's wishes, keep on track. It is rare to get an instant OK on a sale, so be logical, thoughtful and controlled. Win attention.

Finally, ask for the order. This has become a clich¿ but it represents the closure needed - and it is often a difficult step. But despite the difficulty, you need to step up to the plate. And once you get an OK, be brief - because many a sale is lost by interminable discussion after the customer accepts the transaction.

Stick to the fundamentals

To summarize, the basic selling fundamentals are:

  • Be prepared.

  • Declare your position.

  • Be brief.

  • Energize both yourself and your customer.

  • Keep on track.

  • Take the order.

    Finally, don't forget that you're not in the sales game on your own. Success isn't dependent solely on you, the salesperson. Leadership and backing from your organization is vital. Consider the story of the Irish army captain who called his troops together and said, "Now me brave soldiers, the enemy is approaching and here is my order: Shoot until you run out of ammunition and then run like the devil! And as you know, I'm a bit lame - so I'll start running now."

    Salesmanship is a game and an art form. You must plan your work. Use color, excitement and perspective. Be dedicated. Learn to accept - and build upon - failure.