Business Operations

OLSEN: Prepare to Win

The biggest difference between Master Sellers and the rest is their relationship with preparation

The biggest difference between Master Sellers and the rest is their relationship with preparation. Master Sellers are fanatical about preparation, while “the rest” do all best to do as little preparation—faking it—as possible.

We are in a Pareto Principle business. Eighty percent of the business in our market goes to 20% of the sellers. Those who prepare to win get 80%, the rest prepare to lose.

The “hard way”—taking the time, energy and focus to prepare our (sales) life, career, year, month, week, day AND each individual call—IS the winning way.

The “easy way”—winging it—may seem easy in the short term, but in the medium and long-term, it is the loser’s way. Winging it will beat preparation once in a while (20%?), but never over the long haul.

The Purpose of My Call

We need to be clear what we are going to accomplish on each call. This is as simple as writing three to five bullet points:

• Offer 2×4 92 5/8” for two weeks shipment out of ABC @ $350.
• Reasons to buy: (1) Market is strong. (2) Shipment works with customer’s inventory turn. (3) Likes stock.
• Be ready to overcome objections.
• Ask for the order more than once.

• Ask Questions and shhhhh….

Many sellers get “beat-around-the-bush-itis.” Don’t be one of them. Small talk is important, but when it is finished, get to the point. Master Sellers are clear and direct in their communication. They are comfortable shifting from small talk to business, from business details to money, and from money to asking for the order.

When we are not prepared the customer senses it and will take control of the call; 90% of the time turning us into a quoting/shopping service. The seller will have no control on any call. Each call will be different, thus impossible to prepare for. These are frustrating calls that lead to frustrating days, careers and results.

Getting Close Is Not Closing

An office wholesaler should be ready and able to close on eight products (minimum) in 10 states at all times. A distribution seller should be ready to close on eight products (minimum) in their market area. When we call our customer we should be ready to close them on all of the items, they buy from us. Most sellers can’t. Most are ready to get close, but not too close. That’s the 80/20 difference. That is why Master Sellers make four times what “the rest” make.

What Happens When We’re Not Prepared

When we show up unprepared what we’re saying is, “I don’t care about you. All I care about is the order. I’m lazy. Will you do my job for me and tell me what you want to buy, specs and all, and what you’re willing to pay for it?”

This attitude puts customers in a negative frame of mind on this call and on all calls with this “seller.” This “seller” will get treated poorly by customers.

What Happens When We Are Prepared

We stand out because, happily, most of our competitors don’t prepare. Our customers will recognize our preparation immediately and treat us as a partner. There will still be challenges, but they’ll be partner (not pest) challenges.

Customers will listen to us. This may seem simple, but many sellers cannot get their customers to come to the phone, much less listen to them when they do get them on the phone. Why? Because they are not promotional partners. When we prepare a promotional, idea-filled, purposeful call for our customers, they will feel it and listen.

Customers will take us into their rotation of suppliers faster. Master Sellers lose customers just like their struggling counterparts. How come their numbers never go down? Their approach stands out. It inspires confidence. They take much less time to “break into” accounts than non-prepared competitors.

We become the number one supplier. Customers will buy from (see: pick-off when cheap) sellers they get along with, but only the seller who can make the customer feel that they are more prepared than the customer will become the number one, dominant supplier.
James Olsen

James Olsen is the founder of Reality Sales Training, Portland, Or. After 20 years in sales with Nike, North Pacific Lumber, and Forest City Trading, in 2001 James started his own sales training business, devoted to helping companies and individuals achieve rapid sales growth. Contact him at (503) 544-3572 or

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