sales skills

7 Questions & 7 Resolutions to Sell More in 2019

Based on research, most sellers didn’t hit their numbers in 2018.

If you fall into that category or you just want to sell more in the coming year, here are seven questions and some New Year’s resolutions to consider as you start 2019. I promise if you thoughtfully consider the questions — and follow through on the resolutions — when the clock strikes midnight 2020, you will clearly see (I know but couldn’t resist) why you had a great year.    

Question #1: Do you depend on leads to hit your numbers?

Top sellers don’t depend on leads to hit their numbers.

Several years ago, I hired a broker to help me find new office space. I was shocked when he made cold calls in between site visits. He wasn’t making follow-up calls to prospects who hit the website — they were cold calls. As a customer, did I like that? Not really. Was he successful? One of the top brokers in the city (just saying).  

Today in the gym I bumped into a friend of mine who’s killed it in sales for 20 years. He just transitioned into another sales role for a startup medical device company. I asked him how it’s going. He said, “It’s been challenging. I’ve sent 500 emails in the last month, but I’m finally getting some meetings.” He’ll kill it again.

New Year’s Resolution: Don’t wait for marketing to be successful. There are not enough Glengarry Glen Ross leads to go around.

Question #2: Do you know what’s on the decision maker’s whiteboard?  

Picture the office of the people you typically sell to: Can you see it? What’s on their whiteboard?

I’m not asking if you have psychic abilities — I’m asking if you can describe what the typical decision maker (i.e., VP of a department, business owner) cares about. Do you know their objectives, plans to get there, or their common challenges? Simply, if you polled 50 people in the role you typically serve, how would they answer this question: What top three things do you plan on working on this year?

People in similar roles have similar challenges, and their whiteboards have common themes. If you don’t know those common themes, they won’t meet with you, and they will not listen to you.

Decision makers — not the people who evaluate your solution — have the authority and resources to make things happen, and they don’t meet with sales reps. Sales reps sell stuff. Decision makers need people who understand their problem and have the expertise to solve their problem. So, if you don’t understand what’s on their whiteboard, you can’t earn a seat at the table.

New Year’s Resolution: Determine the three most common themes for the decision makers you typically serve. By starting every email and conversation with a problem or objective on the decision maker’s whiteboard, you will get more meetings and be invited back more often.  

Question #3: Do you practice?

In the documentary, Where the Light Is, John Mayer made a telling comment about his success. He said that before he had his first hit, he spent eight years playing alone in a room. No audience, no applause, just practicing. Eight years! Now he’s one of the best.

Do you practice your craft? Selling is no different than learning to play the guitar or a sport. There are no shortcuts to success. Successful selling is a blend of talent, skills, and knowledge; you won’t get there on talent alone. Skills and knowledge have to be earned.  

As Stephen Covey said: “Private victory precedes public victory.” And it’s true.

New Year’s Resolution:  Determine what skills need to be developed and schedule time each week to practice your craft. If you do, based on my experience working with thousands of reps over the last 30 years, you will separate yourself from 90% of sellers who make calls, send emails, go to meetings, and then blame poor outcomes on inferior solutions.  

Question #4: Do you choose your prospects and/or customers?

Sellers seem to fall into two categories directly related to how they spend their time. There are reps waiting to be chosen: “Pick me, pick me! I have cool stuff.” And reps who choose their prospects and customers: “Who do I want to work with? Do they have a problem I can solve? Is it a win/win relationship?” In the initial meeting, the second seller spends as much time evaluating the customer/prospect as the customer spends evaluating them. Here’s the million dollar question: Who sells more?

The second rep consistently outperforms the rep who just wants to be chosen. So, assess your mindset when pursuing an opportunity or looking at your list of accounts. You only have a limited amount of time. A decision will need to be made about where you will spend it. Will the decision be yours or will it be made by someone else?    

New Year’s Resolution: Determine your criteria for assessing a qualified opportunity or account. Once your standards are established, commit to determining how you will allocate your time to each opportunity/account.

Is this approach manipulative and selfish? Absolutely not. Choosing well frees you up to serve customers you can actually help. An orthopedic surgeon refusing to help a patient with a heart problem is a good thing. You can’t serve everyone, so choose who you can serve well.  

Question #5: Do you outwork the competition?

When you’re pursuing an opportunity with a company, you will rarely be the only solution under consideration. You will have competition. How often do you ask yourself, what are they doing to win? What are they doing to help the customer make the best decision? Am I doing more?

On your next opportunity, ask yourself those questions and do more than the competition to help the customer evaluate your solution. I’m not suggesting you push harder; I’m saying you should offer unexpected ways to help reduce their risk and make the best decision. Find a way to outwork the competition, whether it’s free consulting, no-cost assessments, sharing additional insights on how other organizations have solved the same problem or offering meetings with similar customers. If you do more, you will sell more.

New Year’s Resolution: Develop a list of unexpected offers for each stage of the sales process that will exceed the customer’s expectations, help them evaluate your custom-focused solution (i.e., customer focused), and gives you a competitive advantage.

Question #6: Do you know why you are uniquely better?

As communicated in question #5, we almost always face competition. But all too often, sellers communicate their recommendation with little to no thought about helping the customer answer the question: Why should they choose YOU to help them?

Picture the decision maker writing three company names on the whiteboard in their conference room. The first company listed is yours, and the other two are the names of your biggest competitors. Now, imagine the customer writing a description of each solution under each name, and a list developed from features and benefits communicated during the last meeting. What would they write in your box? Would they clearly see how you differ from the competition?

Remembering this exercise motivates me to clearly communicate how my solution contrasts with the solution from the competition. If I don’t, they won’t.

What makes you uniquely better? Do you have a list of what you offer or how you deliver your solution that no one else can provide? You have limited time to communicate the benefits of your solution, do you know what to highlight? If you fail to point out how you are different, you will lose to someone who’s probably not better, just different.

New Year’s Resolution: Develop a list of proprietary benefits, then, before each meeting, determine which of those unique benefits you want to communicate to the customer. Not only is it helpful for the customer to understand your unique offering, but the customer will know what you do better than the competition. Sometimes it’s not a match, but a least you had a chance.

Question #7: Can you convert the disinterested?

Receptivity of customers and prospects is on the decline. The availability and barrage of information is making it harder and harder for sellers to get new meetings and expand their footprint in accounts.

So, what’s your strategy to convert prospects or customers who are emotionally closed to a sales call or a new idea? Sell harder? Work harder? Send the same message more often?

The small percentage of people who can convert the disinterested operate in two dimensions. They understand that before they can plant the seed (i.e., their message), they must create fertile soil (i.e., the customer’s receptivity). If you are a farmer, it makes perfect sense. If you are in sales, it counters the traditional approach to selling: All you need to do is nail your value prop.

At times, the best value prop wins if the customer is open. But if you are like most sellers, your quota depends on converting the disinterested, and there just aren’t enough people raising their hands to learn more. Make a vow to try a radically new approach and focus on the one thing that has the most significant impact on the customer’s receptivity: Demonstrate your sincere desire to serve.

New Year’s Resolution: Commit to serving more. Care more, learn more, and do more. Just set your agenda aside, make the customer the hero of every story, and help them get what they want. Try it for one year.

I know it’s a fluffy, inspirational platitude: Serve your customer. It’s why I saved it for last. But it also just happens to be the fundamental cause why reps are failing.  

If you genuinely desire to serve more, the customer will know it. And I promise you, you will sell more.

As Co-founder and CEO, Tom’s primary role is to create content that helps people live, sell, and serve more effectively. Find him on LinkedIn

1 Comment

  1. Vincent M Roazzi on March 7, 2019 at 12:09 pm


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