Pick up nearly any food product you can find on the shelves of your local supermarket and it will be stamped with an expiration date. Look on the bottom of the carton, or on the cap, and you’ll see “Best if used by June 21, 2012” or “Sell by June 21, 2012.” This useful bit of regulation is designed to protect consumers from products that sat on the shelves too long at the store and didn’t sell or that have been hidden in the back of your cupboard behind the cans of baked beans and slowly turning moldy and inedible over the years.

Who’s protecting your customers from salespeople turned moldy and stale?

Have You Gone Stale? Salespeople have an expiration date as well. If you don’t adapt your selling to keep pace with your customer’s rapidly changing buying behaviors, then you risk turning into the sales equivalent of lumpy spoiled milk. Are you keeping fully informed of the economic and technological changes that are affecting your customers business? No? Then chances are you’re going to turn into a green moldy loaf of white bread. Are you fully educated about the new technologies and products at your company? Do you know more about your products and services than your customers? Not really? You’ll become the carton of sour cream that was hidden behind the beer in your fridge for six months and grew a fresh coat of fur.

Who’s Checking Your Expiration Date? With new clients I often see that sales managers have kept chronically underperforming sales people onboard well past their expiration dates. Why? Sales managers are human and, like most people, they are averse to change. They find it easier to follow the path of least resistance and to work around a sluggard rather than go through the hassle of firing them. Even if it places an extra burden on the rest of their sales team to pick up the slack.

If you have salespeople who are no longer suited to sell your product or service then every minute you keep them onboard is a minute too long. It is a myth that good salespeople can sell anything. To ensure the growth of your company, salespeople must have relevant experience and skills that will enable them to be completely responsive to the information requirements of their customers in Zero-Time. If they don’t, they must go. Period. Just like that carton of leftover Chinese takeout that’s turned into black mush in its little white carton in your fridge.

What Can You Do To Stay Fresh? The only constant in selling is change. Products change. Technology changes. Services change. Customers change. As a salesperson, or sales manager, you have to confront and adapt to change as well if you want to remain fresh and competitive. There is no one right answer but there are a variety of choices you can make: 1. Make Your Numbers for a Change: It is amazing what can happen to a salesperson if they put in that extra effort, step up their responsiveness, make that extra cold call (or two or three) and start hitting quota on a regular basis. Nothing breeds confidence, and success, like success. 2. Stay Current With New Thinking and Trends in Your Profession: For instance, when was the last time you read a book about sales? I urge everyone in sales, salespeople and managers alike, to read at least one new sales book per month. (For instance, you could start by reading my book, Zero-Time Selling, 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales.) Sales has undergone a rapid change in past 10-15 years and the evolution isn’t stopping. Going about your job the “old-fashioned” way is not going to get it done. It is essential to keep an open mind about new ways to achieve your sales objectives. 3. Try Something New: Take something from that book you’ve just read and apply it to your selling. and Take one new technique from the book and apply it in your daily routine for a week. And then add something new each week thereafter. 4. Educate Yourself About Your Customers: Set up a series of Google Alerts to keep abreast of the news about your customers, their industry, their technology, their competitors and your competitors. Use Alltop to survey and read the best blogs that address your customers’ industry(s) from a market, financial and technological perspective. In today’s market, it is not enough to just do your job. You have to be a good business person, who can add value to the customer through your business knowledge. 5. Get Some Extra Sales Training: Invest in some extra sales training. Pick an area where you need to sharpen your skills and attend an online class. It could be social selling, prospecting, writing, whatever will help you communicate more effectively with your prospects and customers. Make this an annual event. Don’t rely on your management to provide training that addresses your weaknesses. Be proactive. 6. Hang with the Engineers: There is no better way to learn the ins and outs of new products than to hang with the product development people in your company. The most important relationships you need are not necessarily with your customers.

I’ve heard a lot of other good suggestions lately about how to re-energize and re-motivate yourself in selling. One friend is taking an acting class to help him break out of his “mold.” Another has started seeing a therapist to help him shed some negative habits that are holding him back in his dealings with customers. And, before you snicker at that suggestion you might ask yourself why millionaire professional athletes from all sports around the globe flock to talk with Dr Bob Rotella, the world’s leading sports psychologist.

How do you stay fresh?




Andy Paul is a leading expert on the speed of selling, an in demand speaker and the author of the award-winning book, Zero-Time Selling, 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales. He is also the founder of Zero-Time Selling, Inc. a sales strategy, consulting and training firm that specializes in working with CEOs and managers to optimize sales results and maximize the return on their investment in sales. Visit Andy’s website at www.zerotimeselling.com. He can be reached at andy@zerotimeselling.com.

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