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Can you be an Olympic caliber salesperson?

As a child, you had the best-selling lemonade stand on your block. People always complimented you on your charisma and knack for influencing others. Sales was an obvious career choice, so you dove right in. But up to this point, your reviews have been rather lackluster. Sure, you meet your quotas. But despite your talent, you just don’t understand why you’re not performing as well as you thought you would.

Talent isn’t everything, maintains Victor Gellineau, president of Carole Joy Creations Inc., a black-owned greeting card manufacturer and publisher of social expressions products in Danbury, Connecticut. After forming the company in 1985, Gellineau devoted extra time to developing vital sales skills–such as forecasting–that didn’t come naturally to him. As a result, he was able to grow Carol Joy from $3,000 in first-year sales to almost $2 million last year.

The bottom line is that you have to consciously decide to be the best-then work your hardest to get there. “Make that your goal, then focus all your energies on achieving it,” says Gellineau. “Second place, even by virtue of natural ability, should never be an option.”

To be a salesperson of Olympic proportions, you must develop all the skills necessary to win over customers-and keep them loyal. Persuasion is important, but you must also show you can go the distance to provide other things, such as excellent customer service (see “Service with a Smile,” Motivation, August 1998). Rueben M. Stokes, a nationally known lecturer on cutting-edge sales techniques, offers three practical tips to help you improve your sales performance:

  • Always remember you are your best product. Don’t ever sell yourself cheap by not working hard and smart.
  • Avoid getting comfortable with your existing accounts. Finding new prospects today ensures that you will have sales opportunities tomorrow.
  • Never allow yourself to become obsolete. Experiment with different sales techniques and remain open to new ideas. Where there’s change, there’s new opportunity.
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