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5 tips to improve your sales success in 2012

Many entrepreneurs hate selling. Selling is a very time-intensive process and can be frustrating, even among experienced sales professionals. But sales is the lifeblood of your fledgling business.

As we begin the climb out of one of the worst economy we've seen in the last 30 years, it's important that you get motivated and set aside dedicated selling time. Without new customers, your business runs the risk of sliding backward or failing in 2012, just as the economy begins to improve.

Here are five tips that will put you on the path to sales success in 2012:

1. Create a target list of prospects. With any endeavor, it's important to begin at the beginning, and selling is no exception. Your first task is to create a list of prospects and referral sources to contact in 2012. This list can include existing customers, former customers, carryover prospects from 2011, and other businesses or consumers you would love to work with in 2012. You want this list to be as all-inclusive as possible. You can expand your list or add to it as new leads and inquiries come into the business throughout the year.

2. Segment this list for action. Taking the time to segment the list of prospective customers into groups may take some time, but it will pay dividends as you work your way through the groups. Segment your list by product fit or by geography, by industry or by the business title or role of each contact (e.g., CEO, VP, Project Manager, etc.) Essentially, you are building a database, spreadsheet or other segmented list of targeted prospects by group. Grouping them together will help you stay better organized and allow you quick access to individuals within a group. Depending on the size of your total list, you may want to consider bypassing this step.

3. Schedule focused selling time. Set aside at least one hour per day for focused selling effort. Schedule this in your calendar and stick to it! You must be ruthless in committing to and protecting this scheduled time. Make sure everyone in the business knows that this time is sacrosanct and that you are not to be disturbed. Start with the same time each day. You can feel free to move the time around if it makes sense to do so, but make sure you get into the habit of spending that one hour solid on selling activity.

4. Schedule time to review your results. Doing the work mentioned above is critical, but so is consciously reviewing your successes and failures. At least once a month schedule a separate hour (in addition to the selling time) and review what has worked and what hasn't since your last review. Be brutally honest with yourself. Was there a certain category of prospects that responded to your inquiries better than others? Did some product offerings resonate better with the people you contacted?

5. Find a sales mentor. It's important to find someone you can rely on to guide your sales efforts. Again, in large companies there are sales managers and sales trainers provided for you. In a small business, I highly recommend finding someone who can serve as a sales mentor. Approach them as you would any other mentor. Schedule a monthly sit down with them and review your records and activity with them. Be honest and ask their advice with sticking points. A good mentor will pay huge dividends for you personally and for your business.

In short, you have to plan your work and then work your plan. Planning your work in sales is critical to ensuring you succeed. Without a plan, you can spin your wheels endlessly by repeating the same mistakes over and over, or even worse just be doing busy work that feels like sales activity but really isn't.

I wish you much success in 2012!


By Sean McGinnis is vice-president of sales and marketing at DotCO Law Marketing, a digital media network that aims to expand the Internet presence of lawyers and law firms nationwide. He is also co-founder of the group blog 12 Most. He has 18 years of business-to-business sales and sales leadership experience.