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Keeping focus on improving skills, internal preparationOne of the top New Year resolutions made each year is to improve one’s physical fitness. There are no secrets to achieving this common goal. People just need to eat better and exercise more. At the start of the year, people plan to do better in business, too. For salespeople, consultants, and small business owners, “doing better” translates to selling more. This leads to the concept of “Sales Fitness” and just like with physical fitness, there are two important factors; what a person consumes and the person’s activities.

Nutritionists talk about the five food groups. In sales, the “food” is the content that feeds a person’s brain. In order to stay sharp in this fast-changing world, professionals should regularly be consuming information from the five content groups:

Motivational – Motivation is the reason that leads to action. It is a fundamental, but often overlooked, ingredient for sales success.

Product – Knowing one’s products inside and out is the minimum expectation in an era when new products appear in the blink of an eye.

Selling Skills – Like any profession, selling has its own terms and practices that are constantly evolving. What worked just a few years ago may not work as well today.

Industry – Many sellers seek to elevate themselves beyond a commodity supplier to the role of a trusted adviser.  Achieving that level requires in-depth knowledge of your customers’ industry.

Competitors - Top salespeople know their competitors strengths and weaknesses and how to neutralize and exploit them, respectively.

A person can get nutrition from a variety of sources. Vitamin C can be obtained from an orange, a bell pepper, or a vitamin tablet.  Sales content is available in a variety of formats, too, including magazines, journals, websites, blogs, podcasts, videos, seminars, conferences, and more.  The well-informed person finds formats they like and regularly consumes content from the five groups.

When it comes to exercise, there are two types – resistance training and cardio training. Resistance training builds muscle and produces outwardly visible results. Cardio training benefits the inner body and is less visible. A person needs both for optimum fitness.  The sales equivalent of resistance training is high-visibility activities like phone calls or sales visits.  Annual goals in this area vary. One client sought to reach a target sales volume. Another focused on obtaining a certain number of new clients. The important thing is to make sure everyone in the organization understands and supports the goal.

The sales counterpart to cardio training is internal activities that keep everything in balance and operating smoothly. Examples are pre-call research, sales meetings, and administrative tasks. While it is common for salespeople to dismiss these duties as interfering with selling time, scheduling these activities eliminate the inevitable panic when something slips through the cracks due to neglect.

So, what is the best way to insure these activities get done? It depends on individual preferences. Superstars with extraordinary willpower have the self-discipline to perform the necessary actions on their own. Some people respond better to the collective energy and peer pressure of a group. Others advance with the one-on-one attention of a personal trainer.  All these options are available in the sales world. The self-starter just needs the knowledge that comes from the right content.  More socially oriented sellers will benefit from classes, seminars, or conferences where they can interact with others. Those seeking individual attention can engage a sales coach, the term itself borrowed from the world of sports.

Remember, there is no secret to achieving sales fitness. People that consume the right content and do the right exercises will be positioned to reach their goals in 2011.

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Kurt Shaver is founder of The Sales Foundry, a sales training and consulting firm. For more information, visit www.thesalesfoundry.com or call 707-542-9022.