Sales tips for the aspiring rock star!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Sales Professional's Back To School Challenge!

It was the great Jack Welch who said "An organization's ability to learn and translate that learning into action, rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage"

I remember reading that and thinking "AMEN Jack!" and yet the statistics tell us we are missing the mark . . . Big Time!

According to ASTD's 2008 State of Industry Report, the average working person in the US participates in just 1 day of career skills training each year. USA Today reports that only 58% of our population ever read a non fiction book after high school.

Bottom line, its time for us to get our assess back to school moy pronto!

1) Stop looking for the big answer in sales, leadership, life or wherever the hell else you need to find it. Sales mastery is comprised of lots of little things, executed flawlessly, consistently, over time. We're awfully quick in this profession to write things off as "Sales 101" but in that wacky 101ness we may be missing our best lesson. The cure: Next time you find yourself writing something off because its too basic, ask yourself a question "Is it sales 101 and I'm already doing this? or Is it sales 101 and I had better start doing it?"

2) Adapt the mindset of what Tony Robbins calls C.A.N.I. (Constant And Never ending Improvement) Check out this cool Tony Robbins MP3 here:

3) Enroll in Automobile University: According to the University of Southern California, if you drive 12,000 miles a year and listen to instructional Cd's. At the end of 3 years you will have the equivalent of a 2 year degree. Since we never seem to have enough time to hone our craft, why not use all that drive time?

4) Have a heart to heart with your Sales Manager and tell them how badly the sales meetings suck! Come on, you know you want to and if you are that Sales Manager please make sure there is some kind of meaningful educational component in the sales meeting. Click here to immediately Unsuckify Your Sales Meetings!

5) Here are some must visit sales websites for you:,,,,,

6) Study success! I'm a huge fan of Success Magazine. My wife and I now have an arrangement. She doesn't bother me the day my Success Magazine arrives and I don't bother her when she is at the "I can't put this down" part of the books she reads. Aside from reading Success Magazine cover to cover, study the successful sales reps in your organization, in other organizations. Dare I say, at your competitors? There are clues all around us for the taking!

7) Make sure you really understand business acumen. The more you understand how a business ticks, the more valuable you can become. Why not ask your Controller or CFO to be the special guest star in your next sales meeting? Think you already have a handle on this? Then I'm sure you already know how you can use things like 10k's and 10q's in your pre call planning right? Just ask your damn CFO to prepare a "Business Acumen For Dummies" presentation will ya?

8) Study Negotiation: With the economy where it is and price becoming more of an issue, we had better learn how to play the negotiation game much better. Check out Roger Dawson, Chester Karass, Herb Cohen. They all have some great tips!

9) Get better at networking: If you haven't read Keith Ferrazi's Never Eat Alone; report immediately to the Principal's office. Its a great read with tips that will appeal to your individual style. I would also recommend Debra Fine's The Fine Art of Small Talk. Here are a whole bunch of Debra Fine pod casts on the subject of networking:

10) Polish up your phone skills: Art Sobczack has a book How To Sell More In Less Time With No Rejection. His website is Greg Deming (a very talented member of our Sales Playbook Linkedin group) has created an effective telephone script you can easily use Trish Bertuzzi writes the excellent Inside Sales Experts Blog

11) Get more creative: Pick up the book Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko and Marketing Outrageously by Jon Spolstra. Understand that your prospects desperately need creative solutions to their challenges and you desperately need creativity to separate yourself from the masses. While we are on that subject, check out these 25 ways to get in the door:

12) Learn everything you can about social networking. There's an old saying that we aren't getting any younger. That isn't the case with our buyers. As more and more Generation Y's move into position, you had better have a social networking presence. Joel Comm has a fantastic book on Twitter called Twitter Power. Here are 25 Tips on how you can leverage Linkedin

13) Learn everything you can about your client's (and prospect's) industries. Do you know the buzzwords, trade associations, are you familiar with relevant industry statistics? Have you joined those industry groups on Linkedin?

14) How about taking your client's back to school with some meaningful "Lunch and learns", webinars, white papers, a blog or some non play by play tweets? (I freakin hate that word by the way)

15) Make sure you are taking some time each week to think about your business. I'm talking about uninterrupted time. No phones ringing, no bosses asking for the TPS Reports. Check out this blog post for more info:

16) Polish up your presentation skills: I'm a big fan of Carmine Gallo who authored a must read presentation skills book 10 Simple Secrets of The Worlds Greatest Communicators. He has a weekly column in Businessweek as well. Here's a full page of articles for you:

17) Hone up on your human relations skills. One trend I am seeing is that the world is moving more toward virtual relationships which in turn causes our face to face skills to rust a bit. Now, more than ever, Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, the writings of John Maxwell and Stephen Covey can help you gain a serious competitive edge in your business.

18) Reread a book you enjoyed earlier in your career, you will get something different out of it this time!

19) Get better at your questioning skills. Read books like S.P.I.N. Selling, Socratic Selling and Conceptual Selling. Make it a goal to ask the questions no one else is asking!

20) Ask for feedback: Mark Victor Hansen is spot on when he says "If you don't ask for feedback, you'll be the only person who doesn't know!"

21) Get in the habit of making new distinctions by asking yourself this question at the end of each day (with your journal) "What did I learn today?" No matter what you do, no matter what the outcome, THE most important thing is the lesson you take from the it!

And now, here's the challenge. Are you up for it?

Sales expert Keith Rosen says that we need to be careful of becoming "knowledge rich and execution scarce" To that end, your challenge is to:

Apply your new found knowledge because knowledge really isn't power. Don't kid yourself. Its only potential power, the rest is up to you!

Rock on and pass this along so we can start a back to school epidemic! Want cool, free sales tips delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to Paul Castain's Sales Playbook by Email

PS There is a free masterclass being hosted (Today) by Top Sales Experts. Why not start your back to school initiative today?


  1. Fantastic advice Paul.
    Your fellow life-long learner!
    Neil Wood

  2. WOW! I feel like I just drank a case of red bull! Thanks for sharing all of your inspiring power! Happy Selling :)

  3. Paul,

    I admire your directness and humor. I can relate to all of your Office Space, The Office, and Jedi mind tricks. All of which makes me laugh. I assume we're from the same generation which makes me laugh HARDER ...Are we really running the show now :)


  4. Paul,

    You've outdone yourself again. How do you keep doing it over and over? Your company is lucky to have you! Keep up the great work!

    - Mark Niethammer

  5. Thank you all for the comments!

    @ Neil Wood: You certainly walk the talk when it comes to life long learning my friend!

    @ Tiffany: Right back atcha. I needed some red bull when I posted it at 2:00 am :)

    @ GCS Muchas Gracias. Are my influences that obvious :)

    @ Mark: Perhaps and I am lucky to have them so its a good recipe!

    Waves of rock horns and appreciation for stopping by ALL.


  6. Paul,

    This is really quite something. Thank you for an outstanding contribution to my book marks! :)



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Paul Castain is the Vice President of Sales Development for Consolidated Graphics (CGX) one of North America’s leading general commercial printing companies. Paul has over 25 years of sales and sales leadership experience. He has trained, mentored and coached over 3,000 sales and sales leadership professionals. An accomplished public speaker, Paul has delivered numerous key note addresses. He has authored numerous training manuals, articles, blog posts and is currently working on his first book for release in 2011. Feel free to email Paul This has been a paid announcement by the friends of Paul Castain!

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Paul Castain's Sales Play Book is blog dedicated to strengthening our sales game, supporting rock star development and developing jedi like skills. All that is required is a willingness to learn and a sick sense of humor!

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