Tim Huffaker 2017

For years, I have wrestled with the question, “Why are some people successful and others are not?”  I arrived at many conclusions and had several theories, but none of them gave me the satisfaction of truly knowing the formula for success.

For a time, I believed success was the result of working harder than everyone else. However, I discovered many people who worked harder than I ever imagined one could work and yet they weren’t successful in terms of possessions and wealth.  At another time, I honestly believed success was merely a matter of circumstance - being in the right place at the right time. Although I did know a very successful and wealthy man who claimed circumstance was the basis for his success, I have never met another person since, who openly made that declaration.  Early in my career I truly believed the most successful people were the smartest people. Having spent half of my career working in corporate America, that theory was proven false. Some of the smartest people I met were not successful by the world’s standards and some of the least intelligent people I knew held executive positions with major corporations.  My traditional thinking was not providing the answer I was seeking.

In 1978 I came across an article written by Albert E. N. Gray, back in the 1940’s entitled, The Common Denominator of Success.  This article was written for a speech Mr. Gray was asked to give at a national convention of insurance people. The statement from his speech that is most often quoted is this:  “The common denominator of success, the secret of success of every man who has ever been successful, lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.”  I recommend this article to any salesperson who is looking for success.  It is profound and deep in its analysis of finding success, and yet makes perfect sense, since the answer can apply to anyone, regardless of intelligence, circumstance or ability.

Relating to the world of sales success, one area I personally feel is a stumbling block for salespeople is product knowledge.  Sales surveys have concluded that a prospect’s confidence in the salesperson can increase by as much as 75% when the salesperson has a commanding knowledge of the product.  Demonstrating you don’t know your products is the fastest way to lose the confidence of a customer or prospect. Confidence is critical in the sales process because people buy from people they believe, like and trust.  Everyone wants to buy from an expert, and product knowledge is paramount in being an expert. Many salespeople work in a rapidly changing industry and use that as an excuse for not knowing their products as well as they should.  Some salespeople have too many products to learn them all. Others have just never taken the time to learn. Whatever your reason, there is absolutely no excuse for not knowing your products.

Of all the major professions, salespeople probably spend the least amount of time studying and learning their products and industry.  Doctors spend at least eleven hours per week staying abreast of their profession. Certified public accountants spend on average eight hours per week studying.  Attorneys spend comparable amounts of time in study each week. How much time does the average professional salesperson spend learning their products and industry? A shameful three hours or less.  One sure way to become a success at selling is to know your product. Now, selling is not one-dimensional and it takes more than just product knowledge to make a sale. However, your sales performance will increase dramatically as you increase your knowledge of products.  Allocate time each day for learning and applying your knowledge. The buying public is more knowledgeable today than at any other time in history. In days past, salespeople were able to fake their way through product knowledge. Not any longer. You may be losing far more sales than you ever imagined, due to lack of product knowledge.  Make a commitment today to spend time each day to learn all of your products and achieve the sales success you are striving for. Remember what Albert Gray famously said, successful people are willing to do the things that unsuccessful people are not willing to do.  Unsuccessful salespeople don’t know their products.