10 Sales Lessons from 2013

2013 was an interesting year for many salespeople and business owners I’ve been speaking with.

Whilst some had a successful year, many others were grateful for making the sales they did, and some were grateful to make it through the year.

There are some interesting lessons in terms of sales and sales tactics, things we should all learn from whether we’re a salesperson, sales manager, director or business owner, so follow the tips below and watch your sales soar in 2014!

Sales Lesson Number One – Prospect Continuously

If 2013 taught you nothing else, it taught you that you can’t always rely on your existing customers to hit your sales targets. Existing customers are always looking for ways to cut costs in their businesses – and maybe you and your product or service were one of those costs?

Prospecting should be done on a continuous basis, not just when you’re quiet.

Sales Lesson Number Two – Control The Sales Cycle

2013 highlighted the need for the salesperson to control the sales process more than ever before. It was the year where customers started asking for quotes regularly, but then didn’t seem to proceed with the order quite as fast.

In a lot of cases, prospects were trying to get a feel for how much it would cost, before trying to get approval for the spend, which often wasn’t forthcoming. Therefore if salespeople weren’t careful, they’d end up doing lots of running around for very little reward.

Sales Lesson Number Three – Know More About The Competition

Again, 2013 showed us that we have to be sharper in this arena. Many companies were finding increased competition when trying to sell their products or services, and often this was happening in existing accounts as well!

If you truly want to be able to sell against your competition, you’d better know them – inside and out.

You want to know about their marketing and promotion, their sales campaigns, their products and services, their strengths and weaknesses, and if you’re based in a regional areas – your competitors sales rep for that territory and their selling style.

Sales Lesson Number Four – Write A Sales Plan

Whenever I mention this topic at an event that I’m speaking at, I’m often amazed how few people have a proper sales plan in place. I mean a specific document, written down, with a focused plan of how the individual, team or business is going to win business for the forthcoming year.

Without a proper sales plan in place, most people will miss opportunities that they could have converted, and miss other opportunities they weren’t even aware of.

Not the best thing to happen in a tough market, so start your year off well and get a written sales plan in place, right now.

Sales Lesson Number Five – Examine Your Selling Level

2013 was the year that purchasing and sign-off responsibility shifted somewhat. Managers or department heads that were previously able to sign-off quite large sums of money were reigned in somewhat, and directors and owners started taking more interest in exactly where the company’s money was being spent.

This means that all the salespeople that were selling at user or manager level found that decisions we’re going above – and that they weren’t coming back as positively or as quickly as previously might have happened.

Sales Lesson Number Six – Ask Better Questions

If you or your team are still asking mainly fact-find questions of prospects you’re calling or going to see, then you’ll probably be one of the first to be left behind in 2014.

If your prospects and clients are looking at other vendors, and your phone calls and meetings are conducted knowing you’re not the only supplier they’re talking to, one of the biggest things that will differentiate you is your questioning ability.

How does yours, or your team’s, currently measure up?

Sales Lesson Number Seven – Look At Who’s Involved

As businesses have re-engineered themselves and their business offering over the last few months, for some companies that’s meant re-shuffling their staff and their responsibilities. This is worth looking at closely from a sales point of view however, as we want to make sure you aren’t losing any opportunities through any re-structuring or re-organisation.

Have a think right now, who’s making the calls to try and get appointments for the field sales team? Highly sales trained individuals? Or have you got people from marketing or sales admin making those calls? How many meetings could you be missing out on right now?

Or how about the incoming sales enquiries? Highly trained sales staff with an incoming call structure and questioning process? Or are you just leaving the admin staff to answer those valuable sales calls? How much could that be costing you in lost opportunities right now?

Sales Lesson Number Eight – Don’t Miss Existing Opportunities

2013 taught us that far too many people took their existing customers for granted. Never forget that your customers could well be on your competitors prospect list.

Are you regularly in touch with all your existing customers? Are you up-to-speed on what their plans are for the next few months as they re-focus their businesses? Are you working to increase your number of contacts in each of your clients? Are you on top of every single potential opportunity?

Sales Lesson Number Nine – Focus On Your Pipeline

2013 was the year that whoever was in charge of the sales team realised how lazy they’d become. I’ve spoken to sales managers that had stopped doing sales meetings, stopped doing field visits with their team and stopped checking their sales reps pipelines. How crazy is that?

When I’d ask them when was the last sales meeting they conducted with their entire team, they’d say things like “well I’d rather have them out in the field”, “it costs a lot to get them together for a whole day” or “I don’t know what we’d do for an entire day”. Doesn’t give you a lot of faith, does it?

When was the last time you had a sales meeting in your company out of interest?

Sales Lesson Number Ten – Work On Your Sales Skills

2013 taught us that many of the basic sales skills that are needed for success in a sales role had been taken for granted – yet were lacking in a large number of the companies and the salespeople I spoke to.

Last year was the year where sales skills mattered far more than in years previous. Prospects were taking longer to make decisions, higher level decision makers were getting involved, return on investment needed to be proven at every stage, more competitors were involved in every sale and prospects were looking to negotiate all your profit out of every deal.

How did you and you team’s sales skills measure up? And what are you going to do to improve that this year? I look forward to hearing how you get on!


Andy Preston

Andy Preston is the UK’s leading authority in sales training and business sales techniques. Not only has Andy worked with some top brands in the UK helping them to negotiate better deals and even close on a higher price, his impressive client portfolio encompasses brands such as HSBC, Nissan, Siemens, McAfee and FedEx – to name just a few!


Andy Preston is the UK’s leading authority in sales training and business sales techniques. Not only has Andy worked with some top brands in the UK helping them to negotiate better deals and even close on a higher price, his impressive client portfolio encompasses brands such as HSBC, Nissan, Siemens, McAfee and FedEx – to name just a few!

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