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Friday, 11 June 2010

Doing business ‘on purpose’: Reactive Vs Proactive...How the best sales people get results. 5 Great Tips to Become More Proactive

A recent poll of executives asked “what do you feel is the single best way for employees to earn a promotion and/or raise?” Topping the list for 82% of respondents was “Ask for more work and responsibility”

It’s a rarely contested ‘fact’ that successful sales people are proactive.

The best way to understand 'proactive' is to look at what it is not...

1) It is not ‘putting out fires’ as they occur.

2) It is not thinking on your feet when faced with a tough question about you, your business or your product or service

3) It certainly is not trying to cover up failings on your part to carry out tasks that you said you would do but didn’t follow through on.

4) Arguably the most important thing that it is not is sitting and waiting for opportunities to arise and then trying to ‘grab them with both hands.’

Reactive behaviour could be costing you sales and therefore money.

Being proactive (in a nutshell) is anticipating problems or opportunities before they occur and taking action.

Whoever we are in life and whatever our job is, we can all benefit from being more proactive...Here’s our top 5 ways in which you can achieve this:

1) Brainstorm

Brainstorm areas in which you could be proactive - what common problems or challenges do you encounter that you could minimise by taking action sooner? Which of these problems are you ignoring because it ‘isn’t your responsibility?’

2) Take Action without waiting for directions

Initiative by definition, means doing something without waiting for direction or instruction. If you have to be told to do something, you are being reactive and are not taking initiative.

Problems happen, there’s not much we can do about some of them but what we can do is minimise the chance of them happening or limit their negative impact. We should all feel obligated once we discover problems, challenges or opportunities, to ACT on that knowledge!

This doesn’t mean you’re on your own- often you will need the support of others around you in your team. Identify the opportunity to do better and design the plan to do.

Decide how you can create a better outcome for you, your company or for your clients. Work hard on a proposal for new plans to sell to your team. Prepare thoroughly and ensure you have clarity on your idea yourself before proposing it to others.

3) Generate a response or outcome

Whilst this is still considered ‘taking action’, more specifically it is taking action to generate a response. Sales professionals need to think of it in terms of strategy and competition...how can you put your competitors under competitive stress through innovation?

What does your industry do? How can you redefine it and do something different? What actions could you take whereby your industry normally states “we don’t do that”. What if you DID do that? What if your company could lead by taking the initiative to solve some set problems and by doing so created greater value than your competitors? Could you capture enough of the value created to profit from doing so? Would taking the advantage set up a competitive mismatch between you and your competitors?

Nature has a great way of getting things right – ask if my business was nature and had to be the fittest to survive what initiatives could I take now to ensure that I have the edge.

4) Take responsibility for your ability to be proactive

Focus on your own professional and personal development. Taking initiative is personal. Read books that educate you in sales or download audiobooks from audible.co.uk, attend seminars, workshops and training opportunities. This is where becoming proactive begins.

Initiative is setting your own goals and writing your own plans. It is taking charge of the outcome that is your life.

People frequently make lists but few take action. Take action before you are asked and take action before you are given direction. Be responsible for taking your own action – you are ‘response-able’ - start now, don’t just make the plan to be more proactive - do it!

5) Persevere

The most proactive sales professionals also possess the ability to persevere. To persist over the objections of your manager or others takes even more commitment and courage...but will lead to great things. Be careful not to undermine your boss or others however and be aware that it is still important to take others views into consideration. But, if you really believe in the core of what you are proposing, go with it.


In such a competitive environment being proactive is what defines sales success and professionalism. Ensure you are at the forefront of your industry, your business and your life...do business ‘on purpose’ and ensure that you are in control of hitting your targets month on month, quarter on quarter, year on year.

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