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7:00pm EDT February 23, 2005
When I started my sales career at Xerox Corp., I was taught a few things that have stayed with me for 27 years. These basic principles allowed me to be the No. 1 salesperson at Xerox out of a national sales force of 11,000, and have continued to bring me success in the businesses I have owned during the past two decades.

True salespeople -- of which there are very few -- follow six rules of selling that mirror the basic themes of every notable sales book. These principles have not changed in more than 75 years, and probably will not change in the next 75.

I learned the first three in 1976 at our Xerox training facility. I picked up the second three over the next 20 years. If your sales team isn't following these rules, it's time to change your sales playbook to include them.

* Know your product. At Xerox, we knew our copiers inside and out. We dreamed about them. We were responsible for having all of the product knowledge possible. We showed our customers that we knew it, portraying a strong sense of confidence. When you go shopping, how often do you find salespeople who take pride in their products or memorize information about what they are selling?

* Know your competition. You have strengths over your competitors and you also have weaknesses. So do they. Learn them. Then you can sell against your competitors without knocking them. Don't give a customer the chance to say something nice about a competitor.

* Work harder. Our quota at Xerox was simple: 10 new business contacts per day, whether a cold call in person or over the phone. I said to myself, "Hey I can do more than that." So I set a new plan: 20 calls per day. The key was that I made those calls every day. I doubled everyone else's effort at more than 100 calls per week, 400 calls per month, 4,800 calls per year. A simple but effective consistent plan that worked.

* Be organized. Use your planner. And I mean really use it, so if you lost it, you would freak out. Stay in touch with all prospects and existing clients. If you're not doing so, your competition probably is.

* Be aggressive, not is the sense of being pushy or closing hard but in terms of being on top of the game plan. The more you do each day, the bigger the payoff. Remember that the sales game is made up of customers you know and customers you haven't yet met.

* Be honest. All you have is your reputation. There is not a single sale you will ever make that will change your life. Oh, it might ensure a better month or even a better year, but it will not change your life. Everybody says they are honest, but how many people are really, truly honest? People buy from people and, in most cases, from people they like and especially trust. Those are the people we want to mention to others.

There are no better sales than referral sales, where all you do is check your voice mail and find messages from people who want to buy from you. To close the sale, all you have to do is call them back.

Go back to the basics, work on the fundamentals and stay with them. While it may sound simple, Sales 101 is what we discussed in this article. But more important, Sales 202 is going back to Sales 101 and practicing.

Your company can't afford your sales team not to be doing it.

Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on sales and customer service. He is the author of two best-selling books, "Can I have 5 Minutes of Your Time?" and "Lip Service". Reach him at