Hope you’re off to a good start to the new year.

It’s summer here in Sydney, so the kids are out of school, in summer camp for some of the time and I’m enjoying spending time with them without having to rush them off to school each day (at least for a while:)).

As the new year is already in full swing, business seems to have perked up almost immediately after the first year.

People are working hard in anticipation of a challenging year, not easing into the new year like they used to.

In fact, at the end of last week, I got a cold sales call from someone trying to pitch me his consulting services.

I know of him, bright, intelligent and with a proven track record — but he proceeded to use the only sales approach he knew, the old one, the one I’ve spent the last 10 years working defiantly to change:

1. Call a prospect or lead
2. Make a sales pitch
3. Close your eyes
4. Hope things go well

He kept going, trying to engage me with questions that were obviously crafted so the only answer I could give was “yes”.

He had absolutely no awareness of how he was being received or how I was feeling.

Since I’m highly sensitive to “sales pitches” as I’m sure you are, all his credibility and my previous knowledge of him went out the window.

I politely said I wasn’t interested, thanked him for his call and we hung up the phone.

Sheeesh, I’ve got my work cut out for me this year, big time.

A new year, but the SAME PROBLEM and sales conditioning still persists, like a stubborn cold that just won’t go away.

So what can you do to break away from old sales conditioning to get on the fast track for 2011?

Try these on for size to keep you centered for the new year:

1. Stop the sales pitch. Start a conversation.

When you call someone, never start out with a mini-presentation about yourself, your company, and what you have to offer.

Instead, start with a conversational phrase that focuses on a specific problem that your product or service solves. For example, you might say, “I’m just calling to see if you are open to some different ideas related to preventng downtime across your computer network?”

Notice that you are not pitching your solution with this opening phrase. Instead, you’re addressing a problem that, based on your experience in your field, you believe they might be having. (If you don’t know what problems your product or service solves, do a little research by asking your current customers why they purchased your solution.)

2. Your goal is always to discover whether you and your prospect are a good fit.

If you let go of trying to close the sale or get the appointment, you’ll discover that you don’t have to take responsibility for moving the sales process forward.

By simply focusing your conversation on problems that you can help prospects solve, and by not jumping the gun by trying to move the sales process forward, you’ll discover that prospects will give you the direction you need.

3. Never defend yourself or what you have to offer. This only creates more sales pressure.

When prospects say, “Why should I choose you over your competition?,” your instinctive reaction is to defend your product or service because you believe that you are the best choice, and you want to convince them of that. But what goes through their minds at that point?

Something like, “This ‘salesperson’ is trying to sell me, and I hate feeling as if I’m being sold.”

Stop defending yourself. In fact, come right out and tell them that you aren’t going to try to convince them of anything because that only creates sales pressure. Instead, ask them again about key problems they’re trying to solve.

Then explore how your product or service might solve those problems. Give up trying to persuade. Let prospects feel they can choose you without feeling sold.

The sooner you can let go of the traditional sales beliefs that we’ve all been exposed to, the more quickly you’ll feel good about selling again, and start seeing better results.

4. Hidden sales pressure causes rejection. Eliminate sales pressure, and you’ll never experience rejection.

Prospects don’t trigger rejection. You do — when something you say, and it could be very subtle, triggers a defensive reaction from your prospect.

Yes, something you say.

You can eliminate rejection forever simply by giving up the hidden agenda of hoping to make a sale. Instead, be sure that everything you say and do stems from the basic mindset that you’re there to help prospects identify and solve their issues.

5. Never chase prospects. Instead, get to the truth of whether there’s a fit or not.

Chasing prospects has always been considered normal and necessary, but it’s rooted in the macho selling image that “If you don’t keep chasing, you’re giving up, which means you’re a failure.” This is dead wrong.

Instead, ask your prospects if they’d be open to connecting again at a certain time and date so you can both avoid the phone tag game.

The sooner you can let go of the traditional sales beliefs that we’ve all been exposed to, the more quickly you’ll feel good about selling again, and start seeing better results.

This year, every day counts and every sales conversation counts, don’t let your sales conditioning be the biggest obstacle to your success this year.

Please share your comments below.

To your success,

P.S. I’m going to work twice as hard this year to combat the old sales conditioning that’s still lurking in the back of your mind. My personal mission is to break you free from that conditioning so you tap into your true potential, that’s where your opportunities becomes limitless.