As we start to ramp up to our new normal, one thing that isn’t likely to change is the difference between the top and the bottom of any sales organization. While every industry has its relatively few true superstar sellers, a third of the remaining group can be considered successful salespeople, another third muddle around in the middle, while the bottom third complains about how much this or that sucks.
No matter the economic conditions, we seem to always experience this type of distribution with commissioned salespeople. Of course, this begs the question: What are those at the top doing that separate them from the rest of the pack? What are their secrets to selling success?
Though these certainly aren’t secrets, there are twelve traits that successful sellers possess that are absent in those at the bottom. I call these the dirty dozen because hugely successful salespeople get dirty – that is, they know there are no shortcuts to success in sales – success requires work; and sometimes work means getting dirty… figuratively speaking, of course.
As you read these twelve, I recommend you contrast each trait with what you see from the below average sellers in your organization:
SECRET #1: Successful Salespeople Don’t Have All the Answers
No offense to top salespeople, but it’s not often the salesperson with the highest IQ on your team is also enjoying the most success. Of course, even when they are the smartest person in the room, the most successful sellers never look at themselves in those terms.
While top salespeople approach each engagement with confidence in their knowledge (product and otherwise); they only do this because they prepared as if they didn’t have all the answers. Moreover, they understand when the goal is to create a lifelong customer, trying to prove how smart you are to a prospect is a losing proposition.
SECRET #2: Successful Salespeople Help People Buy
A foreign thought to those outside of the sales game, but top sellers don’t actually sell. Instead, they solve problems and, along the way, help people buy. This “servant salesperson” approach earns them higher customer satisfaction, more repeat business, and more referrals.
Solve problems and the sales will come…
SECRET #3: Successful Salespeople Enjoy Having a Scoreboard
For some successful sellers, it truly is all about the money. For others, it’s about the results. In both cases, it’s about the scoreboard. That is, top salespeople have a scoreboard they watch. Whether that scoreboard is hanging in the sales manager’s office or whether it’s in their bank account, top salespeople enjoy having a way to keep score.
“A+” students love getting report cards…
SECRET #4: Successful Salespeople are Always Learning
The statistics that reveal most salespeople don’t read sales training books are accurate. Most salespeople won’t waste their time reading self-improvement books, watching sales training videos, or attending sales training seminars. Of course, most salespeople are average or worse. Most salespeople would rather spend their down time surfing the web or gaming on their smartphones.
Conversely, top salespeople are always learning. Some learn from books, some via video training, and some by attending every possible training seminar – both virtual and real world – they can find. Regardless of the medium they employ, the best salespeople aren’t afraid to leverage outside resources to become even better.
Never stop learning…
SECRET #5: Successful Salespeople Follow a Process
Their sales process may not be in writing – it may not even be the approved process of the management team – but all top sellers follow a process. They have to; otherwise, they’d never get in front of enough people to achieve the level of success they desire.
Processes, you see, makes you more efficient. Additionally, when you always follow a process, you’re quick to identify what needs to be improved, allowing you to close more deals in the future.
SECRET #6: Successful Salespeople Have a Great Attitude
Top salespeople love what they do. Of course, the bottom dwellers believe this love comes from success… it does not. Having a great attitude about your vocational choice drives you to succeed, not the other way around. As Stephen Covey wrote, love is a verb, not a feeling. It’s always been your choice to love or hate what you do; and top sellers choose correctly.
Attitude is contagious…
SECRET #7: Successful Salespeople Have a Plan
Every morning, top sellers plan for their success that day, that week, that month, and that year. They don’t wait to see what’s thrown their way and then “hope for the best” – that would be relying on luck. Contrary to what the bottom dwellers think, your top salesperson is not lucky – their plan and their hard work creates their “luck.”
Hope is not a strategy…
SECRET #8: Successful Salespeople Work on their ABS
You’ve no doubt heard the abbreviation ABC used to indicate “Always Be Closing;” though, top sellers understand their success today relies less on closing, and more on opening. In other words, they know the first third of any road-to-the-sale has more to do with their success than the last third.
To this end, top salespeople work on their ABS. That is, they use the principles of Assumptive Selling to Always Be Selling. Assumptive Selling teaches us that everyone is a buyer. Moreover, when you treat everyone you meet as a buyer, you quickly build a pipeline of repeat and referral business.
Everyone is a buyer, so everyone should know what you sell…
SECRET #9: Successful Salespeople Live in the Future
Within minutes of starting a new month, successful salespeople have already forgotten about the record month they just completed as they work today’s plan. Conversely, those at the bottom will be quick to recall that one month three years ago when they sold X. Yawn.
Glory days have no business in sales…
SECRET #10: Successful Salespeople are Dissatisfied
Speaking of that record month, top salespeople don’t relax and admire what they sold. Instead, they look at where they can improve as they begin planning to beat that record this month. They are dissatisfied, if you will.
Of course, this doesn’t mean they’re unhappy. To the contrary, top sellers are extremely happy; though, they understand good is the enemy of great. Last month was good; this month will be great.
Continuous improvement requires dissatisfaction…
SECRET #11: Successful Salespeople Work Their Moneymakers
Top salespeople are proactive, not reactive. That is, they make business happen; they don’t wait for deals to come to them. They do this by always actively working on their moneymakers. If they’re at work and not in front of a prospect, they’re completing those activities that will put them in front of someone.
While they may not call these activities their moneymakers, they understand there are only so many hours in each day. Spending these hours in the smoking circle is unproductive and negative; spending these hours completing activities that lead to future sales success is rewarding and positive.
Activity breeds success…
SECRET #12: Successful Salespeople Have Defined Goals
In SECRET #7 we learned successful salespeople have a plan. These plans, of course, would be worthless if they didn’t also have defined goals. Without defined goals, the plan for each day, week, month, and year would become meandering steps chasing nebulous wishes and dreams.
Defined goals are clear; and this clarity makes planning meaningful and effective.
Goals and wishes are two different things…
What About Talent?
Some of you may have noticed what’s not included in this list: Talent. Talent is an excuse used by weak salespeople and (especially) weak sales managers to explain the difference between the salesperson on the top and those in the bottom third. You see, by blaming someone’s lack of success on a lack of talent, a manager doesn’t have to take responsibility for that salesperson’s failure.
Sales is not a sport where some God-given abilities (aka talent) can make the difference between two otherwise hardworking individuals. Talent is meaningless when it comes to sales success; as hard work beats talent on any day ending in a “Y.”
Sales is not hard; it just takes work.