The Fundamentals of being a Top Performing Sales Person

Over the last couple of months I have been given the task of developing a team of high performing sales people in a market where the services we are selling is quite saturated, a lot of our target market has been burnt before by promising magic cowboys (they seem to just disappear after promising you the world) and having little to no brand/presence to rely on and yes I was aware of these factors before I took on the task.  “What are you crazy?” I hear you saying. But this was an opportunity to really test my ability and put what I’ve learnt over the years around sales performance to the test and oh-boy has it been put to the test. I have learnt more in the last 3 months about sales performance/sales management then in the last 3 years! Let me tell you why.

To go from nothing to a team of high performing sales people is quite an experience. You first have to find the right people, then you have to train and develop them to become high performing sales people and then you have to find a way to sustain their high performance. Within these 3 phases there are about another 100 steps, but if you can nail these 3 major steps then you’ve done a bloody good job! What I came to realise is that throughout these phases was that there were particular individuals who were always one step ahead of the others. These individuals had no special treatment, they were hired the exact same way as the others, they were put through the same training, given the same resources and targets, however they always seemed to do better than the rest. Why?

I soon saw that these high performing sales people had certain fundamental skills/attributes that the others didn’t or lacked. So here is what I discovered as being the fundamentals of a top performing sales person (and because I love accoroynms so much I’ve summarised these differences to call it the sales ‘CHAMP’ difference).

Control.

When I say control I’m not meaning that they were control freaks, demanding that things go only their way or the highway, I mean taking control of the sale itself. These sales “CHAMP’s” all had an ability to take complete control over what was happening next with every sale, making the prospect think “Wow, this person is really professional but I also feel this whole process has been so easy”. Now unless you’re selling raffle tickets, most type of sales involve some type of sales cycle/process. Your job as sales professional is to make the sales cycle as effortless, efficient and easy as possible for your prospect. Anyone can say “So Mr Customer how are going with getting that information together for me that I need to be able to create a proposal for you?” The sales CHAMP’s would say something along the lines of “You know Mr Customer I was thinking to make things easier for you in getting that information to me, maybe I can do ‘this, this & this’ then all you need to do is ‘this’ and we can move on to the next step”. Now that’s called taking control of the sales cycle and all the sales CHAMP’s I noticed did this.

Humble.

I know you wouldn’t often associate this word with sales, however it was a certain quality that stood out from the average sales people to the CHAMP sales people and although it isn’t a direct skill that was used in winning more sales, it was certainly a characteristic I found in all of the top performers. In my one-on-one’s with each of my sales team members I would have a couple who would ‘blow the trumpet’ as loud as possible saying that this massive deal was just around the corner and was going to save the world once it was over the line. Was it really just around the corner? No. Was it really going to save the world? Of course not. It doesn’t take too long to figure out that these are what I like to call ‘wolf howl’ statements. They sound really loud and impressive, however are generally really far away and you’ll never see them.

The sales CHAMP’s on the other hand, wouldn’t say too much about the size and potential of the deal, more around what they needed to get it over the line. Something along the lines of, “Yeah it seems like a pretty good opportunity, however I don’t want to count my chickens yet, we’ve got to do ‘this, this & this’ first to be able to win the business”. Then when the business was won they would always give credit to those around them that helped them secure the business. As mentioned earlier this quality isn’t necessary a direct skill that helped them close deals, it was a characteristic that they tended to just have. Which also leads us into our next CHAMP quality…

Attitude.

Now I know that this is such a broad, big word. But I had to have it in. It just encapsulates the total essence of a great sales professional. The way they deal with their clients, how they react to setbacks, how they interact with their team members. I have no doubt that this is the number one characteristic of sales CHAMP’s. If you have the right attitude, you will achieve the right results. I often hear the phrase “But you can’t teach attitude.” I believe that to be only half true. Maybe you can’t teach someone, but I do believe you can influence someone’s attitude. And how do you do this? The best way I’ve learnt to do so is Lead By Example. The attitude you possess as a leader/manager will affect the type of attitude your team will have. No question about it. Yu can’t expect your staff to have a different attitude to that that of yours. It just won’t happen. So take a honest hard look at yourself and ask “Do I have the attitude attributes I want to see in my team?” and if the honest answer is no, well you now know what to do.

Measure.

How can one improve if you have nothing to compare to? Firstly if you are a sales manager and don’t have clear easy sales measurement tools in place, then shame on you. But let’s save that for another post and talk about the sales professionals . I noticed that even though I was measuring everyone the same on their performance, the sales CHAMP’s had their own further measurement practices in place. Personal benchmarks and standards that they would hold themselves accountable to. Things like doing self assessments after every sales meeting. Taking 15 minutes to ask and record their answers to questions like “What could of I done better in that meeting?” and ” How did that meeting compare to my previous sales meeting? Did I improve?”. Always measuring themselves on how they could do better, be better.

Proactive.

I’m sure this comes as no surprise, but is definitely still a quality that separates the average from the great sales professionals. Those that once when told where the destination is and given a map to follow, instantly head off on their journey. Whereas others will wait around expecting someone to carry them to the finish line. Those that try new paths and techniques to improve their times and performance compared to those that slog it out on the same track every time with the same equipment expecting to get a better result. Do you think Apple would of been as successful as it is today if Steve Jobs hadn’t returned and starting asking questions like “How do we make this product easier to use?”. “How can we make this product more stylish?”. If Apple had continued the path they were going down before Mr Jobs returned, I’m pretty sure we would be saying today “Apple who?”. But thank goodness he did return and grabbed Apple proactively, leading them to now become one of the most powerful and profitable company of our time.

There’s no secret to sales, as there isn’t to success. It’s about about learning the right skills, attaining the right attitude and getting out there on the track. As I continue to make my way to the finish line I am still amazed almost daily of how little I know and excited of how much I can still learn. I hope this article as shone some light on some of the qualities I feel are needed to be a top performing sales professional and give either yourself or your team some insight to becoming a sales CHAMP.

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Posted on March 25, 2012, in Sales Advice, Sales Management and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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