People often ask me what the difference is between sales superstars and sales “wannabes”. There are many possible answers to this question however there are several core characteristics that sales superstars display in bucket loads which are often missing or less obvious in more mediocre performers.
Not surprisingly, few of these are rocket science and none of them are new. It would be really easy to read through them and think, “I know that!” but the question has to be “Do I really implement that and if I did implement that consistently, what difference would it make for me?” So I challenge you to read this twice, rate yourself (honestly) on a scale of 1-10 in each are and then create an action plan to increase your effectiveness and consistency in every area.
Have a plan and work it every day.
Sales superstars know what they want and they are focused on getting it. Period. When I run sessions I ask individuals to review WHY they are in sales and WHAT they want to get out of it. Most people do the exercise with the state of mind… “I know this” or “Why are we doing this? Can’t we just get on with it??!”. The problem is that although it seems obvious, it’s this desire that focuses us on doing what we need to do on a day to day basis.
Top sales performers plan their day the night before or at the very latest in the morning over their coffee. Rather than chatting about Eastenders (they probably don’t watch that rubbish anyway!) they are getting down to planning their day. They ask themselves questions like, “How can I achieve my goals today?”, “What activities do I need to undertake today?” and “How can I add value for my clients today?”. Then they plan their campaign and work through it meticulously.
Prospect new clients every day.
Metaphorically speaking, sales is a bucket with a hole in the bottom. Get over it! If you stop filling the bucket, it will soon be empty. Empty bucket means an empty sales pipeline and an empty bank account. You can sometimes patch up the hole short-term by improving your client relationships, increasing your sales skills and by creating more from existing accounts but long term the bucket is still leaky!
Whether you fill your bucket by cold calling, networking, referrals, events, PR, marketing, direct mail, white papers… you need to be doing this every day. We all know this but only sales superstars do it! Most salespeople only prospect when they have little or no choice. Not only is this the wrong way to go about it, you also guarantee that you’re feeling pretty desperate when you do get around to it! And what client likes a desperate salesperson??
Be genuinely interested in your clients.
Clients are bored of salespeople going through the motions. Salespeople are bored of going through the motions. So why do it?
I understand that it’s hard to get motivated on the 47th call of the day or the 15th meeting of the week but if you can’t get motivated then you can be sure that your client won’t be! I’m guessing that your market is pretty competitive right now. In many markets clients get hundreds of marketing approaches for every meeting they take or for every salesperson that they speak to. Make sure it’s you by getting motivated and interested in your clients now.
People often ask me, “How do I differentiate myself from the competition?” The answer’s simple… be genuinely interested!
Ask great questions.
Most salespeople think they are great at questioning. Most salespeople are wrong. When I run sessions I often ask people to write down some questions they can ask of their clients. I give them between 5 and 15 minutes. Few people come up with more than 3 or 4 bland questions and many come up with less that that!!!
When I ask about it, delegates say things like, “Oh! It’s difficult like this. I have loads of questions when I’m in flow!!”. Poppycock! Most salespeople ask few or no questions and those they do ask are all about them not the client e. g. “Have you got budget?”, “Are you the decision maker?” and “Are you happy with your current supplier?”.
Great questions come from two things:- The first is being genuinely interested in your client. The second is planning and preparation. Questions need to be planned, rehearsed and written out. Questions need to be captured, learnt and practised. Focusing on this one area of your business over the next few weeks could well cause a sales explosion for you.
Listen to understand.
If we’re bad at questioning we’re even worse at listening. If you think about it, this is hardly surprising because we’re never actually trained to listen. Most salespeople “listen to talk”. This means that they are filtering their clients’ words listening for what they want to hear. For this reason, many salespeople totally miss crucial pieces of information because it wasn’t what they were wanting to hear at that time. This can kill a sale.
To be able to listen to understand we need to be genuinely interested in our clients, focused on what they are saying and devoid of agenda. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have objectives for meetings just that the best way of getting there is to understand our clients, their challenges and their needs more fully. When we truly listen to clients with the intent of understanding we will reap the benefits because clients so rarely get listened to in this way.
Know your clients.
In today’s fast moving market places few people know their clients fully. This means that they miss opportunities and lose business because they don’t have enough understanding of how they can truly help their clients.
The information you need will change from market to market but could well include… size, markets, customers, projects, turnover, values, mission, individuals, individual drivers, future growth plans, exit strategies etc etc. When you start to truly understand your clients you can really start to tailor your solutions to meet their needs…
Sell solutions not products.
Sell solutions not products. Sell solutions not products. Sell solutions not products.
Clients do not get up one morning and decide to invest in a new PC system. They buy solutions to challenges which are effecting their business growth, profitability, efficiency etc. Most salespeople are too tied up in the nitty-gritty of their products and have little or no understanding of what the real business benefits are to their clients. This is partly due to lots of product training and partly due to not asking the right questions.
If you’ve ever had problems with trying to get clients to commit; had deals that seemed “on” then went sour; thought a client needed a far bigger solution than the one they were prepared to pay for; had clients who bought something else instead… then you were probably selling products not solutions.
As a benchmark rule… we shouldn’t discuss specific products or solutions until we know what the explicit need(s) of our client is. (Explicit: stated by client not you!)
Know your market.
Know who your core clients are, their demography, their industry sector, their personal demographics etc. Outline your perfect customer on a piece of paper… in detail. Check that there are enough of them to build your business to the size that you want to build it to. Work out how to reach them, create your offering for them and get to work!
I have worked with many clients who will not turn away business. They say things like, “You can’t very well turn stuff away can you?” I can see the argument for this in the short term but in the medium to long term it can become professional suicide. The reason for this is that you end up tied up working for the clients that you don’t want anymore and you never find the time to target and approach those who you do want.
Let’s say for example you’re a consultant and you charge £750 per day but you want to be in the £2,500 per day market. If you’re delivering 27 days a month at £750 you’re too busy to target the £2,500 a day clients. What’s more, if you’re good, the £750 a day clients will always keep you busy. Clearly this segmentation will not always be about money… you may choose to be at the bulk-business, low end of the market place. . even so, you need to know your market.
Be proactive, confident and professional.
The outside world will always judge you by what you do and how you appear. It may seem unfair but it’s the way that it is! What’s more, you will normally be judged on your lowest point of your lowest day! If you have a bad day and you do something that’s not particularly professional then you can bet your last Rollo that you will be remembered for that and not your numerous great days!!
Sales superstars constantly raise the bar and ensure that they are seen as proactive, confident and professional by their clients, their peers, their managers, their friends and their families. If this is a case of “fake it until you make it” then so be it. Ultimately, if you keep on behaving a certain way it will become natural for you and before you know where you are, you’ll wake up one morning and just be that way without having to think about it!!!
Learn from the best.
I once read that we become most like the 6 people that we spend the most time with. Now, that’s a bit of a scary thought. Factor in the moaning, whining, mood-hoovers that often surround us on a day to day basis and it’s hardly surprising that we end up struggling to stay “up for it”!
Everyone should have their own “success team”. This can be real or virtual. Who do you want to model your life on? Whose actions impress you? I try to surround myself with positive people who are goal-oriented and who take responsibility for their own success. I listen to motivational speakers and experts in the car. I seek out top performers and ask them what they believe, how they behave and what they did to achieve their success. Then I ask myself, “How can I use this to increase my success?”
So there we are… 10 characteristics of sales superstars. On your 1-10 scale – how effectively do you display them on a day to day basis? Where are your areas for improvement? How are you going to raise the bar and get more of what you want in your career and your life?
For the last 10 years, Gavin Ingham has been helping sales people to explode their sales performance by turning self-doubt, fear and lack of motivation into self-belief, confidence and action. With his inspirational approach to sales performance and motivation Gavin combines commercial experience, personal excellence and communications technologies in delivering personal and business sales success.
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