How do I become the best salesperson?
Hearing their accomplishments and watching the winners of the President’s Club go up on stage was always the highlight of the annual sales meeting. Their spouse joined them on stage as they were recognized by the entire company for what many considered a lifetime achievement. To me, these were the best. The pinnacle of a sales career. And for a high achieving, competitive person, there could be no greater motivation. Maybe you have a different version of the best salesperson: most dollars, most margin, most units, most customers, most respected within the industry. In that moment at my first national sales meeting, President’s Club was my idea of the best. I decided to make it my goal. Not knowing how long it would take me, it seemed unreachable given the state of my current territory.
Whatever sales goal you set; it can seem like an unreachable destination when just getting started. You see the results of the best and think, “How could I ever sell that much? Sign that many customers?” How did they do it?” You might even start to justify their success away, by telling yourself, “They must have had some kind of windfall event to help them…maybe we bought a company and they got all those new customers.” Then you find out they did it the old fashion way: “Belly to belly” as it’s often called. One customer at a time: farm to farm, one agribusiness account at a time.
This is the exact situation I found myself in many years ago. On my journey to winning president’s club, and then leading, coaching and training salespeople, I found several critical elements of high performers. Today, I want to talk about just one. Often, it’s the most important.
The one strength I see in everyone of them is: They get better!
Surprised? Were you expecting determination, passion, love of the industry? Well, some of those were there with them in different forms. However, all of them had this one skill or ability that helped them grow their territory. They were able to try new tactics, strategies, skills, markets, customer segments and then get continuously better over time.
They are willing to listen, learn, apply and try anything they think will help them improve. This of course requires a certain level of risk taking, and humility. They are willing to look bad as they get better and better, until they are good.
None of the best started out as champions, not best salesperson of the year, nor did they have some genetic propensity for sales. Many of them (myself included) didn’t even know what to do when they got in front of a customer. Didn’t know how to ask questions, couldn’t uncover a need nor ask a closing style question.
However, all of them were willing to try. They took the leap into sales. They called on prospects before they were completely trained (FYI – none of us ever feel completely trained). They were willing to try a task or skill before they were good at it. With continuous improvement, they became better, better and eventually got to the top.
- met with customers,
- networked with other salespeople in the company,
- met with their manager,
- went to sales training, and
- did two very critical tasks; they listened and then applied. This is the step that separate them from the rest of us.
Often, we simply listen:
- We hear our customers tell us what they need or want.
- We hear our peers tell us what they did to succeed.
- We hear our manager give us some great advice.
- We even hear the sales trainer present some great methods to improve our selling skills.
It’s the rare salesperson that
takes the words from ears to implementation
Yet, it’s the rare salesperson that takes the words from ears to implementation. From knowing to doing.
The excuses for not putting knowledge into application are many. “I was too busy and didn’t get a chance to try that” is one of the most common. Salespeople may even imagine that they already do the skills needed to succeed. They will tell me, “Oh yeah, I do ask good questions and closing questions on every sales call”. However, in role play or when riding with them on a sales call, they do neither very well. If we dig in just a little further, we often find the reason for not implementing is fear of looking foolish.
It’s that lack of confidence in our skills to try something new that holds us back. We doubt ourselves. So, we play it safe, by sticking to the old way of doing it and hoping it somehow works.
Meanwhile, your high performing counterpart is out there trying new methods, failing miserably, learning from those failures and improving on the next sales call.
If you need help gaining the confidence to:
- Turn down the driveway
- Discover what your customer truly values
- Ask better questions
- Close better
- Try something new
Start by doing something before you feel completely ready. Know that it will not be your best performance of that skill. How could it be? Know that you will get better. And there will be a lot of Better and Better moments on your way to Best!
Listen to the podcast for some additional discussion on this topic!
- I’ll explain why this is often the most important skill for a salesperson.
- I also have a special discussion for the experienced salespeople who already are great at what they do.