By Amanda Rosevear, ALF Head of Sales
It’s a question I’ve asked myself a lot over the years and as time goes on my answer seems to change. I used to think it was simple - a great salesperson simply does more than a good salesperson. They work harder and longer, they speak to more people and they are driven by commission and being the best. In my early sales career, they were certainly the characteristics of the top performers. But is that all that it takes?
A few months ago, I decided to reach out to some of the good and great salespeople I’ve had the pleasure to know, learn from and work with to see what they thought. As a sales leader, it’s important that I create an environment where individuals can develop, succeed and ultimately continue to drive the business, and their careers, forward in the right direction. The first thing that I had already suspected, but became clear when speaking with my peers, is that there is not a simple answer to what makes a good salesperson great. Though I did pick up three clear themes which I will share, along with suggestions on how to create the best environment.
- Customer focus
I think my brother Roland Rosevear, Director of Customer Success, Analytics & Security at Interquest group sums this up best. ”Don’t wait to get paid before you start adding value. If you start adding value, you will end up getting paid”. This might sound obvious but it’s common for salespeople to be distracted by a target and ego. Long gone are the days I get excited in an interview when I meet an over confident sales grad who can sell ice to an eskimo. It’s actually expertise that makes the difference. As Rachel Cahill , Growth Director at Big Rock Agency points out “they have to be knowledgeable and immerse themselves in their prospects’ industry/business models to anticipate needs and position themselves as consultants and trusted partners”.
Customer focus is an important part of the whole sales journey, from sourcing the right prospects and asking relevant questions to really understand their challenges, to choosing how you will demonstrate benefits and values and finally to the way your proposal is written. A great salesperson is always asking themselves what would this do for the company/individual? They will walk away if it’s in the customer’s interest to do so. And they will be focused more on the outcome for a customer rather than the features of the product or service they have to offer.
So, if putting the customer first makes someone a better salesperson, how can a business ensure they have a team and environment in place to do so?
- The customer is wider than the sales team. With no customer there is no business, so be sure that every department is focused on understanding who the customer is and what they need from them.
- Share Teach Learn. Communication is key – share customer feedback across the business, the good and the bad. And remember, if this isn’t providing value for the customer, it’s not for your business either.
- Recognise those who go above and beyond – reward examples in the sales team who are clearly focused on the customer (existing or potential) to endorse the behaviour and let others know how they did it.
- Personal focus and ownership (with bloody hard work!)
OK, so maybe there is some value in doing more than everyone else, but it’s not always as simple as that. I was surprised to hear that visualisation played a big part in what makes good salespeople great. Although I wouldn’t necessarily expect all great sales people to have a ‘vision board’ on their desk, in my experience all the best players have a clear image of what they want to achieve and a certainty that they are going to achieve it.
As Des Wilkinson, Business Development Manager at TwentyCI puts it “A person with focus is internally driven to accomplish goals and stay attentive to want they want to achieve. Focused individuals ask more of themselves than other people and are self-motivated.” This goes further than just the idea of what a person wants to achieve. The most successful people I’ve met take full responsibility for the journey in getting there.To quote Des again, “A person with a strong sense of responsibility does not blame other people when placed in a difficult situation. This type of person gets things done and when obstacles arise put their hand up and admit mistakes.” Something powerful happens when a salesperson takes full ownership of themselves. When they become answerable to only themselves and not the excuses around the market, the leads, or why people in the team perform better. These individuals will have a clear idea of their own KPIs and have to answer to themselves when they don’t achieve them.
How can you help the team take responsibility for themselves?
- Clear objectives for everyone, along with measurable KPIs that will get them where they need to be. Not top down, but on an individual level
- Discuss ‘the dream’ and how to get there – support your team in getting there and make it happen
- Personal focus is a ‘personal trait’ but keep an ear out for excuses and challenge them
- Endorse the right behaviours and as Annie Gladwell, Business Development Manager at Kafoodle recommends “reward and acknowledge the activity, not just the end results”. Make sure the team understands what the path to success look like.
- Opportunity and putting things into practice
Finally, what makes a good sales person great is being constantly open to new opportunities and putting things into practice.
Take the first characteristic of ‘customer focus’. A great salesperson will learn from a customer, learn the challenges of the sales process and build on it to replicate the sale to similar prospective/existing clients. If a sale is unsuccessful, they will aim to learn as much as they can about what went wrong and use that as an opportunity to improve conversions for future sales. Everything is an opportunity to sell or an opportunity to learn. So in turn they are constantly looking out for the next opportunity and getting value one way or another. As Carly Wright, Regional Sales Director at Selligent points out, “they sound confident, they know its worked for similar companies, they save time and look for quick prospects to get stuck into – they don’t end up basking in their recent success and get complacent”.
This passion and constant driving forward is what puts one person ahead of their peers. You can usually recognise this in someone who is particularly open to feedback and bringing innovative ideas to the table – along with a clever work ethic. As Vassem Khan, Account Director at Puppet said “Passion! Committed to the cause – that means always practising and always looking for criticism to get better”.
How to create an environment where opportunities are found, and things are put into practice
- As a leader, practice what you teach and be on a constant search to be better.
- Examine how you can replicate the best work/sales and ensure you review what’s working well and what’s not working so well
- Create opportunities to practice (role plays/ call listening/ discussions) and encourage feedback
So, there we go – I’ve got a promising idea now of what to look out for in future salespeople and some ideas of how I can create an environment to push a current team to greatness. I’m eager to keep challenging this idea so any feedback is greatly appreciated. A big thank you for my peers who discussed the topic with me.