High performing sales people

Woody Allen once said 80% of life is just turning up.Photo Sales rep

Nothing could be truer in the world of selling.

Sipping on a long black up here on holiday with my family in Mooloolaba, I was thinking too much about high performing sales people.

I spend my life working with sales people.  It dawned on me, all this talk about high performers, well what really differentiates them from their peers?

Over the years, I’ve worked with thousands of sales people across a range of industries. When you ask your clients to put their finger on what their high performing sales people actually do, they’ll normally tell you that they are great at building and maintaining relationships.

“If only I had another 6 sales reps like Lucy.” They say.

“So, what do you think makes Lucy so special?” I ask.

"Oh, she really understands her customers and her customers love her. She’s great at building relationships."

When you look at the data, what you tend to notice is the great relationship builders are not always your best sales people.

This is in fact a great sales myth.

One of the big differences in great sales people as opposed to great marketers or account managers is the business of relationship building.

Relationship skills are important for sales people. Although not half as important as having high energy levels and not being personally upset about rejection.

Great sales people just get on with it.  They are out in front of prospects, day in day out, doing the numbers.  They just keep turning up. They should be surrounded by systems that allow them to do what they want to be doing and are financially rewarded for doing and can solely focus on doing, selling to new and existing customers.

Ultimately B2B (Business to Business) selling is about getting in front of as many potential users of your service or product and converting those lookers into buyers. The best way for this to happen is to have great systems in place that allow your sales people to do just that.

Why waste money in training them in questioning and listening skills, presentation skills, closing skills, account planning and territory management etc?

Invest more time in structuring your systems so that your sales people can spend more time selling to potential new customers.

I’m not proposing that outstanding sales people do not need communication and interpersonal skills. However these are of limited value if they do not possess the key ingredient to success.

Energy, or as I like to say NRG. Transferring this energy into an enormous amount of potential customer (prospects) contact is the key to success.  If you can match this with no fear of rejection, then you have the key ingredients for success.

Observe any outstanding sales person and compare them with an average performer from the same team and time and again you will notice the same results.

The high performers make more face to face calls.

Now, in order to keep making new customer calls, day in day out, you need another quality. This is what I call the NRG shield of armor.  It is the ability to not fear rejection. Easier said than done.

Think about any person in a sales role who fears rejection. What will they spend their time doing? Going back to people they know, like and trust. How can this assist them to win new accounts? Quite simply, it doesn’t work. There is only so much oil you can squeeze out of a rag. Once the account has been won, the high performing sales person should be elsewhere, chasing new business. Other members of your organisation should be in communication with the new account. Customer service, account managers and sales support all spring to mind. Let the hunter be free to hunt.    

If the customer or potential customer requires support the best person for them to contact is someone they can reach. (eg: customer service / sales support) there and then. A good sales person is unavailable. They are too busy meeting with prospects.    

I’ve noticed average sales people will develop all sorts of systems to ensure they appear and actually are busy. Invariably this is time poorly spent. If a sales person is busy doing anything other than meeting with new prospects then you have an efficiency issue.

A well trained back office person, eg: sales support or customer service person should be able to handle all of the tasks related to processing an order with a customer.

In fact the irony is that administrators are actually much better at handling these tasks than most sales people will ever be. Most sales people will be tied down and restricted if they are encouraged to spend their time reporting / following up or tracking down parts or orders. Show me a sales person that thrives on writing weekly reports and I’ll show you a market researcher or an account manager.

High performers know what they need to do and keep doing it. On average 5-6 new business calls p/day, day in day out. 

Busting the conversion ratio myth

The high performers realise that high conversion rates in reality are an issue. Too much time spent with either soft targets or too much time spent qualifying opportunities. High performers are only interested in one thing, conducting more meetings with potential customers - turning lookers into buyers.

There is much debate about whether a high performer should even be prospecting for new business.This can chew up enormous amounts of time. Better that sales support organises all of this.

       Busting the conversion ratio myth - Table 1    

Sales rep A - Great Relationship Builder

Sales rep B – Great NRG levels – no fear of rejection

12 sales calls per week

30 sales calls per week

Conversion rate 80%

Conversion rate 40%

Sales per week = 9.6

Sales per week = 12

Sales per year = 9.6 x 52 = 499

Sales per year = 12 x 52 = 624

Looking at the above table Rep B is half as likely to win new business as Rep A. The initial response from a sales manager could be to train them up to improve their conversion ratios.

I’d say forget it. Sure, invest some time in Rep B to make sure they are trained in product knowledge and understand the difference between a prospect and a tire kicker.

It is better looking at putting a system in place to ensure that all future reps can conduct 30 calls per week.

What to do if you want more high performing sales people:

  1. Identify all of the tasks you are currently asking your sales people to perform
  2. Remove all non direct selling tasks from your sales people

This list may include all of the following:

  • Customer service tasks
  • Administration
  • Invoicing
  • Sales follow up
  • Product issues or support  
  • Marketing
  • Merchandising
  • Prospecting

3. Hire sales support staff to generate leads, establish appointments and liaise with marketing to ensure there are ongoing opportunities for sales people to meet with

4. Agree on a realistic number of new business calls that should be conducted each week.  Break this down in to daily new business calls

5. Consider paying sales staff on new business visits conducted

Allow them to focus solely on meeting prospects and then being able to influence those prospects to move into a business relationship with your company.

The top 5 skills you will see in High Performers:

  1. High NRG levels – day in day out, keep going
  2. Not be upset by rejection
  3. Enormous confidence and knowledge in themselves and their products / services
  4. Influencing and persuasion
  5. Questioning / listening

So, if you are a marketer questioning why a new product has failed to be successful when all the research indicated the opposite, I suggest you go and do the following:

Track down your sales director and ask him the following questions.

  • How does he identify high performers in his team?
  • How many new customer calls per day are the reps doing?
  • Why aren’t they doing more?
  • Why do they spend so much time calling on existing customers, “maintaining the relationship”
  • What non related sales functions are the sales team doing and can they be removed?
  • Could the marketing department help to generate more leads for the sales teams? 
  • Could marketing assist the sales department by allocating additional resources to sales to helps set up meetings and provide appropriate follow up

Bottom line - Get your sales people doing more actual selling and less of everything else and judge the results for yourself.

Posted in Sales; Tagged Sales, Sales Management; Posted by Steve Herzberg

Post your comment


No one has commented on this page yet.

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments