I’ve been around a lot of salespeople in my career – probably thousands. If I had to guess how they break down in terms of performance, here it goes:
Now you might think that’s a bit pessimistic that I classify 90% of salespeople as bad or just ok, but think about it. The majority of salespeople fail, which means that most salespeople for whatever reason don’t do their job very well. There are many reasons why salespeople fall into the bad or just ok categories: Lack of motivation, lack of skill, lack of training, etc. The point is most salespeople’s performance ends up being underwhelming.
Let’s face it – being a sales person is both tough and lucrative, which means that you have a lot of people trying sales that really shouldn’t be doing it and aren’t going to be successful. Another segment of this group have tremendous potential and untapped talent, but lack the resources or right environment to succeed.
So what distinguishes the great salesperson from the rest of the pack? Well, let’s first establish what a great salesperson is. A great salesperson is one that consistently and significantly exceeds their goals. They don’t worry about their quota because they always blow past it. These are your top producers – the machines that would keep cranking out new clients whether their manager meets with them daily or takes a month off on a secluded island.
There are some distinct differences between great salespeople and everyone else that sells. Here are five areas where the great ones are different:
1. Ambition and drive is through the roof. Great salespeople are highly driven. They like to win, but they HATE to lose. They have an internal clock that is constantly ticking, driving them to do more.
2. They excel at building relationships. The best salespeople know how to connect more deeply with prospects and clients. They are masters at finding common ground, and they are able to build trust that makes the buying decision easier for the prospect.
3. They evolve. Consistent top performers are always looking for an edge, and that means being willing to try new things. They know that what they did five years ago doesn’t work any more. Average salespeople tend to find something they are comfortable with (or were told to do), and stick with it too long.
4. They leverage their network. Notice I didn’t say they are really good at networking. While most are great networkers, the difference between great salespeople and the rest are that the top performers are better at leveraging the network they have built and converting it into business. I have known many sales people that are good at networking, but weren’t able to translate it into new sales.
5. They manage their time. Most salespeople frankly aren’t great at managing their time. They tend to let whatever is going on determine where they spend their time. If they don’t have much in the pipeline, they do a bunch of prospecting. They get some opportunities, then work those through to the end. Once those are done, they go back to more prospecting. This results in a feast or famine cycle that ultimately limits their ability to be truly successful. Great salespeople on the other hand, know that they need to continue prospecting regardless of what they have going on, and they need to set aside dedicated time to important but not urgent activities. They don’t suffer from the ups and downs most salespeople experience, resulting in stronger and more consistent results.
As sales managers, leaders, and owners, it is your challenge to find individuals with these characteristics and give them an environment that allows them to succeed. As you evaluate candidates for your next sales position, fight the urge to compromise on these points. The difference between finding a great sales rep and a good, bad or ok one is worth millions of dollars to your company. Take the time and effort to find individuals with these characteristics and I guarantee it will be well worth the wait.