Having been in sales for the majority of my adult life, I have a lot of insight into what it takes to become one of the highest-paid people in the profession. There are some vital keys to success in sales and laying down the groundwork early can help you accelerate your career and become one of the truly successful, highly paid salespeople in no time.
When you look at a lot of what is being written about sales and selling, you see a lot of focus right now on artificial intelligence, automation, and other technologies. You also see a lot of focus on sales processes and methodologies, with the new and exciting refresh of old ideas that gain a lot of attention on the social channels.
It’s important to note that success in sales, just like any endeavor, is multifactorial. It is usually consisting of competencies in a number of different areas. While all of the tools, technologies, processes, and methodologies are good and useful, there are some predominant areas to take a deep look at when it comes to producing organizational and entrepreneurial success in sales. Let’s walk through some of the key factors that will help you achieve success and go above and beyond when it comes to making yourself stand out in sales.
Self-discipline is the foundational attribute or skill necessary to succeed in any endeavor – and this is doubly true of sales. Self-discipline in sales is the ability to keep the promises one makes to one’s self. It is impossible to keep one’s promises to others if you can’t keep the promises you make to yourself. In actuality, the promises you make to others really are promises you make to yourself.
I like to think of self-discipline as a ringing alarm clock. To me, this symbolizes a commitment to rising early and getting started on the work you need to do in order to succeed. What helps you be your best starting first thing in the morning? Do you need to work out to get your blood pumping? Do you need to read something that inspires and motivates you? Do you need to research your calls? Do you need to engage in self-development? When the alarm goes off, you either jump out of bed and into self-discipline mode or you hit the snooze and have a lazy day. It’s completely up to you.
As to discipline and sales, I have witnessed the magic of disciplined sales people succeeding because of their discipline alone, despite having no natural sales attributes or abilities. They made their prospecting calls every day. They made their sales calls every day. They did what needed to be done every day without fail. Some of them were horrible salespeople when in front of the prospect, but they were always in front of the prospect. They produced week after week; singles, doubles, and the occasional home run.
I have also had the displeasure of watching (and managing) salespeople with massive natural talent fail only because they lacked self-discipline. Despite the ability to gain rapport instantly, being exceedingly attractive, and being able to discover ways to create value for prospects, they lacked the discipline to sit down and make their prospecting calls. They missed their activity quota every week. They were rarely in front of prospects. You know some of these reps; they have such great ability to sell, they sell their way into keeping their jobs despite abysmal performance (for a while, anyway).
Developing self-discipline is dependent on making commitments to yourself and keeping those commitments. Start by writing your commitments down and then taking action to keep those commitments, no matter how large or small. You will see the impact on your success if you stick to them on a consistent basis.
Organizational Sales Success
Sales and selling on an organizational level boils down to two main components: sales leadership and salespeople.
Importance of Sales Leadership
Sales leadership is first and foremost in determining sales success. Leadership counts for more than your sales process, more than your methodologies, more than your CRM and more than any other tool. If you have exceedingly strong sales leadership, it counts for much more than the product, more than the company itself and more than any other factor that contributes – across any industry. Your best bet to working toward sales success in an organization is to devote your attention to building sales leaders above than anything else.
Importance of Great Salespeople
After building great sales managers, the second most important factor in ensuring success is devoting time and energy to your people. My first book, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, speaks to this very fact. Success relies on the individual. It’s not the result of having the right territory or having the right product, even though high waters can cover a lot of stumps. The salesperson makes up so much of the value proposition in larger, complex sales.
This isn’t to say that processes, methodologies, tools, and technologies are not of great value. They are absolutely important and essential, but the recipe for success is to start with people. That means building a power plant of sales success that imparts you, as a salesperson, or your team with the abilities to create the greatest competitive advantage to produce better sales.
Three-Pound Power Plant of Sales Success
In order for salespeople to have a defining differentiator that makes it more likely to be chosen over your competitors, you have to develop existing concepts to their full potential. There are five factors that work together to make up what I call the “Power Plant of Sales Success.” If you are able to work them out completely, they will add up to a real competitive advantage in sales.
Developing Ideas and Resourcefulness
The human brain is the strongest superpower that exists in the entire universe. We are all walking around with a three-pound powerplant that is the source of all of our ideas, and ideas are creativity translated into resourcefulness.
You need ideas in order to create value for your dream clients. Ideas are what nurture your client relationships over time and help your clients and your dream clients with their most difficult business challenges. The more you use your brain to generate ideas, the stronger it gets and the more efficient it becomes at generating more ideas. These tips can help you strengthen your creative muscles in order to come up with better ideas.
- Sit down in a quiet place first thing in the morning
- Eliminate all distractions
- Start brainstorming and writing down ideas on a piece of paper
- Make lists and answer questions (i.e. What could I do to nurture these relationships?)
Don’t stop until you have filled the whole page. This should take you about an hour and you’ll find that it gets easier and easier over time.
Developing Business Acumen
Business acumen is critical to success. The game of sales is changing dramatically. Your business acumen has never been more important than it is right now and in the future, it will be so critical that you will be useless to your dream clients without it. If you don’t learn about business and spend time thinking about how what you learn applies to you and your dream clients, you are wasting your time.
Your three-pound power plant of sales success wasn’t born containing knowledge about business—or anything else for that matter. Much like a computer, you have to fill it with what it needs. Here are just a few ways you can consistently work on your business acumen throughout the length of your career:
- Take a class on business, business finance, marketing, or similar
- Read business magazines and journals (Fast Company, Business Week)
- Read business books
- Read other books to understand how things work
- Find teachers within your company, your client’s company
- Make notes as to how you believe what you read applies to you, your company, your dream clients
Develop Your Emotional Intelligence
Your brain isn’t only the universe’s greatest computer; it’s also equipped with the ability to deeply connect with other human beings. It is equipped with emotions that enable these connections—or it is sometimes disabled by them.
Despite the great technological changes in how we connect and how we manage and nurture human relationships, the great underlying fundamental is our connectedness to other human beings. Your brain can be developed to help you connect with other human beings. You have the ability to develop your emotional intelligence and empathy. Keep these things in mind when you are communicating with a client:
- Recognize their emotions
- Imagine yourself in your dream client’s shoes—really feel it
- Listen to people and accept their interpretation as true for them
- Pause between stimulus and response and consider the outcome you need
- Use emotions to drive action
Develop Your Focus, Your Attention, and Your Ability to Take Action
Your brain isn’t very easy to manage. It is a novelty-seeking device that is easily entertained by new and shiny objects, regardless of their worth. It also loves to be entertained and distracted by things like television, YouTube, and mindless emails. Your brain can also be very, very lazy if you allow it to be.
To get the most of the trillions of neural connections in your pinkish-gray matter, you have to develop the ability to focus. You have to develop the ability to eliminate distractions (no, not all of the time, you need some distractions). You have to develop your ability to give the things that are important to your success in sales your complete attention.
That focus and attention have to be translated into the concrete actions that produce the outcomes that you need to succeed and that you need to be someone of value for your dream clients.
Develop and Control Your Beliefs
If there is one area where your human brain cannot be left to its own devices, it is your beliefs.
Your brain will, if allowed, create an unhealthy belief system designed to protect your self-esteem and ego. It will come up with beliefs that allow it to seek the novelties and distractions that derail your sales success. It will create a belief structure that rationalizes your unhealthy behaviors so that both of you don’t do what is uncomfortable—but necessary. Keep these steps in mind every day:
- Spend time thinking about what you think about
- Write down your deeply held beliefs
- Ask if your beliefs still serve you
- Compare your beliefs and the behaviors they recommend with the beliefs and actions of people who are producing the results that you desire
- Work on un-entrenching from unhealthy beliefs
Success in sales today, as always, is a multi-faceted journey. Advancing the sales with prospects and achieving the outcomes that you sell requires imagination, creativity, leadership, and daily devotion in order to differentiate yourself from the masses.