Salespeople typically have a list of factors that they believe influence their success in sales. For example, many salespeople believe that sales success comes from working for a big, well-known company or selling an exceptional product. One factor salespeople weigh heavily is a good price, and by that, they mean a low price. And there are myriad other factors that salespeople point to as playing an outsized role in their ability to sell, but the truth is that these factors don't affect sales success.
Think about a company you believe would be easy to sell for. There are salespeople working for that company who are failing, even though you believe it should be easier to sell their product or service. At the same time, there are salespeople who work there and elsewhere—even at that great company’s competitors—experiencing a high level of success. Let’s take a closer look at five common factors that salespeople mistakenly consider to be keys to succeeding.
Factor 1: Company Size
The size of your company doesn't influence sales success. You can succeed while working for a small company as easily as you can in a large company. In the United States, there are many more small companies than there are large companies. Large companies have greater resources, but that is not enough to prevent salespeople from failing. Those who find sales success are not likely to suggest that the company is the key.
Factor 2: Products and Services
There are rare products and services that catch fire, like the iPhone or Tesla. However, in B2B sales, the products aren't likely to be as interesting or enticing. There are super successful salespeople who sell commodities, products that do not differ from those of their competitors. Other salespeople struggle to sell the same commodity. I know a salesperson who is successful selling the ultimate commodity: cardboard boxes. This should be enough to disabuse you of the idea that the product you sell is the key to your success.
Factor 3: Prices
Your prospective client will always consider price as they make the decision to buy from you or your competitor. Every client will ask about your pricing, often comparing it to competing products on the market. Some salespeople with a higher price easily create sales success, while others lose deals and blame it on their price. The price does not determine your success or failure—and it likely has less influence than you think. In fact, some salespeople will tell you that a higher price makes it easier for them to sell successfully because it changes the content and context of the sales conversation in their favor.
Factor 4: Your Competitors
You will always find yourself competing against other salespeople. Several competitors will have lower prices. Perhaps you know a few who are underhanded and say bad things about you and your company. When some people lose to a competitor, they soothe themselves by believing they were cheated. While they are complaining about the loss, other salespeople in their company continue to stack up won deals, beating the same competitors.
Factor 5: Your Territory
I once had a salesperson who worked in a large territory. After six months, this salesperson said they couldn't sell because the territory was bad. I suggested replacing the salesperson, so that’s what we did. The next salesperson said that the territory was amazing and sold $3,000,000 in annual recurring revenue in the first two months. The territory did not change.
The Truth About Sales Success
The truth about sales success is that it is individual. But what makes that so?
No factor carries more weight than the salesperson. Two salespeople can work for the same company and sell the same product, with the same pricing, working for the same sales manager, with the same compensation structure, calling on the same companies, and competing against the same competitors. One salesperson will be highly successful, while the other isn’t.
Two days ago, a friend sent me a picture of his team's sales. His sales were 2.5 times those of the person in second place. This salesperson reads books and studies the craft. When he finds a book he believes is helpful, he buys copies for everyone on his team. What accounts for the huge disparity between this salesperson and his peers?
One-Up and Individual Sales Success
The salesperson who is One-Up has the authority and expertise to create value for their prospective clients. You can translate the words "create value" as something like educating and enlightening the client, and helping them understand the root causes of their poor results and how best to improve them. One difference between successful salespeople and unsuccessful salespeople is that the successful ones seem more like business advisors.
It's important to remember that most of the time, the salesperson walks into a meeting alone. They engage in a conversation with their prospective client, whether it is one person or nine sitting across from them. The salesperson who finds individual success does so by providing an experience that buyers would describe as helpful or something similar.
The sales conversation is the only vehicle for creating value for your client. By transferring your knowledge and experience to your clients through your counsel, advice, and recommendations, you feel like a guide and a trusted advisor. Without information disparity (knowing nothing more than your clients), you are incapable of creating value for your clients. Older approaches to sales seem to demand the salesperson to believe that their company and products are enough to create a preference. This is a mass hallucination that clients do not share.
What Sales Leaders Need to Know about Variability of Results
Sales leaders would do well to level out individual sales variability by updating their sales organization’s approach and providing their sales force with the business acumen and understanding that will allow them to create and win new opportunities. To do this, leaders must protect their sales force from the internal forces who would have them believe that your company, your products, and your pricing make the difference between sales success and failure.