No matter what your sales leader or sales manager thinks of your performance, one person’s opinion trumps anything they say. In truth, that opinion is the only one that counts, as it determines your success or failure in sales. It belongs, of course, to your prospective client. They applaud your performance by buying from you, but choose to buy from someone else when you perform poorly. To pass that test, you must customize your performance to meet your client’s needs.
Relevance and Your Sales Performance
The first test of your sales performance is whether what you want to share with your prospective client is relevant to them. If you still believe that your prospective client is interested in hearing you drone on about the wonder that is your company and all the amazing results you have provided to other companies, then you’re completely ignoring the person in front of you, the subject of the conversation. Proving you have something to say that is worth your client’s time means sharing a perspective that resonates with your audience, like the idea that sales is broken.
Your prospective client is judging your relevance by what you believe is important enough to command their time. If your first meeting is built on asking the client to describe their problems, all you prove is that you’re just another salesperson hawking their wares. Instead, starting a conversation about what's changed outside the client's windows and how exactly it has impacted (or will impact) them will help you improve your performance.
Sales Performance and Credibility
Relevance will help you prove that you are credible, but that may not be enough by itself. Far too many salespeople lack credibility, especially when the conversation moves beyond their specific products or services. Even though it isn't fair, the younger you are, the more you will have to prove that you know what you are talking about, especially in early conversations. One of the facets of being credible is being an expert on your product or service, mainly because your prospective client is not just buying a product or a service—they’re also expecting advice about how to improve their results.
There are at least a dozen variables that might improve your credibility, including how you dress, your level of confidence, your conviction, the language you use (or don't use), and whether or not you project that you believe what you are saying is true.
Other-Orientation and Your Sales Performance
You project your intentions, even when you try to conceal them from your clients. The Johari window will remind you that other people can see something about you that you believe is hidden. When it comes to your overall sales performance, your intentions are seen and felt, especially if you are self-oriented. A self-orientation will make your client feel as you’re doing something to them, while an other-oriented approach will cause them to feel like you’re doing something for them and with them.
The more you try to sell to your client, the poorer your performance. Conversely, the more your intention is to provide them an experience that will allow them to improve their results, the better your results. While it’s unlikely that you are a fully self-oriented brute, you run the risk of seeming like your main goal is to win the deal, not improve your prospect's future results.
The Performance and Your Knowledge
It is no longer enough to know your company's story and its offerings to succeed in sales. You can no longer be a know-nothing when the conversation goes beyond your catalog. This aspect of your performance connects to both your relevance and your credibility. If you ask your client any version of "what's keeping you up at night," you reveal that you don't already know what kind of problems and challenges your prospective client is experiencing, causing them to wonder why you asked for a meeting.
The more your conversation surpasses the completely commoditized discovery call, the greater your chances of sharing the more meaningful things you know, like why your client isn't getting the results they used to be able to generate in their, well, sleep. Even though the internet has corrected some part of the information disparity between the salesperson and their client, when your client already knows everything you know, they will not need you.
The Performance of Situational Knowledge
There is a type of knowledge you can’t learn from reading a book, or even a dozen books, on a given subject. Let's call this situational knowledge, as it often arises from past experiences that might benefit your current client. Situational knowledge lets you recognize informative patterns, like why one approach works well for a certain challenge but fails explosively when applied to a different scenario.
In conversations, being able to explain the different factors that make one choice better than another is valuable to your client, yet most salespeople center their discussions around why their clients should buy their products—instead of sharing experiences that explain why and how those clients should go about improving their outcomes.
Insight is proof that you have both a deep understanding in some area and a perspective you can share. Most salespeople don’t realize that the true value of insights lies not in having them but in being able to transfer them to their clients. When a client can tell that your understanding and perspective are neither deep nor sophisticated enough to be valuable, they won’t score your performance high enough to sign your contract.
Salespeople are also businesspeople, yet they don't read, listen, and watch business news. No matter what you’ve been taught about “establishing rapport,” studying business is far more rewarding than gaining conversational mastery about sports, craft beers, or who should have won The Bachelor. This performance metric is worth pursuing.
Performance is Value Creation
Your role in sales is to create value for your client. If you can't shore up the gaps in their knowledge, experience, and lack of insights, your client isn't going to give your performance top marks. If they learn or gain nothing in the hour they gift you, they will not have any interest in buying from you.
In the end, your client is going to measure your performance with a simple litmus test: are you the right partner to improve their results? That partnership isn’t about your company, your products, or your PowerPoint: it’s about you. Any metric of personal sales success—your win rate, your goal attainment, and of course your commission check—simply measures whether your prospects appreciate your performance enough to buy from you.