Being a sales professional is, in my opinion, the greatest job in the world. I have spent 35 years of my life in this wonderful profession. But isn’t it curious that, while there are endless courses on business management and marketing, you cannot get a degree in selling? Like me, you probably ended up in sales because you envisioned a career in selling could lead to fame and fortune… which of course, it can. That is if you rise to the top and become the best of the best.
What does it take to achieve such dizzying heights?
Traditional thinking would include having a great product or service to sell. Science-based training and sales tools can make a huge difference. And let’s not forget, awesome coaching from your managers… hopefully.
All these elements aid in your success but none of these things are going to drive you to the top of the pile. No… that requires something else. Something that cannot be taught or coached. Something only YOU can deliver.
That magic ingredient is an absolute, single-minded, unrelenting, laser-focused passion for WINNING. Every day, every week, every month until you win. Then do it again. Then do it again and again. Then you will become the best of the best and be awarded the title of Global Sales Executive of the Year… or whatever award your company bestows at the annual sales conference.
And the good news is no matter where you start in your sales career, or where you are right now, you can do it. You can achieve greatness, if, as Wayne “The Rock” Johnson insists, you are “the hardest worker in the room.”
I would suggest in some ways, it has become much harder to be “simply the best” because there is far more competition, more informed customers, and more life pressures and distractions to cope with than ever before.
But on the other hand, your competitors are also faced with these increased challenges. If you make a conscious decision to lock in your focus on winning and not let the distractions get in your way, great opportunity awaits.
But ultimately, it’s about the work. And not just being the “hardest worker in the room” but also the “smartest worker in the room.” And that means looking for ways to differentiate from your competitors, every… single… day.
Here are four key areas of focus which will enable you to move ahead of the pack:
1. Cultivate Relationships
In truth, it’s the only real way you can differentiate, and increasingly so. People buy from people. People they trust and believe have sincere commitment to helping them succeed with their business challenges.
So, are you making sure in every sales situation, you are taking time and putting in the effort to understand who will be involved? And how? Have you worked hard to establish relationships with each and every key executive / influencer that will have an impact on the buying decision? Do you have their business priorities and personal agendas front and center of your value proposition?
And have they told you they will be making the decision in your favor? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you still have more work to do.
2. Leverage Client References
In any major procurement, your clients want evidence. Positive proof that we can deliver what you say you can. And the best way to do that is through fantastic client references.
As the sales professional, you must “own” every aspect of a client reference engagement. Whether it is a face-to-face reference visit to one of your clients, or a virtual call between your prospect and your client, nothing can be left to chance. Wire everything! This includes briefing packs aligning expectations, clear timings, correct titles and spelling of names, contact numbers, and then prompt follow-up calls to both client and prospect to gauge how they feel about the call.
Leave nothing to chance, because a client reference call / visit may not win you the deal… but it can certainly lose it for you if it is not executed with precision.
3. Innovate your Differentiation
What are you doing to create awareness of your company and differentiate your services and products with key decision-makers that maybe you have not yet met? Or the wider community of people that could be impacted by a decision for your solution?
By thinking outside the box, you can be creative. You can have relevant articles and testimonials placed in business / news journals that find their way into the board room during the critical period in a procurement. You can place advertisements on billboards, on TV, or on the side of taxicabs. Yes, really! We did that during a major IT outsourcing campaign in the UK and it was very effective – we won!
4. Create Compelling Sales Presentations
This is another area where, as the sales professional, you must own every detail. And another area where the deal can, and often is, won or lost.
I am amazed that in 2020, so many sales presentations are dreadful. Designed to comatose the audience… tens of slides that focus not on the client’s objectives, but rather start with how great the seller is – their product, service, and company. Please stop this in the name of “our sacred sales commission checks.” Make a change.
This topic warrants its own article but let me just plead with you. When thinking about a major sales presentation, remember presentations are intended for the audience, not the presenter. Use images rather than words. Design them to make the audience lean in with curiosity. If you can afford to engage the services of a specialist to assist you, do it. But above all, please get rid of all the bullet points.
Francis Morgan Ayodélé Thompson, CBE, known as Daley Thompson, is an English former decathlete. He once said, “I train twice on Christmas Day because I know the others aren’t training at all. It gives me two extra days.” He won the decathlon gold medal at the Olympic Games in 1980 and 1984 and broke the world record for the event four times.
That is what it takes to be great and to be the best of the best. So, what are you going to do today to achieve greatness?
Think about your top three deals. Get with your team and brainstorm how you can move ahead of your competition. How can you impress them with your understanding of what’s most important? Will you excite them with your proposition? Get them to say, “That’s the team we want to work with!”