Hero image of Brian McCauley, ProSales columnist

Last month’s column in this magazine discussed the reasons why salespeople tend to struggle with performance. The comment was made that I was mostly asked to ride with salespeople with poor performance and that is true. There was one project I was able to sell to leadership that ended up being one of the most enjoyable projects I ever worked on. I spent several months riding with dozens of our most successful salespeople. Documenting what they did well and then built some training content off that to begin assisting leaders in the organization to coach up poor to moderate performers. This column will discuss four things that most successful salespeople had in common.

Organized: This means organized in both their time management and their territory management. They are closely tied together and interdependent. A good time management system has three components: a calendar, a task list, and a place to make daily notes that should be used religiously and avoids redundancies. Each person had that, but their system went deeper into how their territory was organized and how to maximize their efficiency within their territory. They knew all their customers and had a system in place to make sure they either had face-to-face visits or phone calls with each customer on a regular basis. They wrote out a weekly plan with who they wanted to see that week and what was to be accomplished. They worked diligently every day to focus on the plan for that day and to travel efficiently in their territories. They also had a system in place to capture prospects that they came across during their day and to move those prospects along their sales cycle.

Willing to Cold Call: I often ask salespeople during training sessions to raise their hand if they love cold calling. Then I jokingly say if your hand is up, you’re either psychotic or you’re lying!! Many folks dislike cold calling because it’s usually a beat down…loaded with rejection and uncomfortable conversations. It is, however, a necessary evil. It takes time to move a prospect along to a buying customer and you should always have prospects in your pipeline working them towards customer status. Successful salespeople realize they must constantly be prospecting because they understand they will lose a certain number of customers every year and if they’re not generating new customers, they are going backwards. Don’t wait until you need a new customer before you start looking for one, then it’s too late.

Persistent: Successful salespeople are persistent with everybody in their environment, prospects, customers, co-workers, bosses, vendors, etc. Working collaboratively to solve problems, create better customer service experiences, work more efficiently, save their company money and so on. Don’t confuse persistence with annoying, bothersome behavior. I call them “politely persistent,” and they always work to make deposits in other people’s accounts. Help others first before asking for help yourself.

Think Strategically: Successful salespeople don’t rush into a sales call, their day, or their week without being thoughtful as to their approach. They have objectives for sales calls, plans for the week, plans for the day, minimize wasted time, and maximize productive time. There are numerous reasons why a prospect may buy from you, but if you can’t effectively explain why you are different than their present options, price will often be their deciding factor. Find the why and communicate it more effectively to make price less of an issue. Instead of running headstrong from call to call, successful salespeople often pause and ask themselves, what are they doing next, why are they doing it, and will it bring value to them, or somebody else?

There you have it. Some lessons learned during one of the cooler projects I ever had the pleasure of working on. If you lead salespeople, I suggest you spend time with your successful people and study how they do what they do. Then use that information to help coach up others on your team. Happy Selling!!