“What do you believe it takes to be a great salesperson?” Speak to anyone who has ‘made it’ in their respective field and the underlying reason is the same. Different words may be used, but it has an uncanny resemblance to the principles that were drilled into me when I first entered the sales arena: ‘Set High Goals’, ‘Have Great Self-Talk’ and ‘Hold Yourself Accountable’. I soon became aware of how essential these habits were to guide me through the rollercoaster that is a career in sales.
These success principles are often referred to as the ‘soft skills’ compared to the many other areas that sales people need training in. As a result, they are often taken for granted and not cultivated. In addition, decisions regarding which training programmes to initiate are constricted by the lack of time available and by reduced or small budgets. Much training is therefore based around essential product knowledge and regulatory/legislation understanding. While these are vital areas for salespeople to be well-informed in, ask the top performers what enables them to excel and more often than not they will point to their attitudes, their mindset, and their habits rather than the technical knowledge of product or process. Thus companies’ sales training programmes should offer more exposure to principles and mind sets to achieve the success they need.
I once heard that, “If you are not forming good habits, more than likely you’re forming bad ones.” One thing is for certain; if we have chosen a career in sales and we start forming the habits that directly affect our performance in a positive way, we will be successful in both opportune and tough times. So let’s look at how these three success principles form an integral part of achieving this success, why it is so crucial to develop and enhance them and why they are relevant to both new and experienced salespeople alike?
Firstly, ‘Set High Goals’. Straight away, one might say, “If we do that, we set ourselves up for failure. To make people feel successful, let’s set achievable targets”. In fact, in SBR Consulting’s experience, the opposite is true. When sales managers and directors set an achievable target, sometimes they secretly think that it is almost too low and should be the minimum, whilst the sales person, who needs to achieve this target, has none of the energy, passion and enthusiasm that they are capable of producing because the goal does not excite them. The result is that the goal is barely hit and neither manager nor sales person is particularly happy. Taking the opposite approach to setting targets can also be a mistake. If a goal is set too high for the current confidence level of the salesperson, it provides no motivation and again will not have the success needed.
The solution is simple but very effective. At SBR Consulting, we talk about setting 3 levels of goals or objectives: my PRIDE level, my REALISTIC target and my HIGH goal (these can be used as part of the overall company approach but works extremely well on an individual basis).
‘Pride’ level sparks real feeling in most competitive people, so the level an individual chooses here means that they cannot conceive that they could go below their pride - a very powerful motivator. The ‘Realistic’ level is normally a target that the individual can and should attain if they are focused, putting in the calls and working effectively. The ‘High’ level is something which should evoke real excitement as the individual pictures themselves being truly successful. Having these three levels means that whether we are having a really tough time and having to dig into every aspect of our ability just to achieve our pride level, or whether things are going really well, we have a relevant goal which keeps our energy and motivation alive.
Secondly, ‘Have Great Self-Talk’. It amazes me that when we shadow salespeople, they often unknowingly verbalise their thoughts just before they approach a prospective client. I have, often heard comments such as, “I am pretty sure this company will not be interested in our service but I am going anyway.” Then, as we leave the appointment they say something like, “I told you they would not be interested!” I have to hold my tongue because you can see how little they understand the power of their own ‘Self-talk’. I am not referring to self-talk like, “I am a tiger,” but more productive self-talk like, “Today is going to be a great day because I am going to make more calls than ever before”, “I have new information to share with this prospect which means I can and will win the business”.
Since we cannot stop our inner voice, it is vital that we make it work for us as opposed to against us. I would strongly advise we help our people to understand and cultivate this concept. In many other professions, there is obvious reading material that increases the knowledge that each professional gains about his industry, whether it be newspapers, journals, past case studies etc. We, as sales professionals should also be reading sales books and magazines on a daily basis to help focus our self-talk.
Third and finally, ‘Hold yourself accountable’. The first two success principles discussed are ineffectual without this one. Unless we are willing to take responsibility for our own schedule, metrics and statistics on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, we are in danger of living in a dream world. Having activity targets and the 3 levels of objectives which have been considered thoroughly should really be perceived by each sales person as their roadmap to success. The, “If it is going to be, it is up to me,” attitude, whether embraced and articulated consciously or subconsciously, is why many people have made sales the best and most rewarding profession to be in.
In summary, combine these three principles as we have above and make them an integral part of the culture of your sales team and you will quickly start to reap the rewards of high performance sales habits coming to life and accelerating your organisation’s sales growth.
Lars Tewes is Managing Director of SBR Consulting. They specialise in developing High Performance Sales and Sales Leadership Habits. On Thursday 28th January 2016, SBR Consulting will be delivering the Vistage Sales Leadership Forum for CEOs, business leaders, Sales Directors or Sales Managers. If you want a very practical roadmap to outstanding sales management within your business, the Vistage Sales Forum will show you the way. This event provides a great opportunity for you and your team to learn from specialist sales performance directors who bring a new, business focused and real-world view of the role of sales leadership and sales management.