Organizations need sales reps – they are critical to the success of the business. And in today’s competitive business environment, sales organizations are increasingly chasing more aggressive goals with greater pressure to overachieve.
But even with such a key role in the company, only 1/3 of sales people meet or exceed quota (meaning that 2/3 of reps fail to reach their annual sales goals), and only 10% of sales reps are consistently high-performing.
So what sets those successful sales reps apart from the rest of the team? What makes them so successful? Well, top performers have specific habits that make them consistently successful.
They have laid a strong foundation and amended it over many weeks, months, or even years. Learn their secrets to success and transform yourself into an A player. You won’t be able to start crushing your quota in just a day or even a week, but with strict discipline, you can start to see bottom-line results.
1) Be in the Know
Know Your Audience
Who are your prospects? Of course, it’s important to know their demographics, psychographics, and geographics, but it is also imperative to understand their persona and fully comprehend their pain points and challenges. How can you best help your audience? What problem are you solving and how do you add value? A 2013 survey from Inc. Magazine showed that one of the top reasons buyers selected a specific vendor was “because they felt that the salesperson understood their needs best”.
Today’s B2B buyers expect an individualized purchase process and solution that takes into consideration their unique challenges and priorities. Demonstrate that you have an invested interest in helping your prospects. Keep in mind that just as the selling space is always changing, as are the needs and expectations of your prospects and customers.
Know Your Product Inside and Out
The more you know about the product you are selling, the greater your chances of closing a deal. You should have in-depth knowledge about your product’s features and how it functions in any given situation, as well as a general idea of future product updates.
Don’t just repeat back the FAQ about your product – actually understand what you are saying. The worst case scenario is when your prospect knows more about the product than you do or catches you off-guard with a question that you are unable to answer. Remember – you are not just selling a product – you are solving a problem and you are adding value.
Be able to articulate the value of the product and how it addresses the prospect’s problems. Over half of buyers look for pricing, technical, and product information, and they can easily find this data with a quick search, but they often still need somebody to explain it to them or add meaning. As referral selling expert Joanne Black tells us, “Buyers have all the information they want – what they don’t have are insights”.
Know Your Competition
Your product or solution is competing for the buyer’s attention. First, who are your competitors? How do you and your offerings differ? What is your unique value prop? Secondly, how are those other companies pitching and selling their products? Be able to clearly explain how your product is different and why yours should be a priority.
Know Your Industry
Top, successful sales reps know everything there is to know about the industry and make it a point to stay current on hot topics, trends, and forecasts. Follow industry blogs and social media to see what conversations are going on in the industry – what are industry experts talking about? What are your prospects talking about?
This level of knowledge and relevant information serves to reinforce a sales rep’s trustworthiness and credibility with the prospect and establish them as a subject matter expert. Plus, a LinkedIn survey shows that B2B buyers are 5x more likely to engage with a sales professional who is able to provide new insights about their business and the industry.
2) Have Goals
More than half of B2B executives indicate that their employees don’t understand their company’s strategy, according to research from Harvard Business Review, but how can you execute on sales strategy without knowing what the goal is? Consider the following questions: 1) What is the organization as a whole trying to achieve? 2) How can you help the organization hit that goal?
Don’t be reactive – be proactive and make a plan. A plan (and a clear understanding of the objectives) will help sales reps to develop short-term goals to hit those long-term objectives. Identify what you want to achieve, and how, in the next 30 days, the next 6 months, and the next year. Then determine how you will measure success. Is it number of phone calls and emails? Social engagement? Number of meetings? Number of advanced opportunities? Pipeline conversion rates? Revenue? Average number of touches?
Now, have a daily plan. Set objectives for each task (i.e. What are you trying to accomplish on that sales call? What is the intended outcome of that email?). Knowing exactly what your goals are helps you to stay focused and ask the right questions to progress the sale. Lastly, outline a consistent workflow with your sales objectives set around those activities.
3) Seek Out and Be Receptive to Coaching
Philosopher George Santayana once said (and was more famously quoted by Winston Churchill), “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. Take ownership of your success and your downfalls; be responsible for improving your own performance; always be on the lookout for ways to adjust your sales strategy. Successful sales reps aren’t afraid of a little constructive criticism and feedback and don’t become defensive when encountering a tough customer. In fact, a HubSpot survey found that coachability is the #1 predictor of sales success.
Be open to ongoing coaching related to the selling space and market, different buyer personas, the products, and navigating the sales cycle. These buckets of information change over time, which is why ongoing coaching and training is imperative. Plus, continuous training can yield up to 50% higher net sales per sales rep.
4) Make Data-Driven Decisions
Use (appropriate and relevant) data to gain deeper insights into your sales strategy and to guide your sales process. For example, what content is most effective at progressing deals and generating the highest ROI? How many calls does it take to get a conversation? What talking points are most effective?
Take into consideration other KPIs such as conversion rates, call rates, win rates, marketing collateral usage, average deal size, sales cycle length, and deal response time. Determine which factors advance sales throughout the sales cycle, which factors impact successes, and what changes will improve performance. Lastly, review your wins and losses – what worked and what didn’t? What can you change or adjust to be more successful next time?
Studies from CIO Insights have found that sales reps that make decisions without data are just undercutting sales, with 40% of survey respondents saying that limited visibility into data hurts their sales performance. Data-driven sales strategy is about decreasing costs, boosting productivity, optimizing effectiveness, and driving revenue.
5) Leverage Sales Tools
Business2Community asserts, “Successful salespeople know that the right tools in their arsenal can mean the difference between a deal and a dud”. You likely have a multitude of sales tools at your disposal. Don’t feel threatened – your sales leader thought they would be useful and invested in them, so be sure to use them!
Tools such as auto-dialers, sales intelligence, lead management, web conferencing / collaboration, and sales enablement will streamline your sales process, helping you to stay organized, on task, and productive. They can help to identify and eliminate unnecessary or superfluous tasks and reduce the day-to-day ‘noise’ for sales reps.
A sales enablement technology, such as KnowledgeTree, arms sales teams with the tools, knowledge, and content to improve sales execution and drive revenue. It helps sales reps to add value to the sales process and enables them to become trusted advisor and subject matter expert.
Automation may not be able to answer every obscure question a prospect has, but it can help provide information about that persona (such as their unique preferences, goals, buying pains, and challenges) and recommend content that will help intelligently answer the question.