3 out of 4 sales people are mediocre at best. Here’s how to be the 1 that’s killing it.


If you’re reading this, it’s likely you know how important sales is to your organization. They’re the face of your company, the frontlines to your customers, and the source of the revenue that keeps the ship above water.


But let’s face it: as a profession, sales is broken. Bad. In fact, a recent study by OMG estimates that 74% of sales people are mediocre at best.


Which, given its significance, begs the question…why do we seem to accept this so easily? It shocks me, because as Mark Birch so eloquently puts it:


“If other fields of professional endeavor can operate with higher levels of skill and consistency, why not sales?”


Most salespeople have never had a sales education – they simply fall into it. Some figure it out, and some don’t. I’ve seen both sides of that equation throughout my 20 years in the field, and in all honesty, many of the things that make you successful often boil down to a handful of simple things you can start to implement today.


So if you want to be part of that 26% who is crushing quotas, here are 4 of the most important things to make sure you nail.


Consult. Don’t sell.


In my experience, salespeople who are struggling don’t have a sales problem. They have a psychology problem.


Mark Birch nails it (again):


“Good salespeople sell lots of product, but great salespeople make lots of customers successful.”


It may not seem like much, but that shift in mindset is the key to going from average to rock star.


The truth is, it’s not about you, it’s about them – no one really cares about your business, your product, or your service. They care about how it solves their problems.


For example, no one wants a grill just to have a grill – they want to eat amazing barbecue and have a great afternoon in the backyard with friends and family. A great salesperson tries to help their customer create the most amazing barbecue experience possible, not just sell them the equipment to do it.


SaaS products are no different. No one wants another CRM – they want to avoid getting bogged down in the mundane details leading to happy customers and higher sales volumes. And a great salesperson is always on the lookout for ways to make that possible even beyond the sale.


If there is anything you take away from this article, it should be this: start approaching your prospects as someone who can help solve their business problems, not someone who has a product to sell. I guarantee you will see a shift in your results.


Listen before you pitch.


I got 3 calls in a row recently from a salesperson who didn’t leave a message. And when I called back? The first thing he did was go straight into his pitch.


Honestly, even if his solution could have solved all of my problems, there are others out there I still would have considered first after this encounter. It was like going in to see a doctor for a check-up, but getting diagnosed before they ever ran a test!


Just like you can’t withdraw from your bank account without first putting money in it, business relationships require you to make a deposit first too. This video says it all:



This shouldn’t shock you – it’s the golden rule! By slowing down and taking the time to listen to your customer, hear about their business, and digest their problems with good questions, you’ll signal to them that you have their best interests in mind.


Over time, they’ll reciprocate with their trust (and the more you show them you have their best interests in mind, the more they’ll trust you).


You’ll also be way more likeable as a result (which, along with reciprocity, is one of the 6 scientifically validated principles of persuasion).


For more information on great questions to ask on sales calls and how to show your customers you’re listening to them, check out these awesome articles on Leadfuze and Hubspot.


Be an expert on your industry.


The word “thought leader” gets thrown around way too loosely these days. But that said, being thought of as an authority in your field is still very, very important (authority is again, one of the 6 scientifically validated principles of persuasion).


Here’s a great example of why.


Pre ATP when I was in the sales trenches, after months of courting, I finally had a huge meeting with one of the hottest tech companies at the time who was disrupting the mess out of their industry. Before my half-day onsite, I poured over things like:


  • What was going on with their investors
  • What the people I was meeting with were talking about online
  • Challenges their business was facing in a heavily regulated world
  • Industry analysis on what their future looked like
  • What their competitors were doing


During my research, I found a very major gap in their growth strategy that they hadn’t thought of yet (they didn’t even know what they didn’t know about my industry) and put a creative snapshot together to demonstrate it to them.


A month later a multi-million dollar deal was signed and I quickly became their go-to person in my industry to solve their business problems.


If you want to really succeed in sales, it’s important to be up to date on your industry at all times. The more they think of you as an expert, the easier it will be for you act as a consultant, and for them to think of you as someone who adds value, not someone who just takes money.


There are many ways to do this, including interacting with prospects on social media, attending webinars, and reading articles from industry publications and blogs. A great tool I’ve found to help is called Feedly. You can use it to automatically pull in content from experts in any field all into one place.


Use systems to improve.


Have you ever wondered why some seem to achieve success so much faster or so much more frequently than others? It’s not because they’re working harder than anyone else. In fact, a lot of times they even make it look effortless!


It’s because they work smarter by using systems to measure their successes (and failures).


Rockstar salespeople always seem to know which levers to pull for results because they always have a clear picture of how they are performing. They have a system for collecting and analyzing data they can repeat and adjust over time to improve consistently.


Without this, they would be stabbing in the dark, trying to hit a target they can’t see.


If that’s what it feels like for you, my favorite tool for keeping a clear picture of how I’m doing is a scorecard. With a scorecard, I can measure the results for a given activity each time I use it. Plus, by auditing my scorecard regularly, I’m guaranteed that it’s always up to date and giving me accurate feedback.


For more insight on how to use a scorecard, check out this post a la Sales for Life which incorporates the topic.


Final thoughts.


There are more than just these things that go into being that 1 out of 4 salespeople that is crushing it of course. But that said, if you execute on these 4 things, I know you’ll see drastic improvements that will have a positive impact on the number of deals you close.


Sales leaders, you’re no exception. Be on the lookout for ways to implement these things with your team on a daily basis you’ll have an all-star squad in no time. For more inspiration on what A+ salespeople do well, here are a few other resources I recommend:


The Best Salespeople Do What the Best Brands Do – Harvard Business Review

8 Things The Top 1% Of Sales Reps Do Differently – The Insights Squared Blog

10 Essential Characteristics of Highly Successful Salespeople – Sales Hacker


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