Three Secrets Top Sales Performers Want to Protect

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 | Category :

By Mark Goulding

The best of the best typically have a few tricks up their sleeve, but when they are competitive, they often don’t want to share the wealth. Funny how that works, isn’t it? The world of selling is no different. But how do top-sellers- or top-tier selling organizations- consistently achieve strong performance? Whether it’s an individual, a team, or an enterprise sales organization, those who want to achieve more begin by recognizing the need for consistent improvement. With the tectonic shifts in the markets around them, these high performers understand that Sales Transformation is not just a nice phrase—it’s a survival imperative. Here are three secrets that top performers in sales know:

1. Know the Customer First, Sell Later: Customers often value the meetings where you have nothing to sell them. Let me guess, you’re thinking “Hold on there, cowboy. Do you mean all the negotiation training, product training and etiquette camp won’t help me sell more?” Not necessarily. A solid understanding of what your company can offer customers is fundamental, but today it’s only a ticket to the dance.

If you want to play at the next level, there is value in listening, understanding and exploring without pitching. To achieve this, seller self-interest must be suspended. I’m not referring to relationship selling. Knowing Johnny’s favorite fishing holes or Sally’s kids’ soccer schedule doesn’t differentiate the way it may have 25 years ago. In today’s hyper-competitive selling market, the real differentiator is shifting your perspective to the customer’s side of the table and enhancing the focus on their goals. Only then can you create a new kind of value for your customer.

2. Understand the “Big Picture”: Today, most executive sales leaders encourage their teams to sell higher and wider, to be strategic and to make profitable deals without discounting. For selling teams, these strategies are known to be more effective. However, knowing does not always translate into doing.

A fundamental building block of driving better customer engagement is learning to speak the language. Support a foundation for real sales improvement by investing in understanding your customer, their goals, their metrics, and which competitors they’re most worried about.

3. Master Alignment: Have you ever thought you were making progress in a sales cycle, only to have a “hidden” influencer swoop in and derail the discussion? If you’ve been selling for a while--especially to large, complex organizations--you’ve probably felt the pain of being blindsided at some point in your career.

Call it art, call it science, but the skill of getting stakeholders aligned is a significant catalyst for top sales performers. Whether it was getting Mom and Dad to agree to that weekend trip in high school or getting the CIO and CFO unified on an imperative project, alignment is an often non-monetized sales skill that is sometimes left to chance, even today.

Mastering these three sales secrets requires creativity, innovation and most importantly a deep understanding of your customer's business. And it works for companies as diverse as UPS, Proctor & Gamble, and Microsoft.

About the Author: Mark Goulding is a Director at BTS's Sales Practice.

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