At the SalesGym, we interview hundreds of sales executives every year to find out new thinking and trends on top performers, coaching and building better sales teams. In a recent interview with Tommy Teepell, CMO at Lamar, he shared some timeless insights into top performing salespeople and managers and how persistence and relationship building continues to be a key determinant of success.
Many of our SalesGym clients are large tech and financial services companies (Google, Facebook, Capital Group, Blackrock, etc.) that invest heavily in technology to leverage the efforts of their salespeople. There’s no doubt at all that sophisticated data analytics on marketing and targeting along with CRM systems have had a big positive impact on sales results.
Interestingly, when we interview top sales executives and ask them what it is that separates the absolute best salespeople from the rest, they nearly always talk about the internal motivational factors along with well developed human relations skills as their standout characteristics. The very best salespeople are driven to meet new people, develop relationships and create their results, on purpose. As Tommy Teepell puts it…
You're either going to sit around and wait for something to happen to you or you're going to go make something happen. Or, as one friend told me ...you have a choice... you can row or drift. -Tommy Teepell, CMO at Lamar Click To Tweet
“You’re either going to sit around and wait for something to happen to you or you’re going to go make something happen. Or, as one friend told me …you have a choice… you can row or drift.”
Analyzing results vs. interacting with decision makers…
More and more, we find salespeople and sales managers spending a lot of time analyzing results, pipelines, and reporting data, and in many cases, neglecting the more fundamental motivational elements like persistence and reaching out to meet more of the people that can lead to new business opportunities. There has always been a tendency to look for easier, better ways to prospect and find new business, because that’s the hardest, most emotionally bruising element of selling.
Much of the training that is given to sales teams today is analytic in nature and tends to focus on analyzing opportunities, understanding the sales cycle and sophisticated buying influencer models and personality analysis. At some point, though, the salesperson has to meet these decision makers and influencers, make a great first impression and communicate in a way that projects confidence, competence and trustworthiness. We’ve found, in working with thousands of salespeople, these essential human relations and communications skills are often not developing when people spend most of their time looking at screens and typing on keyboards. Tommy reminds us…
A mistake a lot of us as salespeople make is we really don't want to leave our office and make sales calls any more than we want to be invited to a party where we don't know anyone. -Tommy Teepell, CMO at Lamar Click To Tweet
“A mistake a lot of us as salespeople make is we really don’t want to leave our office and make sales calls any more than we want to be invited to a party where we don’t know anyone.”
The reality is, for many salespeople and even their managers, it’s easy to allow hours every day to slip away with too much time looking at screens and not enough time interacting with the people that can make things happen. Relationships are going to become deeper and more meaningful when we interact more face-to-face or voice-to-voice.
It’s hard to know when persistence will pay off. Sometimes, the efforts we put into relationship building and staying in touch this week, doesn’t pay off for months or even years as Tommy points out…
“Not everybody wants or needs what you’re selling. However, they may not need it now, but they’re going to need it at some point. To the degree that you’re able to build and maintain those relationships, when they do realize they need it, hopefully you’ll still be on the top of their mind.”
What top performers tell us repeatedly…
In working on a book back in the late 90’s, I interviewed a wide variety of top performing salespeople and asked them what are the most important routines that drive their success. Over and over, three consistent themes came up:
- Daily exercise
- Avoiding negative people
- Consistent new business development effort every day
It struck me as surprising how many mentioned exercise as a key factor so I dug deeper and what I learned is they felt consistent exercise put them in the right mindset needed to have the attitude control, patience and sheer energy needed to face rejection and persistently keep pushing forward. That the way they felt, mentally and emotionally, had a huge impact on how they interacted with decision makers and when stress built up, they weren’t as effective.
“That’s been the traditional sales model for so long, looking for people that have the ability to go out there, identify suspects, whittle that down to prospects, and willingness to meet, greet and ask the right questions.” -Tommy Teepell, CMO at Lamar
Successful salespeople find a way to get themselves into that zone where goals-driven focus happens more naturally and the temptation to waste time is reduced. When that motivational switch is on, we can get more done in a day than we can in a week when we’re drifting toward interesting distractions. Tommy sums it up well…You're either going to sit around and wait for something to happen to you or you're going to go make something happen. -Tommy Teepell, CMO at Lamar Click To Tweet
“You’re either going to sit around and wait for something to happen to you or you’re going to go make something happen. We have to leave the nest and meet folks we don’t know and develop relationships. That’s been the traditional sales model for so long, looking for people that have the ability to go out there, identify suspects, whittle that down to prospects, and willingness to meet, greet and ask the right questions.”
How Top Performers Get and Stay Focused
- Write your goals down and review them every week
- Do the worst first … make the most difficult calls when your energy is highest
- Keep score … track the activity you generate and work to improve the numbers
- Focus time every day on meeting the decision makers with the most buying authority
- Spend more time with successful people
- Build your physical, mental and spiritual energy, vitality and stamina
- Consistent practice builds confidence and confidence opens doors
Screen generated relationships…
The reality is, people communicate much more in writing today than 20 years ago. Many decision makers prefer the less personal and more detached methods of communication like emails and texts because they feel it’s faster, more efficient and it’s easier to block out the salespeople they don’t want to deal with. Tommy points out what he’s noticed over the years…
“A lot of us grew up in a 3D world, we would leave our safe place and meet people, identify suspects, whittle that down to prospects, and had that willingness ask the right questions. That was a 3D world, that’s where sales started. Now it’s a flat world. Your sales contacts are probably going to start off with emails generated by you or you’re going to pick up some third party leads and tie it into your salesforce and target vertical markets and then customize emails to specific individuals answering the question, ‘Why should I listen to you’. Then you follow up very quickly ….and either earn the right to visit with them or you’re going to get the response we all give which is, ‘Just send me something.”
It’s much easier for decision makers to block that personal, one-on-one access that allows a relationship and trust to root and grow. This is where old fashioned persistence comes into play. Tommy continued…
That’s when real skill starts to come into play because the good old days of traveling around living off a handshake and a smile, that world has ended. Now you’ve got to be a lot more skillful about how you identify suspects that will become your prospects, or if you’re in salesforce, leads that are going to eventually become your accounts, and you’ve got to be a lot more strategic with how you start that relationship and develop that relationship. This is where people make a huge mistake in their ability to be persistent, not annoyingly persistent, but strategically persistent.”
What salespeople tell us repeatedly…
Our training methodology in the SaleGym is different from most training companies that typically train salespeople in groups, at special events in 1-3 day information saturated seminars. What we do is practice the core selling skills with salespeople one-on-one over a period of months and this allows them to share with us what they want more of from their sales managers and, what their sales managers do that de-motivates them.
What demotivates salespeople
- Too much hammering on numbers and pipeline questions
- Constant requests for reports requiring hours of updating each week
- Meetings that focus mostly on policy and procedures
- Going on sales calls and taking over instead of acting as an added resource
What motivates salespeople
- Success stories - analyzing successes and failures in terms of deals that the team is producing
- Listening to what top performers are doing … sharing their best practices
- Practice and rehearsing for important upcoming sales calls
- Positive and encouraging communication and less criticism and negativity
- Real assistance at dealing with the internal issues that can prevent sales
- Help with complex selling situations they don’t yet have the experience to solve
“Patient persistence does win the hearts of Kings.” — Tommy Teepell
The SalesGym is a research, consulting and training company that works with and learns from sales teams all over the world and has refined a coaching and training process that trains sales teams the way elite athletes are trained. More insights and articles from us can be found on our RESOURCES PAGE.