Recently, we had an opportunity to connect with Cliff Marks, President of National Cinemedia (NCM). He shared with us his thinking on the Top Performer Mindset and the three key factors that make top performing salespeople different, what gives them their competitive edge, and what shapes the way top performers think about sales. He shared a number of unique ideas focused around:
- Failing Forward
- Expect Rejection
- Preparation and Training
Early in the interview, Cliff said something that really framed the rest of our conversation, “Top performers have an insatiable desire to win. They continuously think of ways to improve and generate more revenue. They are the type of salespeople that go home and take their personal time to explore ways to know the market and make more money.”
Top performers seem to have something elusive in their DNA that hardwires them for success. The top 10% in any sales organization seem predestined for achievement no matter what obstacles that life, or their sales manager throws at them (both figuratively and literally). This is what the French call a certain “je ne sais quoi”, which is a quality or capability that is difficult to define, but makes all the difference in terms of results. While this extra something that top performers have can seem hard to understand, (especially to all those the top performer is surpassing) we at SalesGym have found that the answer to what sets top performers apart is much less complex and enigmatic than most believe.
Simply put, Top Performers view the world differently. They shift their paradigm and view their reality in a way that enables them to find the path forward to success. Throughout our interview, Clifford hit on several of the key factors that enable top performers to win no matter the circumstances and to compete harder and more consistently than their competition.
Top performers understand failure is an integral part of success. Failure is essential in the process of experiencing success because it is the key to the learning process. Cliff made the observation, “Failure allows you to have the opportunity to ask what you did wrong so you can fix it.”
No new skill has ever been acquired or honed without hours of unsuccessful attempts. Top performers are very cognizant of this fact and not only expect to fail, they do so with intent. Top Performers deliberately Fail Forward. Top Performers leverage their failures as learning experiences and utilize them as propellant to rocket them towards their next success. In this way, they take ownership of the learning process and use these lessons they learn as stepping stones forward.
Cliff really summed this up when he said, “The best salespeople are always thinking about the next deal. They understand that success today does not mean they can stop working and expect success tomorrow. They also have the patience to understand that some of the best deals that they can make take two or three years to develop.”
Top Performers have also learned to accept rejection as a natural course of action. While conversion rates vary wildly across industries and types of sales, most organizations would be thrilled with a conversion rate of 25%.
Let’s stop for a minute and consider the flip side of that coin. If the top performers are closing 1 out of 4 attempts, that means that they are failing 3 out of every 4 times … that 75% of their efforts, preparation, rehearsal, and intense focus does not work. In sales if you aren’t being rejected, you likely aren’t trying.
Cliff put it best, “The best salespeople have a fire in their belly. As a salesperson, you are going to have a lot of bad days and you’re going to deal with a lot of rejection. If you’re not dealing with rejection, you’re probably not having enough meetings or bringing enough new ideas to your clients.”
Top Performers have an ability to bounce back from failure and rejection quickly and just take it in stride, whereas many mediocre salespeople get bruised by rejection and try to avoid it which leads to lower activity levels and fewer at bats. According to Cliff, “Just as athletes don’t make ten three-point shots in a row or hit ten pitches perfectly, salespeople are not going to be perfect. The best salespeople still make mistakes and get rejected, but they always get back up and keep going.” The faster we get up and get going the faster we get into a new conversation with another decision maker and, in the end, the number of at bats with high level decision makers is extremely important. Failing fast and moving to the next opportunity is a big part of what makes top performers successful.
Preparation and Training
The last key to the Top Performer mindset that Cliff spoke about in our interview is the behind-the-scenes prep work and intense training that contributes to a top performer’s ability to out execute the competition with seeming ease.
While it may look easy to the younger or more naïve salesperson, what they don’t see is the hours of preparation, practice and rehearsal that went into making that top performer who they are today.
Cliff said, “I believe that life favors the prepared. When you are prepared as a salesperson, you have a distinct advantage compared to those who are not prepared. Younger salespeople tend to not be as prepared as more seasoned salespeople. Younger salespeople need mentors, guidance, and training before they can be ready for the major leagues.”
We at SalesGym could not agree more. Thousands of hours of research and hundreds of interviews have revealed that Cliff is absolutely correct. Not only do younger sales people need guidance and training, we have found that the overwhelming majority of salespeople need the kind of coaching that athletes get with lots of practice, repetition and corrective feedback.
We’ve been told time and again by the executives we interview that the most effective guidance and training comes in the form of deliberate and intentional practice with a coach who is able to model the behavior for the salesperson and get them immediately into implementation and practice. In this way, the salesperson gets real and applicable experience through dynamic exercises and continuous repetition.
The thing that really sets top performers apart is how they approach this style of training. As Cliff put it, “The great salespeople are able to think through the situation, process, analyze, and respond on their feet.” In other words, the ones that are truly great can get good in the game.
Many thanks to Cliff for the interview and providing us with his three keys to the Top Performer Mindset!
For videos on how to increase sales utilizing the SalesGym’s “Compete Selling” approaches, check out our SalesGym YouTube Channel!
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.
Get expert sales knowledge with our FREE newsletter
Sign up for our monthly newsletter to access top sales training techniques.