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 Mark Nachman, VP Branded Channel Performance with Sprint, he shared some unique insights into top performing salespeople, sales managers and the impact of practice on performance.
Top performers are different…
Anytime we start a new training project with a company, whether it’s a small team of 10 salespeople or a global sales force of 25,000, we begin by meeting and interviewing the top performers to get a clear understanding of what they’re doing differently from the rest of the team. Although not all top performers are the same, there are some characteristics most of them share:
- They tend to work harder, smarter and longer than the rest
- They’re likeable … very few top performers have sour personalities
- They’re sales messaging is better… it’s more focused on the client and relevant solutions
- They’re better at asking questions, listening and leading a productive conversation
- They prioritize and manage their time efficiently
- They tend to practice, prepare and rehearse more than average performers
- They project positive energy and have a better attitude in general
Mark shared with us what he’s noticed about top performers…
“The traits that the most successful salespeople have are; 1) they are dialed in on product knowledge and understanding of the business, and 2) they’re very money motivated and they see real career potential.”
Top performers control what they can control
In sales, many factors are outside our control. The attitude of the prospect, new buying influencers that enter the equation, sudden new budget constraints and changes in team members are going to happen and throw the trajectory of a sales call or cycle out of whack. Customers and prospects exist in a dynamic environment that is constantly changing with new players and influencers entering and leaving, often unexpectedly. The best salespeople learn to control their own attitude and, especially in an environment where appearance and first impressions matter, put real effort into the first impression they create. Mark comments on this key factor from the perspective of retail salespeople that interact with prospects in a store environment…
A lot of being successful is about a positive attitude. -Mark Nachman, VP Branded Channel Performance with Sprint Click To Tweet
“A lot of being successful is about a positive attitude. Take something as simple as appearance, it runs the whole gamut from sleepy, looks like they just fell out of bed… barely got dressed, or they’re wearing the shirt that they played softball in the last night before or they smell like cosmos and smoke. Then, you have the guy that looks really sharp and has his hair combed with his badges and name tags on … he’s ready to play. In sales, the bar can be low, when you can actually do pretty good by just showing up early, learning your products and services and keeping a smile on your face.”
How to have a more positive attitude
- Spend less time with negative people
- Get daily exercise… it’s remarkable how many top performers exercise daily
- Read positive stuff and stay away from negativity generating media
- Set goals, review them and keep a goal achieving journal
- Make a habit of noticing and bringing attention to people’s positive traits
- Take more of an interest in others … ask interesting questions
- Eat cleaner, healthier food and avoid too many stimulants
- Practice some kind of method to calm your mind and settle your thoughts
Top performers practice
One of the areas that virtually all salespeople can control is the effort they put into practice.
Practice is the most obvious and underrated and underutilized exercise. -Mark Nachman, VP Branded Channel Performance with Sprint Click To Tweet
“Practice is the most obvious and underrated and underutilized exercise,” Mark reminds us and he’s absolutely right.
The routine of steady practice, every week builds skills and confidence. Sales is a verbal skill and intellectual understanding of what to say in a sales interaction isn’t enough. It takes repetition with a strong practice partner to get on a steady improvement track. In the SalesGym, we practice with our clients’ salespeople every week and have found the best place to start practice is with basic sales messaging. Most sales managers would be doing their sales teams a big favor if they’d simply practice competitive advantages and differentiating factors to the most obvious questions a high percentage of prospects have.
Every salesperson should have a fantastic, knock it out of the park response to these two questions:
- What makes your company, products and services different or better than your competitor?
- What makes this product a better value than what I’m already using?
Certainly, there’s an element of tailoring the response to the specific person we’re talking to, but in general, salespeople should have a fantastic answer to these two questions that get to the very heart of effective sales messaging.
Practice should focus on interactive selling skills
When we start new training projects with new clients, we ask the front-line sales managers how they practice with their people. Often, they tell us in great detail about how they go over goals, metrics, pipeline reports and strategies to save deals, but when it comes to practice drills and exercises, many are simply at a loss when it comes to how to truly practice with their salespeople. When you carefully observe elite sports teams, you’ll notice that coaches spend most of their time training and practicing with their athletes. They carefully think through the training schedule and practice drills and are always refining and improving the process. They put enormous effort into improving practice and this is exactly what more sales managers need to do.
Mark explains what he’s observed about the best store managers at Sprint…
“The managers that are flawlessly executing, once or twice a month, will host the district at a store where they have five or six store managers in different corners of the store and go through different scenarios and role-playing with the sales reps. A five-minute timer goes off and they shift to the next scenario. It’s a great way to do knowledge checks live, in a group setting, and it’s a great opportunity to hone and develop your skills. It’s a coach and learn type of environment that gives the managers insights into people who are struggling with their confidence or aren’t up to speed on products and services. It’s good for the frontline retail reps and it’s also good for the managers. The managers that participate in that are the top performing districts.”
Where to start when it comes to practice
- Differentiating Factors Headlines - Learn short headlines about your competitive advantages and differentiating factors you can use to make your communication more memorable
- Customer oriented phrasing - Learn to communicate from the customer’s perspective and share what your best, most loyal customers think and say about you, your company and your products/services
- Open ended questions - Develop a set of fantastic open-ended questions you can use, at any time, to break the too much talking habit and get the prospect or customer talking more
Mark sums it up here in terms of how so many salespeople simply neglect practice on the most obvious areas that generate better results on sales interactions…
“Rarely do you see reps that have really role-played and recited responses to objections and really crafted their sales pitches. Practice is the most obvious and underutilized exercise in sales.” Mark went on to explain that to really take it to the next level, you have to go beyond practice… “If you want to distinguish yourself from the other people in your store, or your district, you have to do stuff outside of practice. Everybody goes to practice and if you want to distinguish yourself from other players, you have to do stuff outside of practice like going to classes and taking online training. You have to put effort outside of basic practice and become a better player than those alongside you.”
It takes practice and perseverance
Tiger Woods, when interviewed at the peak of his career, commented that the biggest obstacle to excellence in golf is simply the boredom of practice and how difficult it is, day after day to get out on the practice range, hit a few hundred balls, putt for 2-3 hours and go through a practice routine day after day on the dozens of different shots a pro golfer must master. Interestingly, it’s that ability to conquer the routine nature of practice and master the process that leads to extreme excellence as Mark points out…
“Anybody, that has made a long-term commitment, where you have to show up every single day over a long-term period of years should practice the same exact drills over and over just trying to get a little bit better. That person doesn’t always win, they will get knocked down, but they persevere when they keep pushing through. Those salespeople are excellent. You’ve got to do a lot of the same stuff over and over and over again to master the skills.”
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.
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