Recently, we had an opportunity to connect with Dave McCormick, SVP of Inside Sales with Radian and listen to his thinking on what makes top-performing salespeople different, what gives them their competitive edge and what sales leaders can do to train and support them. He shared a number of unique ideas focused around:
- Internal Drive is Essential
- Top Performers are Constantly Improving
- Helping Customers Succeed is Priority #1
- Dave’s Four Ideas on Practice and Preparation
Early in the interview, Dave said something that really framed the rest of our conversation,
“One common denominator with all of our top performers is they have an internal ‘motor’- the drive and the consistency they bring to their work. You can train anyone about a particular product or service, but you can’t give them that drive – they either have it or they don’t. I always look for that when making a hire. What I find that is consistent among all of our top performers is the willingness to put in the work necessary to achieve high levels of success.”
Top Performers are Constantly Improving
Successful selling requires flexibility and creativity in thinking, solving problems and communication. This comes from developing a continuous learning mindset, as Dave explains,
“Top performers have a thirst for knowledge. They’re constantly making themselves better and staying up to pace with the change of our industry. We’re in a rapidly changing industry and being the subject matter expert is absolutely a differentiator.”
When interviewing for new sales team members, it’s important to ask questions to find out if the candidate is a person that has developed the habit of constant learning because when you find these people, they are more likely to succeed, as Dave points out,
“People who are consistently at the top are always investing in their own knowledge about our industry, our products, and our customers. If you can speak more intelligently than your competition on any given topic and you are willing to put in the time, work, and sacrifice, there’s really not much you can’t achieve. Success doesn’t just happen – you have to prepare to be successful.”
Helping Customers Succeed is Priority #1
Early in my sales career, my sales manager shared with me a quote from Zig Ziglar who said, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” This had a big impact on my thinking and helped me understand that selling is more about helping the prospect or customer and less about some Jedi-level influence tactic out of the “selling ice to Eskimos” playbook.
Dave explains this concept in a more modern context,
“For me, my team is doing their job when they’re helping our customers get better at their jobs. For us at Radian, it is about creating a partnership and delivering on a value proposition that transcends product or price. I find that it helps if the person making sales calls has walked a mile in the shoes of the person they’re calling on. Establishing rapport and credibility comes much more easily when this is the case.”
Helping prospects and customers get what they want starts with understanding what they need and mastering the fine art of asking good questions and listening, as Dave points out,
“Top performers know how to ask an open-ended question, and then shut up. Allow for an uncomfortable silence and let the customer fill it. A lot of salespeople feel the need to fill in that silence themselves instead of allowing the customer to do so. But, if you wait for that extra beat, the customer will open up and that’s when you learn what their motivations are and increase the likelihood of making a sale.”
The truth is, it takes courage and self-confidence to ask the kind of questions that open up bigger selling opportunities because those kinds of questions can cause friction and escalated stress in the conversation, but that’s what successful selling is all about. Dave explains,
“It comes down to a version of sales avoidance. When you ask the customer a question or ask them for the business, you’re putting them on the spot. It’s easier to just talk than it is to put someone on the spot like that and risk objections or rejection – that’s human nature. But this is how the sale is made.”
Dave’s Four Ideas on Practice and Preparation
Top performers in sports and sales practice and prepare more so they can perform at a high level, under pressure, when it matters most. Dave shared four great ideas on learning, practice and playing the game at a higher level:
- If all you do is play the game, you can't get better. You have to practice if you want to get better
- Most salespeople learn best when they watch one of their peers or listen to one of their peers do the same job and see how they go about it.
- From a learning standpoint, there’s nothing more impactful than listening to your own sales calls whenever possible. As painful as it may be to hear, listening to a poorly-executed sales call is the quickest way to optimize your sales technique and correct small issues that hinder success.
- Think about NFL quarterbacks. After every series of downs, you will see them sitting on the bench, looking at a tablet and reviewing what happened. What was the defense doing? How did they execute? They do this to make the adjustments necessary to be successful the next time they step on the field. Sales professionals who want to excel need to be in the habit of assessing how they execute the sales call and make adjustments to their game in much the same way.
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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