Recently, we had an opportunity to connect with Garth Hamilton, Chief Sales Officer with HUB International. 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:
- Listening to comprehend first
- What sets Top Performers Apart
- Selling Skills and Practice
- Garth’s Tips on Sales Leadership
Early in the interview, Garth said something that really framed the rest of our conversation,
“Top performers do not waste their time on things that will not bear fruit, or entertain complacency. There is a societal issue right now where people do not listen to comprehend. They listen to reply. It is critical that sales professionals develop that ability to listen so they can understand and read things behind the defensive facade that many buyers will initially use until they can trust that the sales professional is competent.”
What Sets Top Performers Apart
Garth has interacted with a lot of top performers in his career, one of the things he told us he’s noticed is,
“The top sales performers are rarely satisfied. Their DNA is hyper competitive and love the feeling of winning. The only thing that satiates their hunger for victory is another deal, so they keep doing more.”
Just as top athletes like Tiger Woods and Tom Brady have an unquenchable desire to win another tournament or Super Bowl, top sales professionals experience that same sense of winning when they close new deals. Getting to the top, staying at the top and being rewarded for consistent performance motivates them the same way elite athletes are motivated to get to the playoffs. It’s this desire to win that enables top performers to work harder, practice more, and put more effort in than the mediocre performers. Strong Sales Leaders create a culture that recognizes this and rewards people that pay the price to succeed.
Garth has also noticed that top performers have certain personality factors that are key to success. He explains,
“Personalities that I have noticed, who have success in their sales roles, have exhibited great charisma, in depth knowledge of industry, and a high level of emotional intelligence.”
It’s important, in the interviewing process, to screen out the people that don’t have the type of personality that is magnetic in a positive way. Most top performers are people-oriented, like being around people, and like being in the spotlight without being obnoxious. We need to look for these traits in the hiring process.
More often than not, when we interview top performers, and we meet and interview a lot of them, they tell us the keys to their success are generally focused around several things:
- They ask good questions and listen and don’t over react when selling opportunities start to show up in the conversation. They’re more patient and keep digging, in a relevant and curious way, to find bigger opportunities for bigger solutions before they pivot into a solution recommendation
- Top performers bring more than well rehearsed product pitches and presentations to the meetings they run. They bring insider knowledge that helps the decision maker(s) in ways they didn’t anticipate
- Top performers have more positive energy that often comes from exercise and personal development. This develops into charism and the kind of interpersonal skills that decision makers find credible.
- Top performers are simply more efficient. They get more things done in less time and spend more of their time speaking to and meeting with higher capacity decision makers than their competitors.
Selling Skills and Practice
Virtually every Sales Leader we’ve interviewed over the last couple of years has told us that it takes more than just good presentation and persuasive skills to succeed in selling. Decision makers and influencers are better informed, less patient and are looking for problem solvers, not presentation givers. Garth explains,
“A business level conversation uses questions that describe all areas that could be impacted by various decisions. This allows more in depth questions that can drive better business solutions and partnership. As a sales person, we need to be ok with saying “I don’t know”; and then take time to engage in further resources and get back with a plan of attack. It is ok not to know everything, and to be engaged in teaming up with other resources that can lead to solutions. That’s how you develop greater business acumen and credibility.”
At the same time, top performers know how to end a sales interaction. Many of us sell a product or service where multiple meetings and conversations are needed before a buying commitment can be made. Our sales cycle is longer, but top performers adjust their strategy so no matter what meeting they’re running at whatever stage of the sales process they’re in, their sales interactions end with action steps that move the process forward as quickly as possible. Garth explains,
“Top performers always gain a commitment for further action. There are no butterfly kisses with these individuals, only advancing conversations.”
Garth points out that top performers become successful because of something they do that others don’t do enough of …
“I am a big believer in practice. I think muscle memory is real. Trial by fire is the best way to strengthen those muscles.”
Garth shared three key ideas about sales leadership, management and coaching:
Be cautious about blending the lines of responsibility of sales management and sales leadership. Both are important, but they are two distinct disciplines that need attention individually.
As a sales manager with direct sales reports, my job includes clearing my desk to make top sales performers successful with all the tools and resources needed.
In our sales meetings 10-15 minutes are set aside for numbers discussion. There’s no reason for me to get everybody in a room and take away sales time to make a deep dive on past performance. The numbers we share are year to date, performance, and peer ranking to motivate the type As. Then the remainder of the meeting discusses how to be more proficient, and the resources available to them to hit their goals.
Thanks to Garth for the interview and solid tips on how to generate stronger sales teams!
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.
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