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How to Think Like a Top Salesperson

The mind is everything. What you think you become.

  • Buddha

Salespeople are a curious bunch, and I’m allowed to say that – (with pride, no less) I am one. You’ll find many different kinds of people with a myriad of personalities. What the top salespeople have in common, however, is a particular mode of thought which ensures them a high degree of success most of the time. In this article, I hope to show you how to think like a top salesperson and take your number through the roof.

1. Become a farming hunter.

Top salespeople know that sales is a numbers game. They’ve been around long enough to realize that those huge deals, while great for making you look good, only happen once in a while. The rest of the time, they depend on a steady flow of lesser deals, coming from prospecting and from their established client base.

Whether your company sees you as a hunter or a farmer, make sure you think like an investor or a company. Have a varied portfolio, and make sure that whatever you can’t attain in the size of your deals, you can make up for in the breadth.

2. Get out there.

Whether you’re inside or outside sales, it’s a good idea to always do two things:

  1. Get out there and meet at least one client a month. You’ll understand your clients better, and they’ll appreciate the face-time.
  2. Prospect. Even if you have a prospecting team, even if you have an established client base. You need to get out there and make sure you’re getting in some fresh deals.

3. Don’t forget to water the flowers.

A large part of your business will be to grow your current customers. Tend to them like a gardener tends the plants: water and feed, but not too much. If you can’t talk to them regularly, at least send them an email with news or greetings (never send check-in emails. They’re less than useless).

The best salespeople have great relationships with their customers. They usually know what they need before they have to ask. And they make sure to keep it that way – it’s much more expensive to gain new customers than to keep existing ones.

4. Think like a CEO.

As any top salesperson will tell you: the only person responsible for your target is you. Make sure you know exactly where your leads are coming from, and align with your marketing and service departments. Ultimately you are your own company.

It always helped me to think of it this way: my company’s a reseller. The supplier is the company I work for, and my manger’s their partner manager. Other partners are marketing, service, and anybody else you rely on internally. The customers are my customers – I’m responsible for selling to them, for their continued custom, and for their happiness. If you think of your company as a partner and their customers as yours, you’ll take more ownership of your work. That, in turn, leads to more success; you’re the one pulling the strings.

Other great tips on thinking like a CEO can be found here.

5. Think like a customer.

As a company, it’s up to you to know how your customers operate and how they make their buying decisions. The best way to do this is to put yourself into the shoes of the person you’re talking to (and not the company you’re selling to, if you’re in b2b. That’s a rookie mistake and will leave you confused). At a minimum, you should know what this person’s priorities are (both their priorities in the business and their personal ones), and how they make their decisions (both the factors that go into the decision and the process need to follow).

By looking at all of this, you will get a very clear understanding of how you should be approaching them, and how to engage their interest. It may very well be that they’re only interested in certain aspects of your product. A top salesperson will research this and think about it before making first contact. Here’s a great article about thinking like a customer.

6. Buy into the product and become an evangelist.

The best way to sell something is to be convinced it would be of benefit for the customer, and top salespeople know this. They sell what they sell because they know it’s the right thing for the clients. They’re passionate about it, and this passion infects whomever they speak with.

If you’re not passionate about your product, it’ll feel like you’re trying to push something onto your clients for your own ends. This is where salespeople get a bad rep. Make sure you’re selling something you genuinely think is good, and use that passion!

7. Embrace failure and be pragmatic.

Salespeople will be rejected at least 80% of the time (but probably closer to 90%). This can be disheartening, and can lead to low motivation and stress. Top salespeople know this, and have all come up with mechanisms to deal with it.

My own way to deal with it was to adopt a philosophical poise (though I love the rubber band idea shown here). There will be times when you can’t get anybody on the phone, and when nobody’s buying. There will also be times when you’ll fly; you’ll have a deal with every call. The best way to deal with the low times it to remember the high times, and vice-versa.

Remember: sales is a see-saw. Keep this in mind, and learn as much as you can from each failure.

8. Always bring value and be a teacher.

Top salespeople will know the ins and outs of what they’re selling very well indeed. Not only that, they’ll also know how best to use it, and how their customers operate. The key difference between them and regular salespeople is that they can also explain it well, and can do so without being overbearing or arrogant.

I’ve noticed that a top salesperson will always try to bring value to the table. They’ll be glad to bring their knowledge and teach the prospect whatever they can. One of the most interesting deals I was a part of was not only discussing a software system with a prospect, but also running through their business model and optimizing it. I’m sure they’re still customers today.

9. Persistence is key and hard work pays off.

This ties in somewhat with point 7. Top salespeople never quit. They know that the next huge deal could be right around the corner, and that the obstacles they’re facing now are merely temporary setbacks.

Top salespeople have a determination to succeed, and won’t let anything get in their way. They tend to work alone, though they don’t exclude others. By this I mean they take ownership of their work, and don’t let others keep them from their work.

Being in sales is a little like driving a very fast car. It’s a great kick, and you won’t want to slow down. The key here is to remember to keep moving and slowly, steadily increase the pace.

10. Shoot for the stars and keep challenging yourself.

Finally, I think the top salespeople are up there because they’ve set high goals for themselves. The thing about goals is that as long as you can measure them, you can attain them. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can progress.

I like setting long-term goals; in sales, that usually means yearly goals. I’ll track against the monthly and quarterly goals, but my eye is always on overachieving the year. It’s important to keep this perspective: having a lousy month or quarter won’t necessarily mean you’ll have a lousy year. Keep the perspective and you’ll exceed all expectations.

I hope this has been useful to you, and, as ever, I wish you all the best!

Do you agree with what I wrote here? Disagree? Did I miss something? Could I have done something better? Please let me know in the comments!

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