The Not-so-daily Growth Blog #42/365 | The Art of Sales
People in sales, especially those who like to keep learning, unlearning and re-learning tend to become pretty good at what they do. I’ve seen great sales folks grow tremendously at various aspects of selling, human psychology and behavioural science. While they work, they keep sharpening their tools — They want to know more about ‘why’ a prospect does not reply, ‘what’ more can they do to convert a ‘Stage-5 opportunity’ and ‘how’ can they progress deals forward faster.
Yes, a large percentage of people in sales may go through entire careers without really focusing on the deeper aspects of sales. But there are some who take the time to understand the process, understand themselves better and understand the science behind ‘selling’.
I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with a few sales geniuses in the last few years. I’ve learned a lot from these exceptional sales ‘transformation agents’ and while I cannot begin to fathom all that these souls have taught me, I’ve tried to do build a list of the Top 5 learnings — The Art of Sales.
And here they are –
1. Know your role, and rock in it
The greatest sales masters I’ve known are very clear on their role. They have a razor sharp focus on their goals, and do anything in their power to achieve it. There’s a clear balance in their minds between strategising and implementing. Yes, they will spend time on outlining their overall strategy with their manager/team lead but they will also spend the rest of the year/quarter implementing various tactics to attain the strategised goals.
Yes they will fine-tune, realign and refocus their tactics every now & then, but they will also keep moving forward. Problems and setbacks are just minor obstacles to be managed quickly and move on from.
Also, great sales reps don’t have too many qualms about getting their hands dirty, and walking the walk. If a prospect has gone cold, they don’t waste time and quickly find other contacts in the company; if an opportunity goes cold, they find other companies in the same industry; if a recession happens, they’ll find completely new industries to build their pipeline and go out of their way to meet their defined numbers.
They know their role.
2. Sales v/s Intelligent Consulting
Many a time people in sales are known to ‘hard-sell’ their products or services. Great sales reps don’t do that.
They follow a very intelligent process of connecting on value, creative follow-ups, building authentic trust (more on that later) and speaking more from the prospect’s / customer’s viewpoint than ‘selling’ a product or service.
Consulting is all about diving deeper into the problem statement, figuring out the pain points and finally sharing solutions that are tied with ‘positive impact’. Great sales people are amazing consultants too. Like any other professional — a coach, a doctor or an investment advisor — knowing their prospect’s goals is imperative for them.
Once those goals are clear they can move forward with a vision that aligns with how the end customers will utilise the sales rep’s products or services to achieve their end goals.
The customer’s success is their success.
3. The ‘Why’ of it all — Authentic Trust
Why does anyone ‘buy’ anything?
A sales transaction is a merger of equals. Technically, each party in a deal is a seller and a buyer. One of the parties has a product/service while the other has money (most of the time). Each one feels that they are stepping into a mutually beneficial agreement where the value received (product/service) is commensurate with(or higher than) the value given (money).
If there was one major takeaway from any sales process, be it buying a pack of eggs or negotiating a multi-million dollar contract, it would be the importance of ‘Trust’. Any sales deal progresses on the core basis of trust and authenticity.
Great sales reps know this and they’ll do everything in their power to build this trust. This goes back to the central tenet of learning everything about the product or service they’re selling, being clear on the value-add and then understanding more about the end customer’s requirements.
Authenticity and trust are cornerstones on which amazing sales professionals build their entire careers. (Mostly).
4. The Art of Diligence
Like with every other glitzy profession, 80% of the time, good sales is about putting in the hard work, striking off checklists, working on CRM tools, updating forecasts, creating pipeline reports, writing 100s of cold messages on LinkedIn, judiciously following up on emails and making sure the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.
Diligence and Discipline go hand in hand and great sales folks know this. They’ll tirelessly work through lists of opportunities, target accounts, LinkedIn prospects and more. They know the value of every single ‘touchpoint’ and will make sure that they put in that ‘smart’ work.
For a great sales rep, it’s all about moving the needle forward. Step by step, inch by inch.
5. Empathy in the face of pressure
Last but certainly not the least, an exceptional sales rep is able to manage ultra levels of pressure, while maintaining equanimity. Let’s face it, a good sales rep sets certain expectations internally as well as externally.
Management wants a great sales rep to outperform every month, every quarter.
Tech teams want the sales rep to maintain expectations with clients, to avoid over-committing.
Customers want the best deal, and negotiate hard for it.
The economy may be in recession and old customers may want to renegotiate closed (and signed) deals.
In summary, a sales rep goes through multiple emotions in any given day, and has to endure multitudes of pressure across different avenues. A great sales rep manages all this and still stays स्थिर (equanimous) inside. This, perhaps, is the greatest strength of an exceptional sales rep. The ability to carry all this pressure, stay clear-headed, focus on one’s goals and keep moving forward.
Cheers to all the (unnamed) sales superstars I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, for sharing tidbits of their ‘sales’ life, and the ‘art of sales’ to us lesser mortals. :)