Apr 10, 2023 • Podcast

What separates top-achieving salespeople?

Paul shares some great ideas that will help you become a top achiever.

Show Notes

Top achievers maintain a high level of activity. They are constantly filling the pipeline with opportunities.

High-value targets (HVTs) are the opportunities that yield the greatest return on your investment of time. Is your pipeline full of HVTs?

Build no fewer than six (6) key relationships in each opportunity.

Bringing in new customers is important, but remember to protect and grow those existing customers.

Top achievers strive to deliver more value to their customers.

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What separates top-achieving salespeople?

(Transcribed from podcast)

On today’s episode, I’m going to reflect on a question that was asked last week in a training seminar. And the question was, “What separates top achievers from everyone else?” And this is a common question. I will hear this in my training seminars, keynote presentations, sidebar discussions—you name it, people want to know what is it that top achievers do that separates them from the rest of the pack? So we’re going to answer that on today’s episode.

Now, just a reminder. A lot of the details I’m going to share with you are available in Value-Added Selling. A lot of this data that I’m going to share with you is based on our Best Sales Practices research that we conducted when we launched the latest edition of Value-Added Selling. If you want to learn how to sell like a top achiever, pick up your copy of Value-Added Selling.

So let’s jump right into it. I’m going to share seven ideas. That’s what I had planned for today. I may throw in a couple of bonus ideas depending on what comes to me as we go throughout this episode. So again, the question is, “What separates top achievers?”

Well, first and foremost, I know that top achievers maintain a high level of activity. They are constantly feeding the funnel. They are constantly filling the pipeline with opportunities. So whether they win a deal, whether they lose a deal, they are generating activity; they’re generating momentum. They don’t rest on their laurels. Some salespeople, they’ll hold back deals, they’ll sandbag for the next year. Top achievers don’t do that. They’re constantly filling that pipeline. So keep that in mind. When you think about your activity, ask yourself, “Okay, when I win a deal, what do I do? Do I go out? Do I celebrate? Do I take a couple days off?” Do you rest on your laurels? Or when you lose a deal, what do you do? Do you sit around for a couple days and pine over the loss? We know that top achievers get right back to it. They’re constantly filling that pipeline.

Now, number two. Top achievers don’t waste their time on low-value opportunities. They spend 80% of their selling time pursuing what we call high-value targets. Now, high-value targets could be existing customers where you’re trying to grow their business; it could be a brand new prospect. But high-value targets are those opportunities that are going to yield the greatest return on your investment, which is your time. So top achievers, they have a clear understanding of what is good business for their company. And not only that, they have a set of targets they pursue that fit that profile.

What’s interesting, when I work with sales groups, for example, I did this a couple weeks ago. I had their entire sales team fill out one of my proprietary surveys. Now, this survey is used to benchmark their behaviors against the general sales population. Now, what I can also do with this data is take a look at the top achievers within their own organization and figure out what makes them different than just the average seller within that organization. One of the distinct differences with this group I was working with was how top achievers focused their time. Top achievers had a stronger sense of what is good business for their company. They also had a clearer profile of what is good business, and they spent more of their time focused on those targets. So top achievers, they don’t waste time. They block their time out. They go out there and pursue those high-value targets.

Now, number three. Top achievers get there early in the decision making process, and they go much higher. Most salespeople that we train, they are comfortable selling to mid-level to lower-level decision makers. That’s where they feel the most comfortable so that’s where they’re going to spend most of their time. Many salespeople are not comfortable selling at higher levels, to those executives, to those key stakeholders. And I think part of the reason why is they just don’t know how. That’s part of it. And really, all it is is about understanding their higher level needs and then showing that high-level decision maker how you help them achieve those goals and those outcomes.

But here’s what the data said. When we looked at top achievers, they call on high-level decision makers at twice the rate as the general sales population. So, twice as often they’re out there meeting with high-level folks, and they are communicating value in a way that resonates with those decision makers. So get to work on calling on those high-level decision makers.

Tip number four. Top achievers build solid relationships. It’s amazing to me to hear so-called “sales experts” claim that relationship selling is dead. There was an article in the Harvard Business Review about this. And you know, you think about all these professors that claim to be sales experts that probably have never spent any time in sales, claim that it’s not about relationships. Well, they’re wrong. Consider this. Top achievers in our study indicated that 79% of their sales success is attributed to the customer relationships that they build. Relationship selling is alive. And in a separate study, we asked a group of procurement-type buyers and other decision makers, “Why would you choose one partner over another?” And in both cases, relationship with a salesperson ranked higher, meaning more important, than price. Relationship selling is critical.

Now, to define that: what is relationship selling? Relationship selling, in many ways, is just focusing purely on the customer. It’s about making their lives easier. It’s about making them look like a hero, coming through for them, delivering on what you promise. All of these elements are critical. Relationship selling is more than just showing up and bringing a box of donuts. It’s more than just taking a customer out to lunch. That’s part of it—entertainment is critical. In fact, entertainment is one of the primary ways top achievers build that relationship. So top achievers build those solid relationships.

What’s critical here is determining how many relationships do we need. Our research shows that there are about six people involved in the decision making process. So look at your top opportunities. If you’re not on your way to developing six key relationships, you’re falling short. You need to spend a little time there. So relationship selling is alive. That’s what top achievers do.

Number five. Top achievers leverage their existing opportunities. They spend a significant amount of time selling to existing customers. There is a global business pandemic where organizations are obsessed with bringing in new customers. I call it pipline-itis. Now, yes, bringing in new customers is great. Bringing in that prospect is great. We need to do that. We know we’re going to lose a certain amount of business, but it’s easier and it’s more profitable to sell to your existing customers. Think about it, how much you have to spend to win a new customer, and think about how easy it is to retain an existing customer. Value-added salespeople spend roughly 82% of their time protecting and growing existing customers. Think about that.

So when we think about going out there and prospecting for new business, yes, we need to dedicate time to that. I would encourage you to dedicate about 20% of your selling time to pure prospecting activity. But 80% of the time needs to be out there selling more to existing customers and protecting that business and making sure that you’re delivering on what you promised. So top achievers, they leverage their existing opportunities.

To build on that point—number six. Top achievers work as hard to keep the business as they did to get the business. In Value-Added Selling, we call this tinkering. Tinkering is about looking for ways to create even more value to enhance the overall experience. And we know that top achievers dedicate a significant amount of time to figuring out how they can create more value, how they can make their customer’s life easier, how they can free up their customers to tackle other more pressing issues. That’s what top achievers do. And by continuously creating a better experience, they’re effectively making the competition irrelevant. Top achievers strive to deliver more value. Yes, they make big promises, but then they deliver on them.

Point number seven—the final tip for today’s session. Eighty-two percent of top achievers regularly review their value added with customers. This is critical. Top achievers know that customers become accustomed to the value that you deliver. In fact, as most people are unaware of the air they breathe, most customers are unaware of the value they receive. It’s not that our customers don’t want to give us credit, but they just forget about it. They don’t think about it. They take it for granted. Now, this creates a huge problem, because if customers do not realize the value that you deliver—they do not see the impact—all of a sudden, price becomes a bigger issue. Now, couple that with the fact that your competition is knocking on the door trying to steal that business, all of a sudden, price becomes more of an issue and they’re a little more motivated to look at the competition.

Top achievers know this. They have a plan. They document their value. They reinforce that value. They sit down and review that value with customers on a regular basis. Make a plan. Make it happen. Be a top achiever.

Make it a big day.

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