The Elusive Critical Factor for Sales Success

By Fred Diamond
IES Executive Director

I’ve been fortunate to have spent thousands of hours with some of the smartest sales leaders and thought leaders in the years since I co-founded the Institute for Excellence in Sales. I’ve been a witness to hundreds of sales professionals who have grown their careers by implementing the tactics and strategies our speakers and trainers have taught.

However, it was an obscure book I read this past summer that has taught me the critical factor to approaching higher sales success in 2017. Now, all of the other great lessons our speakers and trainers have taught have so much more relevance. Read on to find out what the critical factor was.

Past IES speaker Jeb Blount published a great blog in January on “The Only Three Questions that Matter This Year.” He said sales professionals need to ask:

  1. What do you want?
  2. How do you plan to get what you want?
  3. How bad do you want it?

There is a fourth question that is just as critical.

I had been an in-demand strategic marketing consultant for 15 years before running the IES. I had always believed that the number one constant for my clients’ success was their commitment to their own success. The quality of their products and services were less important than their commitment level to their success likelihood. I could pinpoint which companies were going to succeed based on how deeply I felt the CEO’s commitment was.

Having spent time with thousands of sales professionals since launching the IES, I was convinced the same was true in sales – commitment is first.

But I was wrong.  It was not until I read an obscure book published in 1985 that was sent to me by a sales trainer in Atlanta that I began to see things in a different light.  The trainer, Randy Riemersma, sent me a little book that changed everything I thought I knew.

I WAS UNAWARE OF THE BOOK THAT RANDY SENT ME…AND I’M PRETTY WELL READ

The book Randy sent me was quite thin, in the style of The One-Minute Manager and Who Moved My Cheese. I didn’t feel compelled to read it so it sat on my desk for a few months.

One night, I had trouble falling asleep so I decided to crack it open. One hour later, I finally discovered a critical insight into what sales professionals need to have to be more successful. It was so simple.

Our speakers have exposed IES sales members to world-class tactics, strategies, and ideas. Much of the content has been brilliant. Most of the ideas have been fully baked and proven with histories of successful implementation. Some of our speakers, such as Tom Snyder (Funnel Clarity), Tim Sullivan (Sales Performance International), Colleen Stanley (SalesLeadership, Inc.), Colleen Francis (Engage Selling Solutions) and Tim Riesterer (Corporate Visions) are sales scientists who had proven data to back up their assertions and lessons. Their insights were so worthwhile that the IES launched a speaker bureau and sales training referral service to help sales leaders find their best training options.

That mighty little book Randy sent me was so impactful that all of the workshops and lessons we offered now made so much more sense.

The book was The Ultimate Secret to Getting Absolutely Everything You Want by Mike Hernacki.

HERE’S THE KEY LESSON AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT FOR SUCCESSFUL SALES PROFESSIONALS

The secret is that “in order to accomplish something, you must be willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish it.”  Willingness comes before commitment.

As I thought back to many of the powerful lessons we’ve heard at the IES over the years, this one thought had so much significance for a number of reasons.

First, I’ve spoken to hundreds of sales professionals who say they want to do better and sell more. They feel committed.  Most are hard-working, industrious people who have had success and work very hard at their craft. Over time, though, some have started looking for shortcuts or silver bullets that do not exist. In fact, some of the most powerful speakers we’ve had, while sharing smarter ways to sell or prospect, will always say that there are very few shortcuts to reaching sales success.

In thinking about how Hernacki’s message resonates in selling, I thought of some of the things that I must be willing to do to be successful in engaging more sales leaders in the IES. One of the tactics I committed to was to make phone calls.  That might be the best tactic in the world for me but, was I willing to call more of the top VP’s of sales in the country to invite them to our programs with other sales leaders? Was I willing to hire a telesales team to call everyone who had ever attended one of our programs to join? And was I willing to invite sales tools developers and training companies to sponsor the IES?

In thinking about how sales professionals can be more successful in 2017, the following ideas came to mind as it relates to what Hernacki wrote.

  • Are you willing to become an expert in your customer’s industry?  We all know the stats that your customer may be 60 percent into their decision process before they even reach out to you. It’s become more imperative than ever that high-performing sales professionals know how to bring value to their customers to help them be more successful in their business. That’s a message we hear loud and clear all the time. So are you willing to put in the extra time and energy to truly understand the trends in your customer’s business and what you can do help them be more successful?
  • Are you willing to spend more time working to get in front of real prospects instead of safe partners and referral sources who will meet with you anyway? Just this past year, two of our speakers published very effective books about prospecting. Jeb Blount published Fanatical Prospecting and Mark “The Sales” Hunter wrote High-Profit Prospecting. Both wrote that the essence of sales success comes in your willingness to get on the phone and prospect. There’s that word again.
  • Are you willing to spend less time on social media and more time picking up the phone? We’ve done great programs on how to use LinkedIn and other social media to learn more about your prospects and how to approach them. Still, it comes down to your willingness to persist in engaging the prospect live that will get them to move forward.
  • Are you willing to ask for the business? This is a big one that comes up frequently as well. How willing are you to get the customer to commit once you’ve done everything that you needed to do? It may sound obvious, but I’m always surprised how often reps won’t ask for the sale. They simply weren’t willing to learn the tools they need to close the deal.
  • Are you willing to ask for a real, positive introduction to a top prospect who won’t return your calls? With the growth of LinkedIn, it can seem like you know a lot of people a lot closer than you do. In fact, it’s amazing how many people we’re linked to that we don’t even know at all! Still, if you feel strongly about the solution you are selling, how willing are you to ask colleagues for strong invitations to real prospects? I’ve had many people who are willing to tweet or share my news and I’m grateful, but an introduction to the prospect on my behalf is 100 times more valuable. Are you willing to ask for that level of introduction?
  • Are you willing to be coached or trained? This may be the big one.  We created a mentor program for our members and the response has been overwhelming. Both new sales professionals and seasoned pros have anxiously participated in the program. Our sales training program has taken off faster than I imagined.  Are you willing to ask someone to help you succeed? Is your company willing to ask someone to help you succeed?

 SUMMARY

I’ve read a lot of books in my day but this book changed my outlook on everything. I’m willing to share this gem of insight with you.  The questions above are your own self-test.  I will assume you are committed to your sales success but leave your comment below on what you’re willing to do this year to take your sales career to the next level.

Send me an email at fdiamond@i4esbd.org for more information or make a comment below.

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