Stories of athletes and sports figures capture our imaginations and our hearts. We are riveted by stories like that of U.S. Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug, who famously, and painfully, injured her ankle during the all-important final rotation at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, yet still landed her crucial second-attempt vault to clinch the gold medal. We’re inspired by narratives woven by indomitable spirits like Venezuelan runner, Maickel Melamed, who despite a severe mobility impairment caused by muscular dystrophy, persisted through thunderstorms and torrential downpours to finish the Boston Marathon. We follow our teams through wins and losses, year after year, to find our own inspiration, motivation, direction and role models.
In sales, we look to trends among World-Class Sales Performers and market movers for similar inspiration and example. For the past 12 years, the MHI Research Institute has undertaken the MHI Sales Best Practices Study to learn more about the behaviors, attributes and performance of World-Class Sales Performers. What is it that makes them great at what they do? And how do they maintain consistently high levels of performance, season after season?
The MHI Sales Best Practices Study identifies the behaviors of World-Class Sales Performers and connected them to attributes to define a high-performance sales culture.
Customer Core: Know Your Customer
Successful athletes know the importance of warming up, but they also understand the need to fine-tune a warm-up, specifically for what they want to accomplish that day, as well as for their current physical condition.
Similarly, skipping the sales warm-up can have costly mistakes for a salesperson. Jumping into a sales pitch with, “Here’s what our product can do, and here’s why it’s great. How many would you like to order?” signals a lack of interest in the client’s concern. Research clearly proves that top-performing sales professionals provide perspective by learning about the customer’s reality. They find links between a customer’s specific vision or challenge, to their product or service, enabling successful business outcomes that help clients achieve their vision or overcome their challenge.
The professional athlete responds “in the moment” to the reality of their situation. They have trained hard to be able to adjust to the reality of their environment.
When sales professionals provide perspective, they build on their sales competencies, business acumen and experience with their knowledge about each customer. They understand how to put their hours of practice and heroic effort into high gear and apply strategies and essential skills that win the sale.
Collaboration: Rely On Your Team
When it comes to winning, team sports clearly illustrate the importance of collaboration. Even individual sports favor athletes that have a team behind the individual: coaches, practice partners, physical therapists, trainers, medical staff, and nutritionists. Each of these partners plays an important role in helping athletes perform at their best. This team works together to craft a strategy that integrates a support network into a plan best suited for the physical and motivational needs of the athlete.
For professional salespeople, conscious collaboration begins with the customer. Top sales teams work closely with their customers to gain clarity on the business issues fueling or inhibiting their growth. Clarity resides in understanding the competitive landscape the client operates, understanding the client’s customers, and understanding the client’s culture. Armed with these insights, world-class salespeople work across many dimensions to adapt the solution to fit the customers’ needs.
Calibrating for Success: Know What It Takes
Devoted athletes know what it takes to win, whether that means beating their personal best or transcending a world record. Their efforts are focused on these goals, on a daily basis: measuring their fastest speeds, the velocity of their top throws, or numbers of goals saved versus shots on goal.
For high-performing salespeople, knowing what it takes to succeed means holding themselves accountable to daily disciplines, making sure they keep current with product updates and new value propositions. Additionally, they work tirelessly to become masters of customer engagement. They hold themselves accountable for their customers’ results and follow through with clients to review the results of implemented solutions.
Salespeople rely on their frontline sales manager (FSM) to assist in setting performance standards, goals and expectations, and the FSM relies on salespeople for timely and accurate business results. Continuous coaching, dialogue, and collaboration between the salesperson and FSM foster World-Class sales skill mastery.
In sales, just as in sports, there are winners and there’s everybody else. To stay ahead of the field takes a commitment to understanding the rules, learning what defines winning strategy and being driven by a commitment to, or obsession for, performance.
Companies that win in sales understand the importance of putting customers at the core. Collaboration and calibration mean taking action, and the research tells exactly this story.
The Need for Training
A Forbes Corporate Learning study revealed that U.S. spending on training grew by 15 percent, the highest growth rate in seven years. To help their salespeople and sales managers develop the skills they need, top companies invest in their people, so that they can develop the perspective, behaviors or skills, team focus and drive to perform that are definitive in separating World-Class Sales Performers from the rest.
The inspiration to reach that level of top sales performance can be easy to find, but difficult to realize. Training is a key factor in organizations actualizing potential and differentiating themselves as world class.
MHI Global’s Professional Selling Skills® programs provide salespeople with essential customer-focused conversation skills, allowing them to fulfill their potential as world-class sales professionals. Equipped to build relationships with their customers that lead to mutually beneficial sales outcomes, they master collaboration techniques that connect to and engage the customer. Through training with MHI Global’s Professional Selling Skills®, top sales teams learn to adapt to each customer’s reality and provide perspective that is unique to each customer’s situation and challenges. Sales teams become focused on tailoring solutions that meet the specific needs of each individual customer, thereby helping them to succeed in their context. True sales professionals care about their customers’ results.
Achieving a world-class status requires the support of – and coaching by – sales managers. The Professional Sales Coaching® program equips these key members of your sales organization with the skills, tools, and strategies they need so that the salesperson and sales manager can work together to deliver the results to take your organization to new heights of success.