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3 Behaviors That Drive Successful Sales People

by David Brock on August 22nd, 2014

Recently, I read a HBR Post by Ryan Fuller, 3 Behaviors That Drive Successful People.  My knee jerk reaction was, “Well duhhhh thanks for stating the obvious.”  In a kinder, gentler moment (I do have them every once in a while), I thought maybe it isn’t so obvious.

The findings in the research, “sales success is highly correlated with three things:

  1. Spending enough time with customers and prospects.
  2. Having a large and healthy network in your own organization.
  3. Spending time and getting attention from your own manager and other senior people in your own organization.”

Let me add my take to these issues, most aligns with Mr. Fuller’s, but with some twists.

Spending enough time with customers and prospects.  We can never overemphasize the importance of this  — high performers get this, they know they have to be working with the customer.  By contrast, lower performers often have real problems with call reluctance.  They hide in the office behind email or other things, finding excuse not to meet with customers.  Some of you might react that this seems a little odd.  It does, but I think a lot of experience bears this out.  Think of how many organizations have activity metrics in place, “You have to make so many outbound calls a day, you have to have so many customer meetings a week, you have to make so many prospecting calls each day.”  If spending time with customers wasn’t a problem, then we probably wouldn’t find the need to set goals and measure activity levels.

It’s important, however, to understand the quality of the time we spend with customers.  If we are constantly with customers, but wasting their time, then we will not be successful, in fact we are likely to have the opposite effect, we will lose customers and opportunities.  We have to spend time with customers and prospects, but we have to create value in each interaction we have.

Having a large healthy network in your own organization.  The days of the lone wolf sales person are, thankfully, long gone.  our businesses, our products and solutions, our customers’ businesses, their challenges are myriad and complex.  No one person can do it all.  High performance sales professionals are actually becoming more like Orchestrators or Resource Managers.  The focus on getting the right resources working with the right customers at the right time.  They build rich networks and alliances within their own organizations leveraging people to help with the customer.  Whether it’s a sales specialist, a product manager, a customer service specialist, a designer, an executive with the company, highly effective sales people are resource managers.

Doing this effectively, requires new skills and capabilities from the sales person:  Collaboration, Problem Solving, Project Managements, Change Management, Knowledge Transfer, and Business Acumen.  These are all overlaid on the highest levels of selling skills.

Spending enough time and getting attention from your manager and other senior managers in the organization.  Part of this also involves the Orchestration and Resource Management capabilities I discussed above.  But even beyond this, high performing sales people know they have to Sell Within The Organization.  They have to get management to invest people and resources to support their efforts with their customers.  They are often the voice of the customer, looking out for their customer’s interests, arguing on their behalf, making sure the company is creating the greatest value possible.

Top sales people work differently.  They spend their time differently.  They leverage resources and capabilities differently.  They actively seek support and investment, both from their customer and from their own organizations.

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  1. Cool stuff.

    Orchestrators, Resource Managers, Mobilizers… I’m hearing it a lot of ways, but this is what I mean by the 4th pillar of value creation, Operational Acumen. The people who understand or can figure out how things get done in organizations – their own and others and to the other point, can sell within their own organization.

    Probably just my cross to bear, but this has admittedly been the bane of my existence in a few (fortunately) of the organizations in which I’ve worked. It amazes me how hard you have to work sometimes to get leaders to do the things that will actually help them radically improve results – which is exactly what they get paid to do.

    In any case, so important, and to your starting point… I’m not sure this is Captain Obvious stuff for everyone. (If you haven’t seen the Cap’t thing, Search the phrase… it’s hilarious).

  2. I’m reminded of David Maister’s most excellent book, Strategy and the Fat Smoker.

    David was overweight and smoked. His point was that it wasn’t cognitive awareness he was lacking, there was no lack of people telling him he shouldn’t smoke and overeat. There was, however, a huge lack of practical suggestions of ways to actually NOT smoke and overeat.

    Execution, not insight, was the rarity when it came to such things.

    And so it seems here. I’m with your first reaction – Duh! I’ll have to go read the HBR article itself, I suppose, but if all it does is prove the obvious, and not deal with the mechanics of actually getting it to happen, then I’d far rather read your own pieces on HOW and WHY people avoid doing such things.

    The insight is trivial; the advice, such as it is, can be invaluable.

  3. Brian MacIver (@Palayo) permalink

    Some people believe Selling is just Common Sense. Therefore, like Parenting, most people can do it.

    However, few people sell, or parent, well;
    many do both badly.

    So what’s the difference between Good or Bad?

    In Selling Good is reducing the amount of Common Non-sense to a minimum, while increasing your UN-common Sense as much as possible.

    That’s why I enjoy reading Dave Brock’s Blogs a great deal, because he highlights common NON-sense,
    and he brings in UN-common sense.

    Let me share a Sales research correlation with you:
    ‘Which salesperson is most likely to win the sale?’
    Answer: the one who spends the most time with the Customer!

    Run analysis over your raw CRM time logs,
    and you will find the same correlation,
    and that’s common sense!

    Telling Salespeople to spend more time with Customers is common NON-sense. And, Dave adds the Uncommon Sense to correct it!

    Spend MORE time with Customers doing the RIGHT things!

    “Collaboration, Problem Solving, Project Managements, Change Management, Knowledge Transfer, and Business Acumen. These are all overlaid on the highest levels of selling skills.”

    and the KEY to all of that is: ENTELECHY.

    • Thanks Brian, but you can’t leave us hanging–what is ENTELECHY? I’m at the edge of my seat 😉

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