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Tale of Two Sales People

March 18, 2012

I was speaking to my brother Neil of Main Street Planning Group, and he was lamenting the fact of the difference in performance of two of his agents.  One sales person is doing great.  The other only has so-so results, and you are wondering where it is breaking down.  You perceive their abilities to be the same.  Where does the better sales person get the business?  Neil and I compared notes and this is what we came up with.

Average Sales Person

Great Sales Person

 Gets an appointment with   target account  Gets an appointment with key decision maker of target account
Build rapport by finding out where there are connections and history   of company. Before coming does some research and Builds good rapport by   discussing connections, and starts  building  trust.
Does a fact finding and understands the situation, and hears a   problem.   Spends a lot of time on understanding the   situation. Does a good fact find of situation finding basis of doing business   and problems to solve. Starts really focusing in on and probing any real   problems, pains, or opportunities.
Immediately starts talking about how your company can solve the   problem and states all the features and benefits of the company. Asks questions to isolate the problem,  and    understand the specifics of how much time, trouble and money it is   costing the prospect.
Sales person asks for an order.    Prospect wants  more information   to be sent, perhaps a quote, and to call back in a specified time. Repeats the problem as understood, asks for confirmation, and then   shows how product or service can solve exactly that problem with specific examples.  Then suggests or asks for possible next   steps.
Sales person comes back to office and says what a great meeting, and   feels that your company will soon get business. Prospect selects next steps to take, and a firm action plan is taken, and prospect asks for a purchase order to be sent.
Calling back a month later, and the business was given to someone   else.  Sales person comes back with new business and an action plan moving forward.

As I have stated in the past, the sales process is a map, not a railroad.  Where the great salesperson is a star is in asking more probing difficult questions about the problem, need, or desire of the account.  Do not come up with the solution before you make the prospect quantify the problem.  A prospect will more than likely ask for the close at that point.  It will not be about how much it costs, but fixing something that hurts.

If you would like to discuss your particular sales obstacle, please give me a call or write me an e-mail.  And remember Sales is not a dirty word, just a higher level of communication.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. April 3, 2012 11:33 am

    Great comparison. Presenting the two agents styles side by side really shows how a subtle difference in approach can make all the differenc in the world.

  2. April 3, 2012 1:25 pm

    Thanks Robin. Having hired at least 30 sales reps in my day, it is still a guessing game. I believe many of these people have equal abilities, it’s just subtle differences at times that makes one more successful than the other.

  3. Ken Stanfill permalink
    April 10, 2012 4:34 pm

    The difference between the two salespersons is very obvious. The great salesperson could be a natural born sales pro but more likely, he/she has had the advantage of receiving a more thorough level of sales training and/or has mores sales experience than the average salesperson. As a Marketing Consulant with over 40 years of experience, who has trained thousands of salespersons and sales managers, I can tell you with the upmost confidence, that the main reason that salespersons never reach their protential, is due to the failure of their employers to provide them with adequate and on going training! Professional training begets professional salespersons more ofter than not.

  4. April 11, 2012 6:16 am

    I would agree that adequate and ongoing training is important, but all of this training will not work if the salesperson does not have the ability to take instruction, be willing to make changes and have the strong desire to succeed. A strong drive to excel is essential.

  5. Ken Stanfill permalink
    April 11, 2012 9:36 am

    Robin, with all due respect, you are not referring to a training issue, you are referring to an issue that ideally, should have been addressed during the hiring process. Anyone who does not exhibit honesty, integrity and the willingness to follow instructions should be excused from the program as soon as possilble. BTW, a properly constructed training program will build self confidence where it did not previously exist, it will create a positive mental attitude, teach a strong work ethic and provide the motivation for success!

  6. April 11, 2012 2:49 pm

    Ken, you hit upon the most difficult part. Hiring. With nearly a 53% turnover in sales hires / year there is something wrong. There are a lot of folks that exhibit all the characteristics that you mention. However, there always seem to be certain unknowns. The first unknown is what I call courage to go deeper into tougher questions. As a child many of us are taught, do not ask to many questions. And, you can have the ability to ask the questions, but afraid to ask the tougher ones. I am not talking about asking for the order. I am talking about how deep is that pain, how long has this been going on? Has this effected you personally on the business side? Haven’t you ever seen someone you felt that was totally obnoxious be pretty decent in sales? Why? Have you ever seen new young salespeople do better than the old pros, because they are to dumb not to know to ask those tough questions. There are a lot of psychological things that go on, way beyond work ethic and motivation.

    • Ken Stanfill permalink
      April 18, 2012 10:26 am

      Coach, all of the things you have mentioned are very valid points. That said, all can be overcome with strategic sales training methods. Hiring and training agents is not an art form, it is an exact science! When hiring I look for key personality traits that lend themselves to success in the field of sales. When instructing, I first inform the trainees, new and old, that the sales concepts they will learn cannot fail as the basics principles are thousands of years old and that they, the trainees, cannot fail if they use those very principles to their advantage, day in and day out with fail. There is no obstacle that cannot be overcome and that includes the dreaded call reluctance.

      I am living proof that anyone who is not afraid to learn and is willing to put in an honest days work, can be taught to succeed. I was originally turned down by the carrier who eventually hired me because I didn’t fit their profile and then later hired, but only because the recruiter had failed to meet his quota. I was very shy, introverted and tended to mumble when speaking. The only positive trait I exhibited was my motivation to land a job! I had a family to feed. I was taught by my sales trainer to overcome my shyness. I had to be taught to look people in the eye when I spoke to them, I was taught to speak in a clear, positive and enthusiastic tone of voice. I was taught that I was providing a much needed service to my clients and most importantly, I was taught how to overcome call reluctance and I succeeded only by the grace of God and a sales trainer who would not allow me to fail. I guess you could say that I am taking all that I have learned in my career and paying it forward.


  7. April 18, 2012 4:47 pm

    Ken, i am very glad to hear of your success. There is another post I wrote on “Sales and the Introvert”. Your determination, introspection, and tenacity are key to your success. Wishing you much more. Allan


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