The Lessons for Sales Success Probably Aren’t What You Think!
It was my ninth interview, the final step in the hiring process before I could begin my career as a Sales Representative in technology. About 3 minutes into the interview, the Director of Sales who was interviewing me said “Stop talking. If you can go the remainder of this interview and only say ‘umm’ three more times, you have the job. If you say it more than that, I will ask you to leave and you will not be welcome here.” Sales techniques for sales success lesson number one, learn fast!
The interview was scheduled to last for another 57 minutes.
Unemployed, I was receiving $357 a month in unemployment benefits living with my parents after dropping out of college. My credit cards were maxed out. I parked my car in new spots every few days – I was counting the days before my car was repossessed. This job meant so much to me – I had to have this job as a Sales Representative! I had to get my start in technology sales and prove my value (and start making money).
58 minutes later, I was told I would be receiving my offer within 24 hours. 8 years later, I am making 10x what I was on my first day as a Sales Development Representative. Looking back at my career, I have had 32 quarters as a Sales Representative, and I have only missed my quota once.
Why is No One in the World of Sales Coaching Talking About How to Develop These Skills?
Having read countless blogs, and listened to hours of sales webinars it has always struck me as surprising that the things that no one is talking about when it comes to Sales Skills are some of the most important. Adjectives to describe a character like resilience, perseverance, determination, grit, tenacity, patience, organization… Why is no one in the world of Sales Coaching talking about how to develop these skills? In my experience, these tend to influence quota attainment more than anything. These skills need to be developed in order to succeed in sales and life. After all, the Sales Representatives I know that have mastered these Sales Skills, are crushing their quota year after year.
Sales Reps Commonly Fail
Very few professions in the world fail as often as Sales Representatives do. A 90% failure rate is considered good in some industries. Hitting a 105 mph baseball thrown from Randy Johnson actually has a statistically higher probability than succeeding in sales every quarter. So what can be done to help build these Sales Skills?
- Perseverance. The power to keep going no matter what. Force yourself to make cold calls before 8 am and after 5 pm. Why would you do that one may ask? Because as a Sales Representative trying to build this Sales Skill, you will likely get some pretty irritated people on the phone. Keep going. Knowing you are stepping into uncomfortable situations will help build strength to continue day in and day out. Over time, the feeling of discomfort will diminish.
- Patience. The ability to be patient in the face of the unknown is a useful trait, especially in sales. So much time is spent while in sales with your prospect evaluating competitors, trying to secure budget, and fighting for resources to implement your solution. Many of these things are outside of your control as a Sales Representative. As such, the skill of patience is required to be mastered. Not learning patience will result in emotional decision-making, leading to poor experiences from your prospect.
- Organization. In most mid-market sales environments, Sales Representatives have an annual quota between $800,000 and $1,000,000. Depending upon deal size, that could mean that a Sales Representative is working anywhere from 10 to 30 deals a year. Depending upon the research one reads, the number of stakeholders varies, sometimes reaching 8-10 people involved in the process. Span that over a few months, countless emails, phone calls, and meetings, and the math really starts to add up. Understanding how to effectively use your company’s CRM becomes a controllable variable that immediately impacts your Sales Skills. Other tricks might include keeping your inbox clean, organizing your browser bookmarks, and keeping your desk tidy.
- Tenacity. There is something to be said for simply just “wanting it” more than the next person. This is why one of my key interview objectives is to understand at what level did this Sales Representative play competitive sports. Statistically, one is going to fail more than not. The competitor has a better product, more marketing dollars, better logos… When the cards are stacked against you, building this Sales Skill will undoubtedly shine through with your prospect. This is something they can sense, and it could help you move the needle.
- Grit. Saving the best for last. Sales is a dirty game, and some vendors deploy some less than ideal Sales Techniques when they find themselves in competitive deals. As a Sales Representative, having the strength of character to maintain composure and firm in your positive attitude will seem like an unclimbable hill, but fear not! Holding true in the face of adversity pays off when trust is earned, and your competition leaves with mud on their face.
Over the course of my sales career, these Sales Skills have definitely translated into life skills. From Sales Representative to Sales Leadership to CEO running a Sales Coaching technology company the skills that are applied to sales have so much use in life. Thinking back through what 2020 brought, I reminisce on conversations I had with peers in technology sales. Some struggled to hit their number, some had the best year of their careers. When I look at the challenges we faced and will continue to face, focusing on the foundational elements of character-building will definitely help any Sales Leader or Sales Representative continue to crush quota.
Mix in a sprinkle of some sound Sales Coaching and Sales Technology and boom, quota crusher! Looking back, that interview I had to land my first role as a Sales Representative taught me more about myself in 3 minutes, than 5 years of college ever did. It taught me to have confidence in myself, control my emotions, and put forth a persona that simply said “Throw your challenge at me, I want this bad!”
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