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updated: 9/13/2016 2:40 PM

The what, why and how of sales success

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  • Bill Bartlett

    Bill Bartlett


I surveyed 250 sales professionals over the past month to determine how they viewed success. All of them were asked the same series of questions beginning with, "What is your definition of sales success?" As you can imagine, the number one answer was quota achievement, followed by financial success and recognition by their superiors.

When I asked them to share their formula for success, most were stymied and responded with answers like hard work, persistence, planning and the overused "failure was not an option." Although they are admirable attributes, they are not measurable nor are they traceable.

All salespeople fall into one of three categories: winner, "atleaster" and nonwinner, to be politically correct. Approximately 20 percent of them represent winners, 60 percent, "atleasters" and the remaining 20 percent, non-winners. It is easy to understand the What, Why and How of success when it is analyzed from the perspective of the top 20 percenters; they exemplify it on a daily basis. They understand and practice the two key elements that make them successful: psychology ... the Why, and behavior ... the What and How. All winners, like high-performing athletes, are defined by an inner drive that propels them to the finish line and this is reflected in the What, Why and How of success. Let's examine the What of success as seen through winners' eyes. The What consists of the skills necessary for success and the ability to apply them when needed. To assure consistent performance, salespeople must prospect, build relationships, qualify opportunity, present solutions, close business and service clients, etc. Skills without knowing when to set them into motion are useless; their application requires well-developed situational awareness. Winners possess the tools necessary to perform their job and the expertise to utilize them in spite of any variables they may encounter. Now is the time to do a self-examination to determine whether you have the skills and know-how necessary to be a top performer.

Secondly, the successful salesperson must dig deeply to find their personal Why. We are all, hopefully, familiar with Simon Sinek's YouTube presentation on the "Power of Why" where he details his perspective on inner drive. In the sales profession, understanding Why fuels ambition and drive or, better put, the inner motivation that links personal achievement to professional goals. Knowing Why compels peak performers to make additional sales calls when they're falling short of quota; they push themselves to make more cold calls when they have connected with no one in 84 attempts! They are dedicated to the "above and beyond" and "no excuses" philosophy! If you haven't explored your personal Why, now it is time to determine why you go to work every day. Winners know; you should too.

Lastly, the How is a major differentiator when comparing the behavior of winners, "atleasters" and non-winners. Winners demonstrate behavior on a daily, weekly and monthly basis that assures success. They skillfully apply their repertoire of tools and knowledge with conviction. They have internalized the What, Why and How triangle that links them all together in order to guarantee consistent goal achievement. Successful salespeople know they may have to perform more of a proven behavior to attain success. No external motivator is required, they are confident and will persevere, triumphing over even the most formidable odds. Examine your How to determine whether or not you consistently and with conviction apply your skills or wimp out when the going gets tough!

Be honest with yourself! Where do you fall among winners, "atleasters" and non-winners? Perhaps it is time for you to define success, then ask yourself if adding the What, Why and How triangle to your professional life would make a difference? Achieving success in anything demands unwavering commitment and application and sales success is no exception. Have a clear understanding of the What, Why and How of your triangle and you have the equation for success. Go conquer your worlds.

• Bill Bartlett owns Corporate Strategies, A Sandler Training Center. Text "SalesTip" to 71813 to receive Bill's bi-weekly newsletter.