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The Key to Successful Selling

There are thousands of articles online about how to sell successfully. But rather than rely on a Google search, Sandler Training draws our conclusions from training, assessing, and observing control groups of sales reps over an eight year span. We assessed a test group of salespeople and then tracked their performance data as they sold the same product, in the same market and at the same price. Based on that data, we made some key observations on they key factors that lead to success.

Why is this important? Because depending on the industry, only 60 percent of salespeople meet their quotas. The negative impact of this in terms of dollars is almost immeasurable. If your salespeople are ineffective, your forecast varies, and the valuation of your company plummets. Additionally, your cash flow often takes a hit, as the cost of a bad sales hire -- even an entry-level one -- can be tens of thousands of dollars.

Defining Success Factors

So what is the most critical success factor? It’s not experience. In our test group, the five most experienced salespeople only represented 5 percent of the overall sales production. So plain experience is overrated. (Think of the last “experienced” rep that you hired, expecting them to take you to the promised land. Did hiring them live up to your expectations?) From what we’ve seen, the five most skilled salespeople only produced 19 percent of the revenue.

We’ve all heard that making a sale is a numbers game. While this is probably true if you aren’t sure what you’re doing, we saw that the five people who made the most calls were responsible for only 12 percent of the revenue.

But as it turns out, we can also assess for the beliefs and attitudes that help drive salespeople. The five people with the strongest attitude toward sales were responsible for 22 percent of the revenue. Better, but still not the best.

It’s All About Drive

One group of five was responsible for an amazing 53 percent of the overall production! (These groups were not mutually exclusive, which is why the total does not add up to 100 percent.) As it turned out, these people had the highest ambition and drive. They also possessed the willingness to take the actions needed to change in order become successful. They had a goal and they were committed to reaching it – even if they were uncomfortable with the change.

As a confirming test, we also looked at the five people with the lowest ambition, drive and commitment. They ended up with no sales.

Strong ambition and drive will motivate people to change their self-limiting beliefs about sales. When we interviewed several struggling salespeople about their self-limiting beliefs, we learned they were able to reprogram these beliefs through a lot of hard work, training and journaling. Some of the self-limiting beliefs were related to the fear of rejection, discomfort talking about money, and anxiety around asking questions.

If you want to learn more about these stories, they’re shared in great detail and honesty in our book, “Succeed the Sandler Way.” In the book, 14 entrepreneurs of various positions made huge personal gains by having the desire to make the necessary (and difficult) personal changes to achieve their goals.

The Vision Is Important

Owners can sell because they ooze commitment to their vision. However, this vision may not relate to all of the subsequent employees who are hired as the company grows. They naturally care about themselves first and the company vision second.

These people need their own personal vision that they are passionate about, and they must choose to pursue their vision through sales excellence. That will make all the difference in their sales.

So hire the people who have a track record of growth through making difficult changes, in particular, changes that take commitment. Find these people, and you’ll have your top producers.