5 Old School Sales Habits of High Performers

shutterstock_91528481.jpgI have the privilege every week of coaching and working with high performing sales people. I also coach many sales people that are high potential, but not yet achieving at a high level.  That's where I come in, to help them get to that level. As I conduct these coaching calls every day I start to see patterns emerge between high performing sales people and high potential sales people. One of the things that has jumped off the page the last couple weeks is there are certain habits that high performing sales people do consistently. They may even be considered “old school” sales habits, but let's share them now and talk about how your team can incorporate these habits into their daily sales rituals to improve performance.

  1. Pick up the phone: High performers pick up the phone and call people. In this day and age of social selling, in-bound leads, and all the attention around using LinkedIn and other sources to make connections, there's nothing better than picking up the telephone and having a conversation with a perspective buyer. You cannot build a relationship by sending an email or a LinkedIn InMail request. Calling someone goes a long way towards building trust.
  2. Be Grateful: High performers are grateful people. They send thank you notes. This is as old school as it gets, but have your team go to the store, buy generic stationery, and get into the habit of sending hand written thank you notes to customers and prospects. It's amazing how much a personalized, hand-written thank you note stands out among all the email blasts and junk mail that comes through. It will really set your salespeople apart.
  3. Read and Learn: High performers read a lot. Not only do they read the newspaper and the local business journal to stay current with events, they read books. They read sales books. They read business books. They read fiction. They read everything they can get their hands on. Why is that important? Sales is about communication, and people who read, and read often, tend to write better and speak better. It doesn't have to be all dry business books either. Sales is about storytelling, so if your salespeople read fiction as well, it's going to help them tell better stories.
  4. Attend Networking Events: High performs attend networking events. Not only do they go to their industry events, but they're plugged into their local community as well. They'll go to the chamber of commerce or the rotary club events. They're networked and they love to connect people and make introductions. They are highly visible at these events. It's one of the ways they get referrals and introductions.
  5. Proactively Help People: High performers are connectors. They help people in their network. They help their customers. They help their centers of influence. They introduce people to other people who might benefit from the introduction. When your salespeople give more than they get and consistently connect people (without being asked or expecting something in return), good things happen.

As you look at this list of five “old school” sales habits that can separate high performers from high potential sales people, which of these are your team currently doing? How can you challenge your sales managers to help their team incorporate these “old school” sales habits to raise performance as you go into the end of this year, and raise performance and expectations for next year?



Increase Sales By Focusing Your Prospecting Efforts

describe the imageWhen a sales person is struggling one of the first questions we ask is "how many people are on your target prospect list?"  Usually we find a list with everything and the kitchen sink.  Too many names.  Too many target accounts.  Too many titles.  Too many target industries.  Too spread out geographically.  In short, a target prospect list that shows a total lack of focus.

Usually when we point this out to a struggling sales person we hear something like "Yes, but anyone of these prospects could potentially buy from me."  And that's probably true and some probably will, which will only reinforce the belief that casting a wide prospecting net is an effective sales strategy.  In our experience it's not.

On the other extreme, when we look at the target prospecting list of a highly successful, top producing sales person we usually see a much more focused and narrowly targeted list.  They have usually found their niche and are concentrating their sales efforts on being the dominant provider in that niche.  It could be a specific industry, it could be a specific title or functional role within a prospect's organization, it could be a narrow geographical area, or it could be a combination of multiple characteristics.

To get started, take a look at your top client successes (or the client successes of the top sales people on your team) and ask:
  • What does my dream client look like? 
  • What characteristics should they have? 
  • What do I like about working with them?
  • Who else has those same traits? 
  • Is it role-specific? 
  • Is it industry-specific? 
  • Is it situational? 
Then ask yourself the following tough questions:
  • Who do I need to become as a sales person to effectively serve these dream clients?
  • What do I need to STOP doing so I can focus my sales efforts exclusively on those ideal clients?
  • What do I need to do to get out of my comfort zone to target decision makers at my ideal cleint?
  • How can I leverage this renewed focus to improve my networking and referral strategies?
Instead of casting a wide net and just hoping for the best, take ownership of your sales success by narrowing your sales focus.  One way to do that is to use our Free Sales Focus Worksheet.  Thanks and good selling!

Can social media ever replace traditional cold calling?

Can Social Media ever replace cold calling?


Adam Boyd of Market Sense (http://www.ms.sandler.com)

Ed Kleinman of Objective Management Group (www.objectivemanagementgroup.com )


Gretchen Gordan of Braveheart Sales Performance (www.braveheartsales.com)

Cold Calling all Brian's and Kevin's

Yesterday, in celebration of St. Patrick's Day, my new sales person sorted his prospect list to create a sublist comprised of Presidents, CEO's and Business Owners named Brian or Kevin. I think he also searched for executives named Bridget, Molly, Liam and Fergus, but he couldn't find any in our database. The calls sounded something like this:

"Hi Brian, it's Everet Kamikawa."

"Hi.... Everet..."  

"Brian, it doesn't sound like you know who I am...."

"No, I don't."

"That's ok, I'm not sure we've met. Can I tell you why I called you this morning?"


"I'm calling everyone in my database named Brian to wish them a Happy St. Patrick's Day and tell them about some trends we're seeing in the market. Happy St. Patrick's Day!"

"Thanks, that's pretty funny. So tell me, what do you guys do?"

And that's how most of the calls went. This approach was both funny and unexpected, which lowered their "sales defense shields" and allowed Everet to get into productive conversations about how we help growing companies grow even faster by fixing the people, systems and strategies that impact sales. Out of 39 cold calls he had 7 conversations and booked 3 appointments, which is a pretty good day when calling the C-level.

Who says you can't have fun while making cold calls?

How LinkedIn Is Changing My Business

Six weeks ago I was as big of a “social media” skeptic as you could find. Even though I had used them, it was hard for me to imagine LinkedIn or Twitter as serious business-to -business marketing tools. I thought of these platforms as interesting diversions, but not serious business development tools. The target market for my sales force development consulting business is comprised of Presidents, CEOs, and Business Owners of companies with $5-$50 million in annual sales that have a direct sales force and are located in Southeastern Wisconsin. There are about 400 such people that fit this description and I highly doubted I could reach them through these channels.

What I’ve learned over the past six weeks is that I was wrong, but not in the way I expected. Let me back up. I started my B2B sales blog over two years ago and while I’ve had a lot of fun writing it, and I believe it has helped establish my expertise in the B2B sales arena, it never generated any business opportunities. However, six weeks ago I made the commitment to step up my writing and set the goal of writing one new post a week. Additionally, I decided to engage the community on LinkedIn by also posting this information to various groups and asking questions related to each. The results have been remarkable. I’ve received many messages and e-mails asking me for more information, offering more ideas and wondering if my company offers individual training programs for sales people and sales managers. Currently, we don’t. Our approach is customized based on what we uncover when we evaluate sales organizations.

I’ve never really thought about taking what we do for our corporate engagements (high-end custom programs) and provide something similar for individuals. That is, until now. The question I ask myself is: How can I deliver a program that is tailored to the individual needs of a sales person or sales manager – based on his or her unique strengths and weaknesses – at a price point that would allow an individual to buy it on his or her own, without asking his or her company for permission? I have some ideas, but I would love your input. Right now I’m thinking of two separate courses. Each would be a series of web courses, one for sales people and another for sales managers, where the curriculum could be tailored to address the specific weaknesses of each participant (based on an assessment we would provide).

I believe each course should include some basic “blocking and tackling” content that everyone can benefit from reviewing and then the rest would be personalized based on the areas an individual needs to focus on to improve. I would then host a series of webcasts reviewing the sales or sales management content, addressing individual questions, role playing, discussing how to apply the general lessons to specific sales situations, and so on. Is this a program that you would be interested in? How much would you be willing to invest in this type of a program? What else would you like to see in it? Please let me know your thoughts because you are changing my business!

10 Ways to Fill Up Your Sales Pipeline (without Cold Calling)

I saw a great presentation from Chet Holmes, author of The Ultimate Sales Machine, at the Gazelles Sales & Marketing Conference last week in New Orleans. One of the points he emphasized is the need for sales people to continually develop new prospects. His view is a busy sales person with a full book of business should still spend 2.5 hours per day prospecting. A new sales person should spend 4.5 hours per day prospecting.

Based on our experience working with hundreds of sales people at companies large and small, across industries, b2b and b2c, in markets across America - not many sales people would meet Chet Holmes' minimum prospecting requirements.

The reason? Nobody likes making cold calls. So here are ten (10) ideas, loosely based on another great presentation I saw from Dave Kurlan in March, to fill up your sales pipeline without cold calling:

1. Call Past and Current Clients - Is everything OK? Any changes? Is there anyone in your network I should talk to?

2. Networking Events - Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Meetings, etc.3. Online Business Networks - LinkedIn, Plaxo, Inc. Magazine, Gazelles' Intro Networks

4. Newletter - write compelling articles to a captive audience, include calls to action, make it audience-specific, and market it weekly.

5. Blog - why not start a blog? Write it yourself or pay someone to write it for you. Be thought provoking and address topics you are passionate about.

6. Squidoo Lens -create a static, one-page lens and use it to point to your blog, include highlights from your newsletter, or promote an upcoming event. 

7. Boards & Committees - volunteer with a group you believe in while you develop your board room presence and make connections with other business leaders in your community.

8. Speaking Engagements - look at the associations your top clients belong to, watch for business conferences, speak at chamber events or CEO groups.

9. HARO - experts are needed, what do you know that could help a reporter out? If you don't already receive Peter Shankman's newsletter, sign up today.

10. Website- do you have your own website? Even if your company has a corporate site, you can host a landing page with links to top articles you're reading, industry trends, and other information that conveys your point of view for less than $100 per year.

11. Cold Call - get over it, you still need to make cold calls every day. Not only will it help you fill your pipeline, it will keep you sharp and on top of your game.