The Secret of the Top 5% of Sales People
Survey 100 salespeople and ask them why their best customers buy from them. 80 will guess, 15 will assume correctly because they're just savvy enough, and 5 will know because they've asked. There's a better-than-rough correlation between those 20 people and the top 20% on your sales floor. There's an almost direct correlation between the top 5% in both of those scenarios.
Selling is not a plug-and-play profession. 80% of salespeople treat it that way and they miss the point. If making sales was all about spewing a few features and benefits, we’d have a lot more successful salespeople. If everyone felt as strongly about the “no-brainer” solution you carry as you do, then they'd all be customers! But they aren’t, and instead of trying to figure out why, you’re probably busy scrolling social media “doing research” and complaining.
The average sales person doesn't realize that he can't just read his print copy to people and expect customers to buy. Talking points are meaningless unless they're intensely personal. Work ethic, hustle, and customer service are not salient enough concepts to convert customers by themselves.
15% of professional salespeople percent mostly get it and are rock-solid performers. For one reason or another, they're emotionally intelligent enough to pick up on some of the more subtle reasons their best customers buy. They leverage these reasons well, get a lot of growth in existing accounts, and grow new business from referrals.
Then there are the 5% who know because they ask. They see the value of cutting straight through the BS and listening to the real reasons their customers buy, directly from the mouths of their customers! They don’t settle for the surface answers either. They’re willing to get vulnerable and ask the questions that are really tough to ask and dig a level or two deeper for a particular story or a situation that reveals real insight. This approach separates not only their messaging but the depth of the conversations they're able to have, building stronger relationships with existing customers and prospects alike.
One of the best pieces of advice I've ever received on this matter was from Jeffrey Gitomer's Little Red Book of Selling:
1. Call six of your best customers
2. Invite them to a seminar about how to build their business
3. Offer GREAT food
4. Tell them you will also spend 15-20 minutes asking them questions to strengthen your relationship
5. Craft six questions about how you meet their needs and what they look for in a vendor/partner
6. Record the session- then listen to it 100 times
All of this makes sense. 95% of you aren’t doing it.
I'll make it easier for you. Call three of your best customers, and ask them to dinner, a round of golf, a wine tasting… something creative. Maybe even host it at your house. Let them know you have one question for them, and that you want to ask the table. When the time is right, ask them, "What's the most underrated aspect of doing business with me?" That ought to get the conversation started, and their answers will inspire each other. They'll build camaraderie. You'll build loyalty.
Your best customers are willing to give you the secret to serving other customers like them if you're only willing to ask. Your very best customers are also very happy to see you grow. They know that your success enables your ability to enable theirs.
The greatest thing that Jeffrey Gitomer ever taught me was that an understanding of why people buy will always be more valuable than an ability to sell. You've got the ultimate resource right in front of you, you just need to use it.