7 Secrets of Success in Sales

Jamie Thomas, Vice President Talent Acquisition for Combined Insurance

If you are a millennial searching for potential career opportunities, or a more seasoned professional seeking a mid-career change, you may want to consider a career in sales. Not because it’s easy ‒ it’s not. Building a successful sales career is challenging, but it can also be interesting and satisfying. And, if you are ambitious and highly motivated, the financial rewards can be unlimited. Best of all, in sales there are virtually no barriers to entry. In our business, supplemental insurance sales, the potential to become a high-performing sales professional is available to everyone, including men and women of diverse ages, races and ethnicities.  

What does it take to build a successful sales career? Many see successful salespeople and assume they were born with special talents or are just really lucky. Nothing could be further from reality. As an anonymous sales professional once declared, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” To help determine if you have what it takes to build a career in sales, here are seven best practices that are the foundation of most every successful salesperson.

Maintain confidence and a positive attitude. It’s important tobelieve in your products and to maintain an upbeat, enthusiastic attitude. Believing in the value of the products you sell is essential to generating the confidence and motivation needed to forge ahead, day in and day out. The fact is, even great salespeople experience more rejections in their everyday activities than the average worker. However, they are keenly aware that a prospective customer who says “No” today does not mean “Never.” Realizing that “No’s” are just part of the job, they persevere with positivity in their efforts to demonstrate the value of their products to as many qualified prospects as possible. And, the more they improve their sales strategies and tactics, the more positive results they experience.

Plan, set goals and measure results. In business as in life, people think about their goals, but most do not commit to them in writing so they remain vague and non-specific. One thing that sets successful sales professionals apart is that they give thought to what they want to achieve and set a timeline for achieving the objectives. They set ambitious yet realistic goals, such as how many prospects to call on per week or month, how many sales they aim to close, or how much revenue they want to generate. Then, as they execute on the plan, they measure their progress to see how they’re doing. An old but favorite expression in the business world is: “Plan your work and work your plan.” It’s still the way most successful people operate and is by far the most effective way to get from where you are today to where you want to be.

Practice due diligence in lead generation and follow up. Sales professionals often receive qualified leads periodically from their parent organization. Leads generated through a company’s advertisement or magazine article should be considered “hot leads” and follow-up should be done immediately ‒ for example, with the sales agent calling the prospect to set up a face-to-face meeting. Company-generated leads are not enough, however. A determined salesperson will also find qualified prospects in their communities and within their civic, business and social networks. They will keep in touch regularly with customers after the sale and are not shy about asking customers and prospects alike for references to other potential leads. That is how sales leaders grow their customer base, market share and revenues.

Build relationships based on integrity and trust. Building a great business is really about building great relationships. This can only be done by paying close attention to detail, managing time efficiently, and delivering on promises with forthrightness and integrity. Serving customers honestly and well is a best business practice that applies before the sale, during the sale, and after the sale. Super salespeople present their companies and products in a transparent way, focusing on benefits to buyers. They answer questions clearly and truthfully, and ask for the sale only when all questions have been answered. And, they continue to support customers after the sale by providing information, counsel, additional service and decision support as needed. We all prefer to do business with people we know and trust, and that trust must be built on a foundation of mutual respect, honesty, and keeping the customer’s best interests in mind.

Listen to potential buyers and understand their needs. In meeting with potential clients, a successful salesperson will first take the time to listen closely to potential buyers and invite them to explain their objectives, challenges and concerns. This is a more thoughtful approach that is much more effective than simply launching into a sales pitch or quickly proposing a one-size-fits-all solution. It demonstrates to a prospect that you truly care about their situation and financial concerns, and that you will take the time to provide a practical, personalized solution that achieves their goals, answers their concerns, and fits within their budgets. 

Sell benefits and value, not just products. Many salespeople think their primary responsibility is presenting their company’s products, and so they give a scripted “sales presentation” that focuses almost exclusively on the features and functionality of the products. Potential buyers are not persuaded to purchase by facts, figures and features alone ‒ they want to know what your products will do for them. Why should they consider it? How will it improve their lives or work? Why is it better than your competitors’ products? For Combined Insurance customers, for example, the benefits gained by having a supplemental insurance policy ‒ whether disability insurance, illness and accident insurance, or another type of policy ‒ include greater healthcare coverage peace of mind and a measure of protection against the financial harm that can occur in the event of unexpected illness or injury. 

Leverage today’s tools and technologies. Finding, contacting and selling to customers and prospects is much easier than ever before, thanks to the amazing range of tools and technologies available today. For example, during a sales call, our company’s agents can use their iPad tablets to access information, explain products and benefits, and secure accurate quotes right on the spot, making it faster and easier to close the sale. This helps assure prospects that they are working with a highly reliable, professional organization.

In addition, while traditional sales activities, such as face-to-face meetings, direct mail and telephone contacts are still quite effective, salespeople can expand their company’s reach and influence by using person-to-person email encouraging customers and prospects to follow their company on social media channels, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. The secret is to use all sales tools wisely to keep your company’s name and products top of mind. In electronic outreach especially, be sure to keep it friendly, never pushy or intrusive, and don’t overdo it lest you be labeled a cyber-pest. It’s important to remember that in adapting your sales tactics and techniques to the Internet, the preceding best practices still apply.   

So whether you’re just starting out or looking for a change in career, sales can be both professionally and personally rewarding for those who follow the secrets of sales success.

Jamie Thomas is vice president of talent acquisition for Combined Insurance, a leading provider of supplemental insurance products and an ACE Group company.She is responsible for developing and executing the company’s sales talent acquisition strategy.