Crafting Sales Performance

Author: 
Timo Rein

We all have good and bad days. Stephen Curry, star basketball player of the Golden State Warriors, has a field goal shooting percentage of .477 over his career. Last season, in one of his worst games against the Los Angeles Lakers, his shooting percentage was .214. In one of his best games against the Los Angeles Clippers one week later, his percentage was .688.
 
When we look at the best performers in sports, each is far from perfect. Curry, for example, does not make one out of two shots on average. Ted Williams, an American baseball player, was considered the greatest hitter ever. His lifetime batting average was .344 – and he was the last hitter to have a season with an average above .400. 
 
In sports and in business, true professionals bring honed skills to the arena. And reaching the pinnacle, or even proficiency, by any professional was preceded by thousands of mistakes and misfires. It is doubtful that the famed cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, played his first note to perfection.
 
In the end, we are all human – practice does not make perfect. But practice does increase the odds of success. And taking chances is the risk one takes to aim for success. There is a saying, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Shooting For Consistency

In the sales profession, we risk failure or success by taking a shot at making a sale. And, in sales the odds are definitely not always in the salesperson’s favor. Salespeople hit hot streaks and cold streaks, just like athletes. But, any professional seeks consistency. Through practice, professionals develop proficiency that adds up to strong reliable results over time.
 
As a salesperson takes risks, it is an interaction where he or she does not control the outcome. It is the prospective buyer who is in control by saying either yes or no to an offer. The best salespeople actually manage a guided conversation that he or she hopes ends in a sale. And that sale culminates in a transaction that benefits both the buyer and seller.
 
Between a potential prospect being contacted cold and the closing of a sale are critical sales activities that guide a salesperson to improve the odds of success. That is where sales craftsmanship comes in. Sales craftsmanship is honing those activities over and over, just as a virtuoso in any field focuses on the fundamentals that drive success.
 
The fundamentals in sales are practiced and relived. Below is a sample list of these fundamentals. They are presented as key questions a salesperson asks of his or herself. By continually revisiting these key questions, a salesperson can hone their skills. 

  1. What does my product really do, and in what ways does it actually help customers?
  2. Who should buy from me?
  3. Where and how do I get qualified leads?
  4. How do I approach leads, get them curious enough to listen to me, and qualify them?
  5. How do I get, and set up the first in-person meeting?
  6. How do I identify interest, needs, ability and authority to buy what I’m selling?
  7. How do I appeal to explicit and implicit needs to evoke a desire to buy?
  8. How do I justify the price, or indeed, the value of my product?
  9. How do I handle any objection or obstacle?
  10. What do I need to do to get a new customer fully satisfied after the purchase?
  11. How do I set up future re-sell opportunities with my newly found customers? 

Two Critical Traits

Once the fundamentals are ingrained in a salesperson’s daily routine, he or she needs two critical human traits: drive and discipline.
 
Drive keeps great people going. For the salesperson, it means reaching out, initiating conversations and responding to every single objection or obstacle. Drive is fuel that fires up curiosity, and makes one feel like daring. Hence, drive is what creates the propulsion, and secures continuous momentum.
 
Intertwined with drive is a critical intangible: love and passion for the work. I believe love and passion for the work is what will eventually separate true craftsmen from others. In the long run, that joy that comes from work is the spark to fuel the drive, and make a day. 
 
It is why the salesperson can come back after being rejected, or why any professional returns after a bad day – a missed shot in sports or a misplayed note in music. Each comes back to their field of play to better themselves at what they do best. 
 
The second human trait is discipline. It’s what helps a salesperson organize and navigate for better time management, communication, relationships and optimizing a pipeline of sales opportunities. While maybe not crucial for one sale, discipline becomes key over time and across thousands of conversations. 
 
It’s sometimes mind boggling to see how star performers choose to practice the basics over and over – in sports, music, sales. I’ve observed that their discipline gives them chances to become brilliant. Each knows and accepts that brilliance actually means just consistency of high quality performance. 
 
In the black-and-white world of yes or no sales, I have never met a salesperson with a 100% close rate. What I have met are the salespeople that have good days and bad, hot streaks and cold streaks. However, it all averages out. And the great salespeople deliver their average over time as they hone their sales craft.

Timo Rein, CEO of Pipedrive, the first CRM platform developed from the salesperson’s point of view.