The 80/20 rule in sales is that twenty percent of the people close eighty percent of the business. As a result, you can expect that eighty percent of the sales people are asking themselves what they can do better to be more productive every day. Because the truth is that a lot of it doesn't have to do with personality, territory assignments, or luck, or getting those magical Glengarry Leads. Here are four things anyone can learn that make the top sales people stand out.
Don't Do Things. Do the Right Things.
Your most valuable asset is your time, and using that time well is the key to success. There are a lot of ways you can spend your time that feel productive. The top people know the difference between "feels productive" and "actually is productive."
Take lead management as an example. Some reps will spend the same amount of time on every lead that comes in and chase a prospect for months with dozens of phone calls and emails. They do this because busy feels productive, and they want to be busy. It fills the day.
The best reps have a very good idea of what the profile of a buyer is, and they only go after those people. If a lead comes in and the prospect doesn't fit the profile, they'll blow it off. As a result, they open up time for other work that is productive, like prospecting and networking.
For productive people, the goal isn't to fill the day, but to focus on things that advance their objectives.
Don't Lower Your Standards
When sales people are struggling, they often get "happy ears," where everything a prospect says sounds great, and they can't even hear the bad news and warnings. They lower their standards on an opportunity in order to have an opportunity.
Enkata's research shows the real damage of this. The fewer opportunities that a sales person has, the lower their win rate on those deals. In fact, in situations where reps are really starved, their win rates drop fully in half.
The most productive sales people know that it's better to have no opportunities than to spend your time on deals you can't win. They don't lower their standards just to have something in the pipeline. It's a hard discipline to do this, but it's the only way to avoid being distracted by something that can never lead to success.
Done is Better than Better
It's not just that the most productive sales people get more done. The key is that they get more done in less time. It's dangerously easy to get lost in activities like tweaking and tuning emails, polishing presentations, or researching accounts. A "quick glance" at a LinkedIn profile can end up taking an hour by the time you've read their blog, checked out their tweets, and gotten the latest on the football program from their college. All that you learn there might even be really valuable. But it's also preventing you from getting other things done.
The more time you invest in perfecting, the fewer tasks you'll get across the finish line. That means more stones left unturned, a slower response time for the things that need to get done, and fewer contacts with the outside world. Top people always know that the goal is to close more deals, not send the most perfect email in the history of sales.
Don't Work When Others aren't Working
Although hard work always pays off, it's important to work smart as well as hard. Just like it's a waste of time to fish when the fish aren't biting, it's a waste of time to sell when people aren't buying. Enkata research found that there is a real difference between top reps and the average worker when it comes to vacation time. Top sales people are actually more likely to slack off on and around vacations. Take the Thanksgiving week, for example. While a "never say die" type sales person might still be cold calling and sending emails, the top sales people are relaxing and recharging. They'll come back after the break ready to give it their all. Meanwhile, the people who continued working hard had a week of frustration.
Running full speed and non-stop is a recipe for burnout, not success. It's easier to put in extra hours when they're needed if you weren't putting in extra hours when they weren't. Top people know this, and plan their schedules accordingly.