Guest post time! I met today’s guest blogger via my work at Weber State University. My new friend, Matthew Lampros, has devoted much of his life to the development of a sales-success theory. I was super impressed with what he’s learned and how he explained it to me. So I asked him to write about it! Like anyone who is involved in a search he has found several dead-ends but also like anyone who has kept at it he’s found some fantastic pearls of wisdom amidst all of the noise in this sector called “sales”.
He was gracious enough to agree to share some of those with us here at Startup Flavor. So here is Matts theory…or, rather, what he’s learned about what makes someone good at selling.
I’ve spent an entire career testing and implementing new sales systems into all types of organizations. There are a few things I’ve found during this time Simple is best. Complex sales systems are exciting but they rarely work. Like the weather, the marketplace is too unpredictable to easily model. So are your sales reps – getting them to all act the same isn’t reasonable even if the model is that guru in your industry who sold $1M a month for 15 months. It is better to focus on (simple) principles than on detailed processes.
For success in any area there is almost always only one thing that matters the most…occasionally two. In golf, for example, the clear difference between the pro’s and the rest of us is club head speed. No one makes the pros without massive club head speed. Putting, nerve and onsistency matter – but nothing like how fast you can get that club moving.
The “Gartner Magic Quadrant” is another great example of summing success up into only two data points that matter more than anything else: completeness of vision and ability to execute.
Sales success falls into the “two things” bucket. There are two things that matter more than any other; all the rest is gravy.
Who are the best salespeople?
The best salespeople are simultaneously exceptional at two things: their ability to collect data on the prospect, and the ability to craft that data into a pitch that convinces the prospect to buy. Nothing else seems to be nearly as important. A lot of behaviors roll up into these two categories, of course, but at the end of the day a sales rep only has to be brilliant at getting data and synthesizing it. In our study, the best of the best always, always, always exhibit superior skills in both areas. Many have impressive skills in a lot of other areas – but those skills don’t matter.
To explain these behaviors simply we use a visual. We measure a rep using a survey. We take the results and score everything and calculate their collect and craft skill levels. We then plot it on a simple two by two “Gartner Magic Quadrant” style graph. The x axis is craft, y is collect. Reps that score high on both are in the coveted top right quadrant. These are the best sales reps in the country.
What makes them that way?
Consistent behaviors, maybe you’d call them habits, make them that way. They all understand simple principles and that understanding drives their effective behaviors. A behavior driven by a true principle quickly becomes a habit.
Is there anything I can do to get my team to act more like them?
Yes, very much so. Those reps who don’t score top-right can become top-right by mimicking the habits of their exceptional peers. They learn to mimic the behavior by coming to understand the simple principles at play driving successful sales behavior. Once understood, reps self-regulate and always do the right thing.
Example: prospecting for new business.
Because you are likely a startup let me share some of the more important behaviors for filling your pipeline. There are craft behaviors that are important in this area too but these happen to be collect behaviors I’m sharing with you today:
Cold calling is extremely important and very effective. The telephone is one of the oldest and still most effective business tools for the best of the best. No matter your role, use the phone to fill your pipeline. Never cold call on Wednesday or Thursday. The very best times to cold call are Monday morning before 10am, Tuesday morning before 10am and Friday afternoon after 3pm. Your hit rates will be much higher during those times. PS – the best reps never do anything but cold call during those hours; neither should your team.
Don’t use the cold call to pitch your product – use it to set a meeting. Understand that cold calling is the act of interrupting the prospect. Act like you get that. “Hi John, I realize I’m interrupting. I’m calling to see if you can take a meeting with me when I’m not interrupting. Are you around next Wednesday or Thursday … or maybe the following Monday afternoon?” Acknowledge the interruption, move right to asking for another time, and set the meeting.
Call the same list every time you call until someone drops out (“yes I’ll meet with you”, bad number, “no thanks”, etc.) Replenish the list weekly. Keep the list at 52 prospects; that’s the number you can call through in two hours every Monday, Tuesday and Friday.
Leave only one voice mail a week. It’s not allowed to be longer than eight seconds. Want the best template for an excellent voice mail that gets returned? Watch this video.
If you look closely, you’ll see the simple principle is this: don’t ignore the phone, it’s incredibly powerful, but use it correctly. The phone is a tool for setting meetings – not for giving sales pitches (same with voice mail). People are very busy when you call them, treat them that way and they’ll give you time to give your pitch when they aren’t in the middle of something.
What are the results of utilizing this principle? 15-20% of the people you call should pick up. 80% of those people should agree to a set a future meeting. A two hour cold calling blitz to 52 people should net you five to eight meetings. These may seem like high marks but every sales person we work with who gets the principle and adopts the six behaviors above hit these numbers easily. They mimic the cold-calling success of their “best in class” peers and thereby become one. So can your team.
There are a few dozen other principles that guide the behaviors of the best salespeople. In the mean time though, put this one to practice and I’m certain you’ll see bigger pipelines almost immediately.