Late at night when everyone is sitting around the bar at the national sales meeting, sales legends are told. Tales of early wins and dramatic closes. Sales people who closed big deals against terrific odds. The competitive upset. The first million-dollar deal.
These stories create the soul of the company’s culture. The sales people who closed these deals are heroes. They did what no one else could. They saved the day. They closed the big deal. They made a difference.
If you listen to enough of these stories at enough different technology companies patterns start to emerge. One interesting commonality is that there are so few sales heroes. In the early life of a technology company there is often a sales force of 20-30 people, yet there are only one or two ‘superstars’ who outsell all the rest. These ‘sales superstars’ so dramatically outperform the rest of the sales organization that their feats become legendary.
What makes these exceptional salespeople so special? Why can they close deals before anyone else can? How do they sell the solution before the product is even built? How do they crush the competition? What do they know that you don’t know?
The exceptional sales person sells results.
Exceptional sales performers do a better job than the rest of us because they know what information they need and how to get it. They are not necessarily more intelligent than the rest of us. However, they are fast learners. They know the right questions to ask. They have the capacity to become ‘instant experts.’ They use social and cognitive frameworks to help them to make sense of a fast changing world. They continually update their perception of the market with new information and are capable of using these insights to find and develop new opportunities.
Exceptional sales people are also good at generalizing their experiences into principles to guide their actions. They can relate what they experience in one situation to another. They are very creative in applying what they learn to a wide network of potential customers. They think outside of the box. Once they understand the fundamental value proposition of a new technology, they are very good at finding ways to apply the technology to new business applications.
Sales superstars are good networkers. They know who to call to help them think through opportunity scenarios and how to engage visionary executives in a way that builds a sense of excitement around the new technology’s potential. They are also good communicators. Once they understand the capabilities of the new technology, its value proposition and how it can be applied to support business strategies, they are very good at succinctly getting their message across. They can ‘net it out.’
If we know what makes the exceptional sales person successful, why are there so few of them? The answer is simple. Most sales people don’t have information they need to sell.