successful sales rep

The 10 Key Ingredients of a Successful Sales Rep

successful sales rep

Throughout my career as a sales manager, I always found it fascinating that certain sales reps always managed to close big deals.

Many of them were already working with large accounts, but some of these accounts were said to be already dead or only worth a few upgrade deals at best. But for sure no $1 million opportunities.

So how did these guys transform lifeless deals into million dollar opportunities? What makes these reps so effective at closing large deals and others not?

Here are 10 key ingredients of successful sales reps:

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1. They Think BIG

I once asked a successful rep how he managed to close so many large deals. His answer was:

I look for big deals, therefore I focus on them.

Is that really all there is to it? Think big and you’ll close big deals?

While it may not be the only ingredient, it’s definitely an important starting point.

If you program yourself to close small deals, that’s what you’ll be looking for. But if you start focusing on larger deals, you will most likely try to grow your opportunities and go deeper and wider into your account.

Every year, I have all my reps set a $1 million opportunity as a goal and have them map out a plan to make it happen.

And guess what?

Many of them end up doing exactly that.

Try it out for yourself:

  1. Make a list of all your accounts where you could close a $1 million deal
  2. Pin that list to your desk so you can see it at all times
  3. Create a plan to close at least one of them and see what happens.

Thinking BIG will help you close big deals.

2. They qualify hard

Great salespeople know that their biggest enemy is time wasted on the wrong things.

That’s why they qualify hard to make sure that a deal is worth their time.

No matter how promising an opportunity might seem, they don’t allow themselves to get excited before qualifying certain things.

They move slow in the beginning and don’t allow the client to request the next steps. That way they can be sure that the pain is strong enough for the client to take action.

During this discovery phase, they can be very direct and assertive with their clients while remaining respectful and open about the process. But they won’t move forward with a deal without getting the answers to the following questions:

  1. What is the pain?
  2. What is the consequence of doing nothing?
  3. Is there somebody who can and will drive this (AKA: a Champion)?
  4. Where is the client in the buying process?

If they can’t check these points, they lose interest and are off to the next opportunity.

3. They challenge their clients

Clients hate the reactive rep who‘s waiting for them to provide all the answers and don’t add any additional value. In fact, clients actively keep these guys at a distance.

But, they love a rep who understands and even educates them.

In fact, 97% of B2B clients surveyed stated that the top driver that led to closed deals was a sales rep’s ability to offer unique and valuable perspectives.

That’s why successful sales reps constantly think about the state of their client’s business, and come to meetings prepared with competitive case studies, industry trends, and a deep understanding of their client’s operations.

These reps challenge their clients to see their own business in a new light and discover opportunities that had been previously overlooked.

By providing unique insights, great reps develop strong allies and champions within the account who enable and support them to reach their goal.

4. They drive deals proactively and begin with the end in mind

If you want to get somewhere, you don’t just start driving and hope you’ll somehow get there. You make a plan, follow it, and adjust as necessary along the way.

For sales reps, having a sales process or sales methodology acts as that roadmap, letting them plot the customer journey towards a decision. In fact, having a structured process let’s you grow your revenue by an additional 18%.

Whether it’s MEDDIC, TAS, Strategic Selling or even a custom methodology, a reliable sales process establishes clear criteria and defined milestones that let great sales people stay in control of their deals. (See The 8 Best Sales Methodologies for Closing Complex Deals).

Once they know their target close date and the milestones they need to hit to get there, they work backwards and create a detailed close plan.

That way they can work proactively instead of reactively and be alerted when things go off track. According

5. They collaborate extensively, both internally and externally

Big deals are never closed alone.

Great sales people know this. So in order to drive large opportunities, they always make sure to:

  • Act like great coaches
  • Sell the opportunity inside the company
  • Involve executives
  • Motivate their teammates to grow and go the extra mile.

They motivate their company to close the deals together with them.

They team up with their allies and supporters at the client and discover their personal interest in a deal. Then, they help them achieve their goals and develop them to become champions.

Together with their champions, they plot the steps along the route to the final decision making and signing of the contract.

6. They stay in control of the message and activities

Every large deal is going to have a lot of decision makers, business users and executives that need to be convinced.

It’s impossible for a sales person on his own to cover every single person involved, neither will he be invited to the internal meetings, where the real decisions are going to be made.

So in order to compensate, they create custom messaging for each account, centered on The 3 WHYs:

  • Why do anything?
  • Why us?
  • Why now?

They tailor this messaging to match the different levels of the power base and then make sure that it gets distributed internally.

Together with their Champions and the C-level executives within their own organization, successful reps takes advantage of a multi-level selling approach to get that messaging out.

7. They see themselves as equals with their clients (and think ‘Quid pro quo’)

A successful sales trainer once painted the picture of the average sales rep as a dog involved in a game of catch with his master: running for the ball and happily delivering it back – without ever asking for anything in return.

This kind of ‘master/slave’ relationship with clients holds a lot of reps back, and getting past it is essential to successfully driving deals.

As one experienced colleague put it,

“I explain to the client that we both run our businesses. And mine is to close deals for my company. I’m happy to support him in his decision process, but at the same time, I owe my company a clarification on how are we doing on our business.”

This kind of mindset keeps you and the client on the same level. As equals.

It not only gives you the confidence to step out of a deal that isn’t going anywhere, it actually grows your client’s respect for you.

Once you make it clear that you’re not here just to please him, he’ll know that if he wants something from you, he’ll have to provide something in return.

8. They ask for the deal

Great salespeople don’t simply serve the customer’s decision-making process. They become a vital part of it.

Great reps create a lot of value with their unique business expertise and build additional confidence and trust by bridging key people and executives from their own organization to the clients’.

It’s hard work, but it earns them the right to meet the Economic Buyer (EB).

Even in deals with multiple decision makers, the EB is the one whose final approval (official or not) is required to sign off on a deal.

By meeting with the EB early on, great salespeople are able to crosscheck whether he supports the project or not, what his criteria for success looks like and what the timeline and concrete steps to a closed deal are.

Once the EB has been met, the right next steps become crystal clear, and the route to the budget and final approval opens up.

9. They plan for the worst

Great sales people know that complex deals aren’t won just like that.

There’s a lot of work, a lot of people to coordinate and convince, and an endless amount of tasks and to-dos.

That’s why the best of the best not only think about how to win the deal, they master the plan to not lose it.

They become almost paranoid about what could go wrong.

They test their allies, neutralize their enemies and make 100% sure that they are informed when things go wrong.

Because they’ve prepared extensively for the worst, they can proactively take corrective actions if and when things go wrong.

(And believe me, things do go wrong. Often.)

10. They live in their account

Last but not least, great salespeople have an incredible amount of contact with their client.

They have such a high level of activity within their account – checking in with the tech guys, making sure legal had everything that it needs – that some clients even offer these guys their own office while working together on a deal.

The best reps I’ve known have had up to 15 meetings per week with their clients. And customers who are eager to solve their pain report a huge benefit in being able to work so closely with them.

Just by being there, by answering questions as they come up and participating in decision meetings, these guys create a level of trust and security that most other reps miss out on.

In fact, after a huge deal had closed, the CIO of a large Swiss Bank said to me:

“Rizan, your guys knew my organization probably better than I did. They understood our pain points from every angle, notified me when people were resistant to change and together we found solutions to overcome these hurdles. Without your guys, it would have been much harder to restructure my organization.

CONCLUSION

If there’s only three things that you takeaway from this list, I’d choose the following:

  • Great sales reps know when to go for a deal and when to walk away (they qualify hard)
  • They seek to truly understand their clients’ needs (and use that knowledge to challenge their clients)
  • They drive deals proactively (and stay in control throughout the client’s buying process.)

Personally, I often went over all these points in account reviews with my core reps; to help them recognize their strengths and where they needed improvement.

Because as a sales manager, it’s important to understand just how your high-fliers manage to close deals that seem impossible to everyone else.

That way, you can coach the rest of your reps to fly just as high.

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Free PDF: Get access to a free downloadable PDF version of this guide. Reference it anytime you want or print for daily use