Becoming a High Performing Sales Professional

In a recent article from the Harvard Business Review, titled “What Makes Great Salespeople?” by Ryan Fuller, he discussed analytics from VoloMetrix that identified 3 factors that were highly correlated with the best sales outcomes:
1. More time spent with customersMORE Logo
2. Larger internal networks
3. More time spent with managers and senior leadership.

It is easy to understand that spending more time with customers would lead to better sales performance. The relationship between the sales professional and the customer is a strong element in any successful transaction. The salespeople in Fuller’s article, however, did not work significantly more hours than their peers. They saw fewer customers but closed more deals with them.

While it is easy to understand the importance of this pattern of interaction, it is more difficult to know how to create opportunities to make a greater impact on customers by spending more time with them. Sales professionals with optimistic attributional styles and well developed resilience skills can leverage these skills to increase their connections with customers.

Sales professionals with optimistic styles of working are looking for the potential opportunities in each interaction with a potential customer. There are many reasons for this. Those who are more optimistic broaden the amount of possibilities they possess, are more thoughtful, and more creative and open to new ideas. This is a good foundation for a better relationship with customers. Studies show that people who expressed more positive emotions when negotiating business deals did so more efficiently and successfully than those who were more neutral or negative.

Resilient professionals are able to make even more powerful and lasting connections when conditions are stressful. They are able to make connections with customers by aligning them with a bigger goal and helping their customers to grow toward new possibilities. This ability to reach a helping hand to a customer who is stressed makes the sales professional a major asset. In the best of circumstances, of course, the salesperson is not just out to make a sale, but to help the customer to have a better opportunity to be successful. It is truly a win-win situation.

It is also the case that great salespeople have a stronger connection with the internal networks of the organization. These internal networks provide support, the sales professional is able to make sure that the organization is aligned with the goals and needs of the customer, and there is a great working relationship between them.

The interactions with internal networks help the sales professionals to continue to look with fresh eyes at the challenges they face every day, and they do the same for their networks. It is easy to become stuck in a pattern of thinking and that eventually turns toward negativity and cynicism. Optimistic sales professionals are able to break those patterns by being exposed to alternative ways of thinking and by exposing others to alternatives to keep things fresh and collaborative. Great sales is not a solo activity. It requires interaction and collaboration.

A mistake that average sales professionals make is to assume that either everything is in your control or nothing is in your control. The reality is more nuanced. There are some things that you can control, some you can influence, and some that are out of your control. By establishing a rich internal network, the sales professional is able to let go of things that will not change and focus, with resilience, on the things that can change and improve.

Finally, the great salespeople have significantly more contact with managers and senior leaders. While there may be some individual sales professionals who attempt to work without much input from the managers and leaders above them, it is a much more successful strategy for the individual and the organization to work in collaborative efforts.

This happens much more easily when managers and senior leaders are also more resilient and optimistic in their work styles. When the managers and senior leaders are dedicated to providing their team with the support that will help them to be successful, it increases performance. Being recognized by your manager or senior team has shown to increase productivity by as much as 31% in some organizations. Taking an optimistic and resilient approach to managing and leading provides opportunities to have a much greater alignment between the goals of the sales professional and the mission of the organization.

Training in optimism and resilience can assist an organization to be able to foster the kind of great sales professionals that VoloMetrix analytics have identified.

For more background on this article:

The Happiness Advantage (2010) by Shawn Achor
Resilience at Work (2005) by Salvatore R. Maddi and Deborah M. Khoshaba

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