Sales Performance – 3 Strategies for Elite Salespeople

June 24th, 2018

Elite salespeople are the top 20% in their industries.  One stat I read recently reported the top 20% sell 62% of goods and services.  This excludes large capital sales.  How can the top 20% sell nearly two-thirds of all goods and services, while the remaining 80% only get what’s left?

There are several reasons for this disparity in performance, and I’ve learned the overall approach to becoming an elite salesperson was described so well by Anthony Iannarino in his book “The Lost Art of Closing”.  Anthony states, “sales is not something you do to somebody – it is something you do with and for somebody.”  top performing salespeople

Beyond that overall approach, the following three strategies account for a good part of what makes an elite salesperson.

Top Performing Salespeople Practice the ABVs of Selling

You’ve likely heard the ABCs of selling (Always Be Closing).  Well, here’s a different spin – “Always Be Valuable”.  Elite salespeople are always adding value.  Every time they ask something from a customer, there’s value to the customer.  In every question, in every request, in every action toward a customer – potential value is being given.  This is the first strategy for how top salespeople separate themselves from the other 80%.

Here’s an example.  When asking for the customer’s budget during the qualifying process, some might ask “what budget have you set aside for this project?”  Where’s the value in that question?  What benefit does the customer get from answering that question?

Here’s an alternative way of asking the budget question that includes some value for the customer – “I want to make sure the solution I share with you is aligned with your budget and gives you the benefits you’re seeking.  What would be a responsible investment for this project?”  Asked in the right way and a helpful tone, the customer should see that an honest answer will provide future value – a solution in which the economics are realistic to the customer’s situation and requirements.

During communications with a customer, think first about what value the customer will get by giving you some of his/her time, by answering your questions or responding to your email inquiry.  If you can’t see value from the customer’s perspective, think about how you can modify your communications, so the customer sees value in every interaction. 

Collaborate around Solutions and Concerns

Remember Anthony’s quote earlier – “sales is not something you do to somebody – it is something you do for and with somebody”.  With that in mind, collaborating with your customer to develop solutions that solve problems is a winning strategy because the customer is helping develop the solution with your guidance.  Your close rate will increase when the solutions you present were developed collaboratively by you and your customer.

During your discussions about solutions to solve the customer’s problem, elite salespeople are providing ideas, making recommendations and showing ways their goods and services will achieve the outcome.  Don’t stop here.  During these presentations, ask the customer what they think, what other ideas they have, how they think the solution might achieve the objective.  By integrating their responses and ideas into your solution, you end up presenting a final solution they “own”.

Throughout the sales process, the customer may have concerns.  In the traditional sales training world, these are often referred to as “objections”.  I don’t think of them that way, but rather as questions and concerns the customer has that need to be resolved before we move forward.  Don’t avoid the objections.  Instead challenge the customer to make sure the solution is perfect for them.  If there are questions or concerns, have a collaborative discussion about how the solution can be modified so it becomes the perfect solution for the customer.

If sales is something you “do with someone”, then constant collaboration with the customer is the only way you’ll create the best solution and close the deal.

Control the Sales Process

In most cases your customer isn’t as aware as you of the latest developments in your industry.  Consequently, your customer is relying on you to educate, to challenge, to guide him/her about what is best.  To achieve this and ensure your customer gets the solution that is best for him/her, you must control the sales process.

First, a thorough discovery process is a must.  If you do a poor job or let your customer prevent you from a thorough discovery process, your solution will likely be inadequate to address the customer’s problem.  If your customer grows impatient with your approach, you either need to assess your alignment with your customer or communicate the value he/she will get.

Next, don’t propose too early.  The customer may ask you for a proposal, but if you haven’t effectively collaborated with your customer to create the best solution, you may end up like a lot of salespeople I see – lots of proposals and no closed deals.  Make sure you’ve invested the time and thought necessary to identify the best solution.

When you do offer a proposal, communicate to the customer that it’s a preliminary proposal, and seek his/her input.  Your proposal contains all the ideas you’ve discussed together, and it is designed to achieve the objectives.  But, it may not yet be perfect.  So, take the time to ask the customer what concerns he/she has with the preliminary proposal, and give him/her the opportunity to recommend and discuss changes.

After presenting your preliminary proposal and getting input on changes so your proposal is perfect for the customer, you ask for the sale.  If the customer wants to think about it or wants input from other people before deciding, get a commitment to follow up.  This doesn’t mean asking “when should I give you a call to follow up?”  That’s a weak commitment.

Instead, set up another meeting to resolve any issues and answer any new questions.  You might say something like “If you’re like most people after thinking about it, you’ll likely have come up with some new questions or perhaps someone else has asked you a question you don’t have an answer for.  Let’s set up a time to get back together so I can be available to you to get the answers you want so you make a good decision.  How would (day/time) next week work for you?”  Don’t let the customer go off on his/her own.  Instead get a commitment of time to answer any concerns.


If you’ve shown value throughout the sales process, built trust with your customer, collaborated on potential solutions, and you’ve kept control of the sales process; you will have created a relationship with your customer that is likely stronger than that of your competitors.  This will result in more closed business, happier customers, and your inclusion among the group of elite salespeople.



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