I read an interesting article about the odds of becoming a professional football player. Who doesn’t want to be a Messi or Ronaldo? They seem to have reached the holy grail of soccer. They are stars and role models and live the red-carpet life. But they didn’t get to the top by just luck. Of all the children who play in football academies at the age of nine, fewer than 1% make it to professional football. Just in the UK, this statistic means that only 180 from 1.5 million youth footballers are likely to make it all the way to the premier league.
I draw the comparison here to being a top sales professional. According to Statista, around 128 million sales representatives are involved in direct selling worldwide. Using the same 1% statistic of professional football players, do you belong to the 1.2 million top salespeople?
Natural talent will only get you so far in the game. You cannot wing your meetings anymore. Customers demand more from you. They seek value they have not found so far, to help them move forward in their buying process.
If you want to stand out and give your Customer a memorable experience, you need to lead with insights that help your stakeholders see a different perspective of their situation and challenges. Finding these insights requires hard work. If this were an easy task, then all salespeople would do this. But they are not. If you want to belong to the top 1%, you need to deal with setbacks, show hunger and determination to find these insights and challenge yourself to improve continually.
The intangible concept of motivation is crucial for anyone aspiring to make it to the top 1%. It is the driving force behind everything you do. You need to find your calling. Why are you in Sales? When meeting with Customers, what is your purpose? To sell? Or to help? Selling with the buyer’s perspective requires a helping mindset. meaning that you sincerely want to help your Customer to be more successful. It is so easy to fall into the trap of ” selling” without understanding the Customer’s situation and challenges and how you can add value to the conversation. Focus can be difficult to maintain, so you will need to be able to constantly remind yourself of what the end goal is. Ask yourself, after the meeting, what will your stakeholder do:
- Take action and involve more stakeholders, sharing the value you have shared.
- Or do nothing and go back to answering their emails?
You may feel confident and be seen as a subject matter expert by middle management. But how confident are you when going into a boardroom, talking to Business Owners, CEOs, and those at a Corporate level? Dont over-think this and stick to the basics of preparing for a successful senior meeting:
- See Yourself as C-Suite. This is about mindset and self-belief. If you don’t see yourself as worthy of selling to top executives, how do you think they will perceive you?
- Get Right To the Point. Top executives have tremendous demands on their time and are necessarily very protective of that time. They focus on producing business results and avoid anything that has no connection with that. Be friendly, but get straight to the point in your conversations
- Talk about their business, not your products, services or solutions. Don’t even think about pitching your products, services, or solutions. When sitting in that chair opposite the C-suite buyer, your first objective is to be trusted as someone who can help them move their business forward.
A Business Brain
Last but not least, top sales executives have their Customer’s business in mind. They see the world from a buyer’s perspective in every pitch they do and every question they answer. They have gained business acumen, and customers sense this. Reaching that level requires a lot of self-learning outside what your company offers.
- Read (and listen to) the right stuff. … Follow sales bloggers like Anthony Iannarino and Jeb Blount (and thesalesadvice.com). Search on business acumen, business conversations etc. You need to understand what ROI means for a business owner.
- Learn how your customers make and spend money. … Talk to as many customer stakeholders as you can. They all have different knowledge, insights, and views on their part of the business.
- Read the news and business magazines to stay in touch with industry trends. What would these changes mean for your Customers?
Think about what the Messi’s and Ronaldo’s of this world have done to get to the top. What time do you invest in yourself to be in the top 1%? Do you have the right attitude, motivation and confidence? Do your Customers perceive you as someone with a brain for business? Do you have an idea and opinion on how you can help the Customers you will meet tomorrow improve their profits?
To become the best, you need to invest.