Working habits of a highly successful salesperson

MEST, Tuesday November 27th 2018

This article was contributed by Niko Uusitalo, who has been working at Meltwater in various sales and marketing roles since 2013, and is visiting MEST as an Incubator Fellow for the fall. He has been awarded for individual top results at the Nordic area and led the best performing customer acquisition team in Finland in 2016.

For all aspiring software entrepreneurs, creating a new, amazing product is one thing, but figuring out how to sell consistently is another issue. As an entrepreneur, you are no longer a creator; you are now a business owner and your responsibility is to keep your startup alive.

Too often, companies, which have finished their product, try to sell it for a while by themselves, but after a month or a two give up. They begin to explore possible partners who will do sales on their behalf or try to seek out additional funding when the end of the runway is closing in.

Now, why is that? Often the reason behind this is the fact that sales is hard work and often not fun. Think of a typical New Year’s resolution: you want to get in shape, so you get a membership for the gym. Since working out isn’t actually fun and your muscles get sore, most people give up after a few weeks. That’s basic human psychology.

However, when you take a look at some of the most successful software companies - for example Salesforce, Zendesk, Slack, and Meltwater - you’ll notice that many of them have grown on sales.

In the end, revenue is the heart of your business. If it stops beating, you will eventually go out of business. The department which brings in the cash is your sales department. By generating cash flow you’ll quickly be able to grow your business. With cash flow you can recruit more sales people and grow even faster. Makes sense, right?

So, what makes a great salesperson? Here’s a brief description of six working habits, which separate the best from the rest.

  1. Hard work

In most cases, it’s not the skill, but the will. Top salespeople tend to be highly driven and self motivated. They have hunger for success and are willing to work hard every single day to achieve it. They realize that to get that first one or two deals they need to execute one hundred or more cold calls.  Great salespeople often are competitive and strive to be number one. As with acquiring any skill in life, such as mastering an instrument or getting to be highly skilled in football, it all comes with repetition after repetition. The same principles apply in sales. Most of all, top salespeople have the ability to quickly pick themselves up after failure, and they never quit.

  1. Smart work

Great salespeople know that time is their most valuable asset. Instead of spending half a day writing a proposal or polishing up a presentation that most likely the prospect will glimpse for five seconds, they spend most of their day doing things which are actually valuable. In general, salespeople should be doing three things 90% of their time: prospecting, talking with customers, and closing.

  1. Relationship building

Top salespeople have excellent communications and especially listening skills. They are confident, but humble at the same time. Although many people think that B2B sales is simply a transaction between two organizations, which of course it is, it’s crucial to understand that the actual negotiation is carried out by humans.

In many cases customers buy from you, not from your company. This is why you should show genuine interest towards the customer individually.

  1. Credibility and business acumen

These days people can find all the possible information online. Why should they listen to you? In order to build credibility you have to know your own industry inside out and understand at least the big picture of your prospects’ industries. If your prospects are all from the same industry, you should master that. If you’re starting from scratch, share your thoughts online in the same channels where your prospects are: e.g. writing short blog posts on LinkedIn or participating in industry discussions on Twitter.

  1. Curiosity

Top salespeople are always curious. They proactively seek knowledge on their industry, their customers’ industries, and sales in general. They experiment with new sales tools and tactics and constantly ask for feedback to develop themselves.

  1. High standards and setting KPI’s

Great salespeople set high standards and hold themselves accountable for achieving them. The goals are specific, relevant and measurable. For example, a top salesperson might have a weekly goal for 10 client meetings and a daily goal for 20 cold calls. One of the most enlightening personal sales operations exercises is to build a sales velocity equation, where you can see how changes in the sales process affect overall sales performance. Many top salespeople use this to measure themselves, reflect, and change habits, if necessary.

Interested in learning more about sales? Join us for Sales 101 every week at MEST Accra through December 12th!