It’s to be expected that top performing salespeople would have considerably higher total sales, but they also are superior in their win rates and even in the probability that they will achieve their goals when compared to the average salesperson.

Don’t we all want to see ourselves included in this elite group?

Who wouldn’t want to make more money and experience less rejection?

Even though you are willing to work hard at being the best salesperson you can be, you have some doubt. You’re unsure that you have what it takes and hope that you can find the answers online. You even wonder if there are special qualities that these individuals possess that are forever out of your reach.

But there’s good news – these people aren’t special. Maybe it comes easily for some, but that’s an exception to the rule.

Like many situations, the skill gap isn’t the result of a certain personality type, education level, or genetics, but the refinement of a few skills that make all the difference. With a little effort in improving these skills, you can become a great salesperson. Let’s look at them in the order of a typical sales cycle.

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  1. Prospecting: Not Every Customer is a Good Fit

Focusing on filling the pipeline is extremely important to increase the number of sales you can make. Without dedicating a large portion of your time to consistently filling your pipeline, you will ultimately experience feast, famine, and frustration. But to be a top salesperson, you shouldn’t just focus on filling that pipeline. You should concentrate on packing it with quality leads. The three types of prospects that you should focus on are: decision makers, referrals and the ideal customer.

Decision Makers

Your ability to reach decision makers while prospecting and building relationships will increase the likelihood of a deal closing. If they aren’t the decision maker, they don’t have the power to say yes.


Asking for referrals is one of the most effective ways to increase your sales, but it’s oftentimes avoided because it makes you feel uncomfortable. If you’re reaching out to your network, it’s time to get over this feeling and simply changing what you call it may be all it takes to shift your perspective. By asking for “Introductions”, you can immediately feel more comfortable and have more success getting referrals. Just don’t forget to be specific in what/who you are looking for and make sure to leverage your entire network.

Referrals should also come from your current (happy) customers. Jeff Mowatt has a great strategy for asking these customers for referrals. “Phone your satisfied clients and ask them how your product or service has been working for them.   When they rave about your excellent service, ask ‘I wonder if you could give me some advice… (pause) I’d like to contact other people who might also be interested in this, is there anyone who you would suggest I contact?’ That’s it. The key phrase is that you are asking for their advice.   People are so flattered to be asked for advice that in general, they’ll go out of their way to help.”

Ideal Customers

To hit a target, you have to know where to aim. The same is true for finding potential customers. To spot your ideal customers, you need to know who you can help and who you can’t, with what customer market you have the most industry knowledge (or what vertical you plan on specializing in) and build a profile that generally defines that customer.

Is there an ideal customer size? (Do you define size by the number of employees, building size, or some other metric?)

Are you targeting customers with particular assets, specific hours of operation, etc.?

Is there a geographic area that you want to target?

  1. Discovery: Ask Questions First

Sean McPheat coined it well when he said: “Prescription before diagnosis is malpractice.”

It may sound obvious that in order to be an effective salesperson, you need to understand what your potential customers need, but many make the mistake of starting the conversation by talking exclusively about their company and the benefits of their products. Rather, by actively listening to your customer first, you can approach the sale from the customer’s point of view. Understanding their pain points, needs and expectations will allow you to solve their problems first and foremost.

At the start of your meeting, define expectations: lay out your agenda and familiarize yourself with the customer’s agenda by asking questions.

Learn about their company by asking:

  • “What are your goals are as it relates to me?”
  • “What is your timeline is for achieving these goals?”
  • “What problems are you hoping I can solve?”
  • “What is your focus for the meeting?”
  • “How would you define a successful outcome?”

With this information, you will be able to sell more effectively, better position your solution(s), provide insight, and present your product’s benefits in a personalized format. A great salesperson will also understand and have the courage to tell a customer when the product or service they offer is not a good fit.

If you are willing to listen and empathize, you will not only have success helping your customers, but build a reputation as a trusted advisor.

  1. Closing: Presenting Solutions and Handling Objections

At this stage in the sales process, top performing salespeople can offer convincing reasons as to why the customer should make a decision. After the discovery phase, you should be able to assemble reasons that are based on the customer’s priorities and motivations. Because you have seen the problem(s) through the eyes of the customer, you don’t have to resort to presenting everything but the kitchen sink. In some cases, you can even add value by working with the customer and collaborating on a solution tailored specifically for their circumstances.

Don’t forget to present with empathy. If you want to be superior to others, show you care.

What about objections?

In a perfect world, you would never have to deal with objections while closing, but let’s face it, objections are a routine piece to the sales puzzle. What separates elite salespeople from the pack is how they respond to this opposition. In many instances, objections can be eliminated through preparation. A top salesperson will have a system to guide a customer around potential objections that:

  • Starts with a recap to verify the customer’s current situation, pain points and goals
  • Follows that recap up with a recommendation for a next step. Giving the customer two to three options in your recommendation will keep the decision simple while building trust as you position yourself as a trusted advisor.
  1. Post-Sale Relationship Management: Don’t Forget Customers After They Sign

Believing that the sale ends when the customer commits is a big mistake. For many, a signed customer is forgotten and focus is directed back to the sales funnel where new deals can happen. By forgetting to say thank you and continuing to build your relationship with your newly-signed customer, you are risking churn and possibly abandoning potential additional, future business.

First and foremost, it is key that you show your gratitude for a customer’s business. A simple thank you email or card can go a long way in starting a new relationship off on the right foot. Heck, add a Starbucks gift card to your note and tell add a message that coffee is on you. If you can show that you genuinely appreciate your customer’s business, you will see that your book of business will continue to grow over time. Research has even shown that 75% of customers say they have spent more with a company as a result of past positive experiences. Relationships with your customers really make a difference and can ultimately stay with you if or when your contact moves on to other companies.

Selling to existing customers is also much easier than generating sales from new prospects. Increasing business with existing customers allows you to bypass the sales funnel as existing customers already know and trust you and are familiar with the benefits of your product(s). In fact, it costs six times more to attract a new customer than to retain a current customer. Rick Reynolds described it best in his article: To Sell More, Focus on Existing Customers – when he said seeking new sales without strong account management and operating teams is like “pouring water into a bucket with a hole in it”. Stay in contact with your customers. Periodically checking in to see if there is anything you can do to help will open up new opportunities and strengthen your relationship.

Put it all Together: Join the Top Tier

By working to become better at the four skills listed above, you will begin to generate leads that have a much higher chance of closing and will retain your customers for longer.

Rather than filling your sales funnel with any contact that walks in your door so to speak, be strategic and selective in building your funnel. Take a customer-centric approach to your sales and make sure you give your current customers the time and attention they deserve. Who knows what opportunities can come from those relationships.

Working on these skills takes extra effort and most people aren’t willing to put in that extra effort to reap the rewards. By sticking to it, you automatically will lift your performance to the top 5% – 10%. Print these steps out or use them to guide you in outlining your improved sales process. With them, the sky’s the limit!

Looking to go even further? Combine these skills with a value-added approach – an approach used by industry leaders such as Jeff Bezos to achieve amazing results. Read our post Value-Added Selling: How To Transform Your Sales Process To Achieve Greater Success to learn more.

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