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The Top 5%: How to Be One of the Most Successful People in Sales

The Top 5%: How to Be One of the Most Successful People in Sales
July 11, 2018

What’s the best sales experience you’ve ever had?


I’ll let you think about that one.


Now, can you give me an example of a bad sales experience you’ve endured?


When I’m running a sales training workshop, I ask everyone these same two questions.


The Good and The Bad: It All Started with a Clapped-Out Car


Often, the group struggle to come up with even one good selling experience. But when I ask about their horror stories, the floodgates open!


And there’s a pattern here, too. Can you guess how most of the anecdotes start?


“Well Sandy, I went to buy a car and...”


It still surprises me. Having known several excellent people who are also reputable members of the motor-trade. But this is a trend that hasn’t changed for years. What do car salespeople do to earn their craft such a bad reputation?


The Downright Ugly (How To Lose Money and Alienate Customers)


One young woman told me about going to buy a new car with her boyfriend. The pair started off in a well-known, national, used car dealership. They were greeted cordially on arrival. But as soon as they began their tour of the showroom, the salesman proceeded to direct the entire conversation at her boyfriend.


Needless to say, she did not buy her new car there!


I’m not sure if the salesman was a misogynist or a moron. But I can’t imagine this tactic ever did his sales targets any favours.


What's Wrong with the Used Car Salesman?


Let’s see what’s going on.


Back in the early 1960’s, research was carried out to find out which characteristics are present in the top 5% of salespeople.


Why do the ‘Top 5’ consistently out-perform their peers, beat average sales figures and invariably achieve way beyond their targets?


2 Top Traits of the Most Successful Salespeople


Here are the two traits that stood out:


1. Ego Drive - He wants and needs to make the sale for his own satisfaction - not merely for the financial gain. In other words, he’d driven by more than just money. He has to successfully close the sale to protect his own self-esteem. And anything less is a miserable failure.


2. Empathy - His inherent ability to understand how other people feel. This ability helps him to build an emotional connection with his customers and to be reactive, in order to adjust his sales pitch for each individual.


(I apologise for talking about all salespeople as ‘he’ here but this research was done decades before there were many saleswomen around.)


The Point of Balancing Ego Drive and Empathy


The top-performing salespeople managed to strike the perfect balance between ego drive and empathy. Why? Because ego drive provides the motivation to succeed and empathy provides the tools they need to connect with their customers.


So, where was our car salesman going wrong?


He had a strong ego drive but no empathy.


But you need the balance.


Without a strong ego drive, we’re unlikely to make the jump from feeling empathy for someone to making an emotional appeal that supports our sales pitch.


If (like our car salesman) you have a strong ego drive but lack empathy, you won’t be able to build the trust and rapport that’s necessary to connect with your customers, make sales and win their repeat business. Being willing to make the sale at all costs (with no regard for the customer) is neither sustainable nor is it a top percentile strategy.


It’s not just what you sell - it’s how you sell it. Selling is a conversation which helps the potential customer make their buying decision. It’s all about building rapport with honesty and integrity.


If you want to be a top-performing salesperson you must learn to balance your ego drive with your ability to empathise.


To illustrate, let me tell you about a friend of mine.


Selling Skills from a Car Salesman Who Conquered Customer Loyalty


Stephen was the top performing salesman in a local garage. I’ve bought a few cars from him myself, in fact. And he's sent several of his own salespeople to my selling skills workshops, over the years. But the last time I saw him, he was serving pints behind the bar at our local rugby club.


We got talking over a few beers. He hadn’t left the sales world completely but he had moved into a new business sector since I’d seen him last. A keen player in his younger days, he was helping out at the club in his spare time.


He is still achieving great results. And he was kind enough to explain why.


I jumped at this rare opportunity to quiz Stephen on his sales philosophy. He told that his goal with every new customer was to get off to a good start. So, to begin with, he’d talk about everything except cars. He’d ask them about their lives, their families, what they did for a living - and from this, they’d naturally begin talking about why they needed a new car. And gradually, the customer would get into what they were looking for in a vehicle. At this point, Stephen would start suggesting the car he thought would suit them best and why.


Stephen had a wonderful way with people and he made a special effort with customers who came back to buy from him again.


How to Balance Ego Drive and Empathy to Win Repeat Business


As they drove into the car park, he would recognise the registration number and check their record against his database. By the time the customer had come into the showroom, he’d remembered exactly who they were, what car they’d bought from him last and a few personal details he’d jotted down the last time they’d met.


Immediately, Stephen was able to start the conversation in a friendly, interested manner and put the customer at ease. Yes, this might have been something he’d have been able to do ‘naturally’. Stephen genuinely cares about his customers but with so many of them, why leave it to chance?


Stephen is full of success stories (rare for a car salesman, apparently) particularly when it comes to securing repeat business. He sold a car to a friend of mine one summer and within 6 months, the lady had told all of her work colleagues how well she’d been treated by Stephen. During the following year, four of her colleagues made the 100-mile round-trip to meet Stephen and all purchased new cars from him (more than once).


That’s an achievement on any sales floor, let alone one that’s famous for traumatising its customers. A testament to my friend Stephen but also to the power of balancing empathy and ego drive.


Want your sales team to score in the top 5%? At Sales Coach Scot, we’ll improve your team’s performance by teaching them how to strike the perfect balance between empathy and ego drive. Our skills-based coaching style delivers consistent and reliable results. To book your tailored sales training session, call Sandy on 01828 632744 for a chat.


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