Virtually every business professional is expected to develop client relationships, produce revenue opportunities, and help their company compete successfully in the marketplace. So developing sales skills is essential for anyone who hopes to climb the corporate ladder or start their own business. Yet few companies offer sales training to their marketing, finance, customer support, operations, and other customer-facing organizations.
This book describes the authors’ experiences of climbing the Seven Summits, illustrating key elements of the selling process. Put these lessons into practice and you will walk away newly energized, inspired, and equipped with the basic and advanced selling skills you need to achieve your own vision of high achievement.
#1 Commit to the Summit
Every success begins with an ambitious and clearly articulated vision.
It’s never too early to commit to your vision. If you want to run a race, sign up and pay the entry fee. If you want to become a top sales performer, tell yourself and your leader, “I will nail my objective and stand on top.” Without commitment, your dream will never become a reality.
The best sales leaders are more than top performers. They’ve learned to think like a CEO. They inspire and lead by example. They demonstrate that it’s possible to overcome your perceived limitations when you commit, without reservation, to your vision of success.
On the mountain, we say you must “lead from the front of the rope.” To accomplish this in sales, we must be in the field walking the talk. Top performers
- Project their future.
- Write down their summit goals.
- Keep their vision alive through repetition.
- Become an expert in a key area or industry segment.
- Never let discomfort divert them from achieving goals that are realistic
#2 Travel Light
In climbing, there’s no ambiguity about the need to travel light. The more weight you carry, the harder your journey will be. In sales, this takes on another meaning.
We’re living in an age of information overload. As salespeople, we’re burdened with blizzards of e-mails, endless meetings, and countless demands on our time. It can be all too easy to become overwhelmed. Suddenly we may look up and discover that our best-laid plans to focus on revenue-generating activities have been derailed. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The key to success is to de-clutter both our personal and professional lives. In short, we have to take some of the weight out of our backpacks!
How can you do this? The first step is to jettison everything that stands in the way of your ultimate vision of blowing away your quota and becoming a top performer. That means setting priorities every day and then completing every task needed to fulfill them as efficiently as possible.
Start every morning by carefully assessing which activities must be accomplished that day, which can wait, which can be delegated, and, best of all, which can be eliminated entirely.
- Never lose sight of your vision and goals.
- Work backward to determine what you need to accomplish every day.
- Start every morning with a thirty minutes at Base Camp exercise that allows you to pack only what you need that day.
- Accept that you can’t necessarily get everything done in one day, but that you can always get the right things done!
- Fill your backpack with client-facing activities.
#3 Plan the Route
No big mountain is scaled in a single climb. No quota is achieved in a single day. You must create a strategic plan that delineates every step of your journey and includes metrics to measure success along the way. Your sales quota is your big mountain.
planning is essential at every level of an organization, from the mail room to the executive suite. Bill Gates, the cofounder of Microsoft, for example, spent one week alone every six months to Reflect, Reload, and plan for the future. As he told Fortune magazine in 2006, “Right now, I’m getting ready for Think Week. In May, I’ll go off for a week and read a hundred or more papers from Microsoft employees that examine issues related to the company and the future of technology. I’ve been doing this for over twelve years.” Few of us have the luxury of going off on a weeklong planning retreat. But you can certainly devote at least one full day to planning on an annual basis and then carve out time every week to review your progress and update your Market and Account plans. If you invest sufficient time and energy to planning your route, you’re sure to reach the summit of sales success
- Simply selling a product’s attributes fails to establish a customer need.
- Traditional “solution selling” only extracts problems and needs known to the customer, but it fails to educate.
- Top sales performers plan everything. They never wing it
#4 Guide Your Clients to Success
On the mountain, a skilled guide can spell the difference between life and death. In the field, you can make a similar impact on your client and his business by learning to think like a guide, not like a salesperson. But first you must cultivate the skills and expertise required to earn your client’s trust and convince them to “clip into your rope.” Only then can you guide them to success.
As a guide, you’ll discover that success in business—as on the mountain—is something you and your client can achieve together. This is the surest path to reaping the personal rewards and professional recognition earned by top performers. But what exactly is a guide and how can you become one?
In sales, a guide is a wise and trusted teacher who brings deep experience and business insights to the client’s needs and organizational challenges
- To become a top performer, think like a guide, not a salesperson.
- Revisit the Three Ws, with particular emphasis on the What, by listening carefully to your customers’ perspectives on their problems, needs, and goals. Be humble.
- Commit yourself to helping your clients achieve their vision and goals. This is the key to developing strong, trusting client relationships.
- Challenge your clients and reframe their perspectives by sharing your insights
#5 Build Your Sherpa Team
Without help, could you excavate and assemble a windbreak of ice blocks while the wind howled around you? Would you be able to sustain your confidence and strength after weeks of uncertainty, hunger, and isolation? It’s no accident that climbing is typically a team activity. On the mountain, as in business, teams outperform individuals.
Going it alone is neither the safest nor the most efficient way to reach the summit. Inevitably, soloists run smack up against the limits of what they can achieve on their own. Without the support and experience of a team, they can expose themselves to extreme risks that reduce their chances of a successful outcome.
In sales, too, lone wolves can leave themselves vulnerable when they fail to forge the long-term relationships, teams, and networks they need to achieve at the highest levels throughout their careers. They may find intermittent success thanks to their great instincts, confidence, and drive to achieve. But these attributes will only serve them well for a while. Inevitably they will experience a major setback, such as a lost sale caused by their failure to consult with colleagues to confirm the technical feasibility of a proposed solution.
Top sales performers refuse to be stymied by their personal limitations. They set lofty goals and find ways to achieve them on an ongoing basis. Because they recognize that they must rely on others, they establish partnerships with influential members of their civic and business communities to acquire industry knowledge and client access. They invest in building strong relationships with their company’s leaders to secure the organizational resources they need to mount successful sales campaigns. Then they leverage these relationships to recruit and lead cross-functional teams to the summit of sales success.
- Don’t be a soloist. In the long term, teams outperform individuals
- Successful relationships benefit both parties. So commit yourself to helping everyone on your team achieve their vision and goals.
- If you want to secure company resources and support, be an evangelist. Make sure to communicate effectively and often with key players throughout your organization.
- When planning for a meeting, think like a CEO. Assemble a team with the right mix of skills. Anticipate questions, defuse conflicts, and orchestrate the proceedings.
- Follow up after every meeting to ensure that every member of your team fulfills their client commitments.
#6 Execute the Route
You must get to a mountain before you can climb it. In sales, prospecting is the trek that takes you to an opportunity. Traditional prospecting methods, such as cold calls, mailings, and special events, should be considered, depending on the types of products and services you’re selling
Don’t forget to reach out to your existing clients too! You’ve invested a great deal of time and energy into developing these relationships. These clients are your best source of new business. Yet too often, sales reps overlook this simple fact, focusing almost exclusively on finding new clients while neglecting existing ones.
Top performers work hard to strengthen their relationships, connecting with their clients on an ongoing basis to ensure they understand their emerging needs. They update their Account Plans so they can anticipate and pursue new sales opportunities. They know that maintaining a high level of customer touch is a surefire way to meet and exceed their quota.
The digital age has created exciting new ways to reach out to prospects. A wealth of information about companies and decision makers can be accessed instantly via Internet searches and social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Customer Relationship Management (“CRM”) systems can be deployed to organize, analyze, manage, and act on this information easily and efficiently.
#7 Stand on Top
All great achievements are realized by committing to a goal and then working relentlessly to attain it—against all odds!
Working hard is, well, hard! Committing to work hard all of the time is an even more daunting proposition. Making calls and hearing no can take the wind out of anyone’s sails. Let’s face it. Getting beat hurts. The grind is often painful. Quitting is always an option.
Perseverance is the singular quality that Everest summiteers and top sales performers have in common. They both recognize that pain is temporary. They persevere through thick and thin because they have an inner beacon of confidence to draw upon when the going gets tough. They also choose their teams with care.
Perseverance is like a muscle that becomes stronger with exercise and practice. It’s a habit that enables you to approach every personal or professional challenge with focus and determination. We believe that perseverance is the key to a successful and rewarding life.
- High pressure doesn’t sell, perseverance does.
- When you hear “No,” it only means, “Not yet!”
- Surround yourself with people who won’t let you quit.