Blocks to Sales Success: Are You an A, B, or C Salesperson?

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What is the difference between an A, B, or C Salesperson? Based on over twenty years of sales training experience and research, I’ve noticed that many salespeople do not meet their monthly targets or optimize their territory. In fact, few achieve 85% to 100% of their plan. In some cases, their prospects and clients are willing to meet with them, and so they labor under the assumption that they are, in fact, great salespeople. When it comes to considering the success of a salesperson, it is not just their percent of plan to consider; it is also all the proactive activities that salespeople engage in. The quality of the prospects and the quality of sales activities need to be correlated to gain excellent results. A high-quality prospect or client serviced by a poor salesperson will eventually leave. Unfortunately, the client rarely gives a three-month notice for the salesperson to improve. Therefore, it is important for a salesperson to be constantly up-leveling their knowledge, skills, and attitude to become the A-level salesperson they desire, and deserve to be.

The quality of your sales activity directly affects the quality of your deals. Here is a sales effectiveness formula: the number of qualified prospects, times the amount of quality effort you put in, equals the number of quality deals you do. This formula represents how A Salespeople manage their territory. When salespeople have an abundance of quality prospects, and they use quality processes and systems to develop those prospects, their success is guaranteed. In other words, QPXQE = QD ($$$).

What is interesting about A salespeople is that they are always open to improving their own sales processes and behaviors. Of course, those who are not as vigilant fall into the B category because, instead of improving their sales activity, they defend and justify their lack of sales, as compared to their A colleagues. The A salespeople are always looking to improve; I call them Elite and Top Performers. They sell more regardless of the market conditions.

CEOs all want big-game hunters and closers, the Elite and Top Performers, on their team. However, most teams consist mainly of C and B level salespeople, those who talk four minutes out of the five during the client meetings and focus on rapport. It is the A-level salesperson who asks quality questions and focuses on credibility and knows how to co-opt other decision-makers in the company as part of their team. They don’t just engage with one contact; they work with several contacts in the same company to leverage his or her influence throughout the organization.

The A-level salespeople know the three key attributes of successful sales leaders: they inspire, they educate, and they challenge. Salespeople unable to acquire these attributes cannot reach the A level of performance. Although a C Salesperson might want to inspire and educate, they cannot challenge the client because they are too afraid of having the client dislike them.

The B Salespeople coast along at or near budget, sometimes meeting and sometimes missing their goals. They don’t have a strategy for optimizing their sales systems and processes. Salespeople in this group can be more defensive than those in group C, because often the C Salespeople already know that their performance is subpar. But a B Salesperson is someone who may accomplish 95% of their plan but not feel despair because they make up for it next quarter. It is better to be a C salesperson who knows it than a B salesperson who considers themselves to be an A. The B salesperson who considers themselves to be an A salesperson is in denial, and justifies and defends their behavior rather than constantly seek to add new skills to their toolkit.

Here is an example of up-leveling a sales protocol: Most voice mail messages take about a minute for the caller to listen to before leaving their message. Moreover, the clear majority of the messages are the same as their competitors are. Typically, the caller hears this:

“You have reached the voicemail of Tom Brown. I am either on the phone or away from my desk right now. Leave your name and number and a brief message and I will get back to you as soon as I can.”

Voicemail has been in use for about thirty years now. You no longer need to leave instructions. And telling your callers that you are on the phone or away from your desk is a moot point. How does this add to your professionalism? In addition, the commitment to return their call as soon as you can is lukewarm and does not inspire confidence. Your voicemail message is a key opportunity to demonstrate your accountability, credibility, and professionalism.

You simply need to say, “Hello, this is Name LastName, and my goal is to call you back in four hours.” That’s it! Your clients know what they need to do; they know when you’re going to call them back and that’s all that they’re interested in. The same works when you leave messages for your client; make them concise and meaningful. Remember, those who speak succinctly convey a leadership message and are perceived as a person of power and a high-status communicator. Let’s imagine the opposite scenario: Say that a client or prospect is driving and decides to return a call you made to them earlier. They hear a long-winded message and must pull over to get the content. That’s annoying and you were the source of their annoyance. Make yourself stand out from the crowd by using your voicemail and messages to represent yourself as an A-level professional. This phone process is just one point of optimization for sales reps. When you take an in-depth look at your sales activities and up-level all of them, you will also up-level your bank account, your reputation in your company, and your industry.

The B Salesperson is not 100% accountable (although they might be 70% or 80%), which means that if something goes wrong, they’ll deal with it, but they’ll likely make excuses. The C salesperson will completely defend and justify what happened, assuming very little responsibility for the cause or solution.

Ask yourself where you stand in regards to using low-level language. Some examples of low-level language are I’ll try, I intend, and maybe. In other words, low-level language is not accountable. As an A salesperson, you will say:

“You can count on me. I will see to it that it gets done. In fact, I won’t go to bed tonight until I have done everything that I can to make it happen.”

As I write this chapter, I am working with a client in executive coaching. His language began as the language of the ordinary. It was peppered with equivocal words such as try, might, think, and intend instead of the language of leadership. Last week I asked, “How are you doing with your leadership language?” He replied, “You know; I am really trying.” I couldn’t help myself. I responded, “Really trying…that’s low-level language.” Instead of becoming defensive, he said, “Let me rephrase that: I am being very vigilant in listening to the words that come out of my mouth.” Ah, there is a sales rep well on his way to becoming an Elite Performer; he is optimizing everything, including his language. What are your words worth?


This article is an excerpt from my upcoming publication:

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Sara Haynes, P. Eng.
President
Sigma Solutions

“I took advantage of Alice Wheaton’s offer for a free 30-minute consultation…but we chatted for almost an hour, during which I had several epiphanies that have inspired and motivated me to move forward. These were ideas that I could immediately start working on to help me get new clients and increase recurring revenues. This is what I call Value on Steroids!”

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