How Are Successful Salespeople Seen by Customers?

We instinctively understand that salespeople who regularly produce excellent results and those who don’t have different levels of competence and expertise. For many years, active discussion and research have defined those differences. You can hire and train people that fit that profile if you can identify the behaviors associated with success. Models of high performance have been built on the foundations of competency studies, formal academic research, anecdotal stories, and insights from sales managers and executives. Ultimately, these models revolve around some degree of customer focus as a salient, unifying concept, face-to-face product knowledge, and relationship skills.

After working for many years with various sales organizations, we at C-Lens Index have concluded that all these research and discussions depict a salesperson focused on providing value during the sales process. In other words, the consumer truly gains from the sales experience before and throughout the subsequent relationship. For instance, the discovery process yields new understandings regarding needs and their impact on the company, allows for the creative configuration of products and services to the circumstance, makes use of the salesperson’s network of resources, and discusses application ideas and examples from other sources in the customer’s industry. Overall, the relationship becomes a value-added service from the vendor through the sales process. According to our perspective, a salesman who understands that providing this value is essential to his or her job and whose behavior reflects that concept will outperform those primarily concerned with product, fulfillment, or price-based selling.

We have recognized the behavioral markers of that relationship that is rich in value and applied them to gauge what customers are truly experiencing during the sales process. These indicators, which we refer to as “Sales Actions,” reflect the conduct and mindset of a salesperson committed to maximizing customer value. In a recent C-Lens Index scan for a manufacturing company, we gathered information on the salesperson’s performance from over 400 clients. We questioned them about how frequently they witnessed the sales acts and how significant they felt those actions were. We compared the outcomes of salespeople rated as High Performers with those placed as Poor Performers while evaluating the data. Our client described them in terms of dependable long-term effects and a reputation for professionalism within the organization. We dealt with eight salespeople from each group out of the 58 salespeople in our sample. The findings shed light on the behaviors that customers observe High Performers engaging in more frequently than Poor Performers.

Top performers are frequently observed carrying out all sales actions.

Customers perceive High Performers as more fully showing every C-Lens Index sales action than do Low Performers overall. This demonstrates that High Performers are viewed differently in the eyes of the client, which supports the validity of the C-Lens products and concept. High Performers had an average frequency score of 64.28 percent, while Poor Performers scored 47.75 percent. The more significant variations will be covered below. Yet, it’s crucial to emphasize that these sales tactics are linked to success and are geared toward giving the customer a valuable experience. Customers reportedly notice this difference.

The Widest Disparities Between Top and Bottom Performances

Out of the 28 Sales Actions, we found 12 where High Performers outperformed Low Performers by at least 20 percentage points regarding customer perception of frequency. Since the sample size was insufficient for statistical analyses, we decided that a 20% arbitrary difference would be adequate to identify patterns or commonalities between the groups. The sales actions listed below have the most significant disparities between high and low performers.

1. asks probing, detailed inquiries about my needs and business.
2. focuses on what I say and how I say it to determine what is on my mind.
3. reassures me that the staff of the vendor company working with me has experience and skill in meeting needs
4. discovers additional beneficial resources for me that may also be able to meet my demands.
5. Always describe difficulties in a diplomatically straightforward manner.
6. Describe how the vendor’s business, goods, and services differ from other suppliers.
7. provide specific, understandable instances of how the vendor company, its goods, or services will benefit my clients and me.
8. answers my worries, genuine or perceived, directly and inventively.
9. takes the necessary actions within the vendor firm to complete projects for me on time.
10. Uses internal/external specialists and resources to maximize the value to me of the vendor company’s products and services
11. ensures that my business and I will benefit from the products and services as promised
12. Keep up to date with my company’s performance, strategy, recent developments, and emerging needs.

The most intriguing thing this informs us about High Performers versus Poor Performers is:

Basic face-to-face selling techniques are more commonly practiced by high performers. We assume that being at ease with applying these core skills—asking questions (1) and listening (3)—effectively indicates high performance. Poor Performers’ lower frequency may indicate a need for training, a lack of expertise, different teaching and supervision methods, or subpar execution.

Top performers are also more likely to show how specific product or service features can be used. Fluency and confidence in product knowledge are reportedly indicators of good performance [Explain how uniquely different (6), Give clear examples (7), and other basic face-to-face skills]. It is one thing to list features and advantages. Still, quite another to provide compelling accounts of how a product’s or service’s uniqueness manifests itself and how its applications benefit users.

High performers more regularly offer resources and knowledge to the sales process that can benefit the client and, if necessary, aid in problem-solving. [Find other resources (4), Creatively address concerns (8), Use internal/external experts (10),] This suggests an openness to leverage the value that salespeople have cultivated in their networks as well as to widen out the scope of the customer’s situation and open it up to creative problem-solving.

High performers demonstrate empathy by assuring the client that they are in good hands and acting diplomatically [Reassures me the team has experience (3) and Always remains straightforward (5)]. Does this result from having higher emotional intelligence or prior experience handling challenging situations? These Sales Moves could imply the High Performer is more “tuned in” to the customer’s reactions as the relationship progresses.

Thirdly, High Performers are perceived as more regularly invested in the buyer and the customer’s business. These higher-order sales actions—[Ensures benefits (11) and Stays updated and informed (12)]—require work and some risk since they expose the chance that the customer may not receive what they paid for. Yet this proactive investigation into the results of product and service applications and client status is a sign of genuinely caring about the consumer’s needs.

new characteristics of high performers

Although this study is inconclusive, it offers some insight into what clients see in high- and low-performing salespeople. For starters, consumers of high-performing salespeople witness all of the Sales Actions performed more frequently than those of Low Performers. While some of these Sales Actions are marginally more frequent in High Performers than in Poor Performers, most Sales Actions exhibit a sufficient gap to elicit inquiries regarding the factors influencing customers to notice these variations. We’ll have to wait and see if these behaviors are more “visible” due to experience, the deliberateness with which they’re used, or something else.

Examining the more significant gaps (those of 20% or more) reveals an intriguing set of hypotheses. We will present them as questions rather than as definitive statements that hopefully encourage more conversation about what is at the root of good performance in salespeople.

1. Do High Performers possess greater comfort and proficiency with more information about customers, their businesses, and how goods and services are used than Poor Performers?
2. Do Top Performers have more extensive networks and effective working connections with various resources inside and external to the vendor company?
3. Are High Performers inherently more empathic, or at the very least better able to recognize the problems that customers are suffering on both a personal and professional level?
4. Is it conceivable that High Performers are more concerned with satisfying clients, guaranteeing the worth of goods and services, and establishing a long-lasting, fruitful relationship?

Although the answers to these questions have not yet been established, the study’s data hints that knowledge and abilities alone cannot produce high-performing salesmen. If these findings are accurate, then perhaps one step on the road to high performance is teaching salespeople about the part they can play in their clients’ commercial and professional success.

For more than 25 years, Michael D. Maginn has worked in the field and researched selling. To create customized sales training programs, he has interviewed hundreds of salespeople across various industries, always looking for the traits that distinguish high performers. He completed one of several essential sales competency studies and ensuing best-selling sales programs while serving as vice president of research and development for The Forum Corporation. Since then, he has collaborated with numerous sales companies to define how the sales process may enhance the customer experience while serving as the president of Singularity Group, Hamilton, Massachusetts. He is the creator of the C-Lens Index. This sales assessment instrument collects information on the customer’s perception of the sales process and the author of the bestseller 5 Skills of Master Salespeople.

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