5 Characteristics of the Best Salespeople in Sports

5 Characteristics of the Best Salespeople in Sports
by Andre Luck – September 2015

As an Inside Sales Manager I am often asked what the best salespeople do to be the best.  Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to manage or mentor over 100 salespeople so far in my career. I have seen many times what the top performing salespeople have done to separate themselves from their peers.  What makes these salespeople great?

Attitude

One of the most important characteristics of a successful salesperson is the attitude you bring to the office every single day.  Although, being positive and having a smile on your face is important, bringing the right attitude to the office is more than just that.  As a salesperson it means fully embracing your role as a salesperson that is tasked with generating revenue for your organization.  It means having a confidence and assertiveness that will help you close sales and overcome tough objections from customers.  And most importantly it means being in total control of how you react to all situations. One of my favorite quotes that I share with every one of my new hires is from Charles Swindoll that says “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” I tell my salespeople that no one else is in control of your attitude but you.

Work Ethic

When I was a sales rep I took great pride in my work ethic. I look to hire salespeople with a strong work ethic as well.  Sales is a numbers game. More times than not, the people who put in the most work are at or near the top of the sales board.  Come early, stay late, make five more phone calls, set one more face to face appointment, do whatever is needed to put yourself in the best situation to succeed. Hard work is not the only recipe to success, but long term success is impossible without it.

Consistency

It seems simple: Be consistent. Do the little things right every single day.  But, it’s tough to do. Consistency requires great discipline. It’s easy to fall into bad habits.

Travis Baker
Travis Baker

Travis Baker, Inside Sales Manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks says, “There isn’t much that separates the good reps from the great reps on our staff.  Because of our hiring process everyone is talented and everyone works hard.  So it comes down to day in and day out consistency, as well as a refusal to lose.”

Make a conscious effort to stick to the fundamentals. Do the little things right every day that others do not have the discipline to do. It adds up after a full sales campaign.  I always feel more confident in a salesperson’s long term success if s/he produces revenue consistently instead of making a big sale every now and again.

Discomfort

Some of the best advice I ever received: If you are not stepping out of your comfort zone, then you are not challenging yourself to grow.

For most new salespeople, it’s uncomfortable to strike up a conversation with a random stranger. It’s uncomfortable to ask someone you just met (and then tells you no multiple times) to spend thousands of dollars.  But, you are tasked with doing this as a salesperson.  The fear of the unknown is too much of a risk for some. They play it safe. They stick with comfortable.  The best salespeople understand that if they do not take risks–do not get out of their comfort zones–then they will not reach their full potential.

Initiative

All sales reps typically have the same resources at their disposal.  They receive the same training, same types of leads to call, and the same products to sell.

Success comes down to what you do with the opportunity.  Look at inside sales as more than just another job. The best reps see it as the start to their careers.  They are all-in. They give 100% commitment to whatever it takes to be the best.  Losing is never an option.  When things don’t go their way they don’t make excuses. The best reps proactively seek help from a boss, a mentor, or peers. Even when there’s little overall sales momentum, they find ways to create momentum for themselves and their sales team.  During training with new hires I always share a quote from Will Rogers, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

Show me the money? The truth behind effective sales commission plans

Show me the money? The truth behind effective sales commission plans
by Jeff Tanner – July 2013

Are salespeople motivated just by the $ sign?

Show Me the Money

Perhaps the greatest myth in sales is that salespeople are only in it for the money, especially when it comes to sponsorships and premium sales in sports.

Our research regarding salesperson motivation showed money as the primary motivator for no more than 15% of all salespeople. What about the rest?

Since money should follow performance, the majority are motivated more by:

Independence, Challenge, anGenuinely serving customers

So, that’s what motivates salespeople. What’s the number one way de-motivate salespeople? 

Let’s talk about the role of incentives and commissions and then we’ll get to how to lose your best salespeople.

The Value of Incentives & Commissions

[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]

george killebrewA commission plan must be consistent year to year and fairly simple to understand. We have made only minor adjustments over the last 12 years.

Salespeople do their best when consistency exists and they aren’t thrown a bunch of curve balls.

Money is not the only motivating factor. In fact I think it isn’t even the most important. The ability to have a sense of autonomy, to feel like you are an important team member, to feel like you work for a company that values you, are all important factors to sales success.

mavs logo~ George Killebrew, SVP Business Operations, Dallas Mavericks

[/dropshadowbox]What compensation structure works best to direct salespeople’s activity?

Short term sales incentives are effective motivation when sales tasks are (a) repetitive and (b) don’t require a great deal of creativity. The intrinsic nature of the job just isn’t enough; it takes creative incentives, including well-designed contests to focus salespeople on the right activities. Dangle a carrot in front of a ticket rep and get out of the way. 

Incentives don’t work as well for sales positions like sponsorships that require a lot of (a) creativity, (b) customer care, and have (c) long-term sales cycles.

How to demotivate your sales force

Commissions are excellent motivation to sell and service key accounts in sponsorships or premium ticket sales. You know you’ve succeeded at demotivating your sales force if any one of them begins saying things like, “They cut my commission!” “They keep changing the plan.” Or the worst one, “They owe me…”

In spite of the motivating power of incentives and commissions, organizations can also find ways to break the trust with their salespeople:

  1. Delaying an announcement of compensation plan details: salespeople don’t know what to sell, 
  2. Lowering commission rates in the middle of the selling season in order to boost profits by lowering pay, and
  3. Delay payment while quibbling over minor points in the plan.

Yes, you can just get more salespeople to replace the ones who leave. But when you finally get some good ones back on the team, how many sales were lost?

Solutions

Spend the time to run the compensation plan through tests before launching it. What’s the worst case scenario? The best case?

Think like a rep and figure out what the best sales strategy is to maximize compensation. Can you live with that result?

And plan for a surprise – like adding a bonus mid-selling season. While nothing demotivates like cutting commission after the fact, nothing has more motivating power than a seemingly-random occasional extra reward.

Greg Grissom
Greg Grissom

As Greg Grissom, Vice President of Corporate Development at the Houston Texans, concludes, ”The right compensation plan is a key tool in sales leaders tool kit to ensure you clearly communicate where success lies both individually and as a team.  By incenting the behaviors and outcomes, salespeople clearly understand where they need to spend their time and effort.”

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