By Heinz Bulos
Do you want to know the secrets of top sales performers? What sets them apart from the mediocre and average sales people? How are they able to meet or even exceed targets consistently?
No, it’s not luck. It’s not knowledge. It’s not contacts. It’s not even being an engaging conversationalist. (Although all these elements do help, success in sales is not about what you know, who you know, or what your personality is.)
The best sales professionals share one thing in common: they all have developed the right habits needed to be highly effective in sales.
What are these habits? The best way to find out is to ask the top sales performers who have the credentials, experience, and track record to be credible and authoritative. We talked to six of the country’s foremost sales gurus about their success secrets (see the sidebar “Profiles of Highly Effective Sales Pros”). What we discovered are seven habits that have made them into highly effective sales pros.
Habit #1: Plan, Prepare, and Practice
No one goes into battle without a battle plan. So how come many sales people go out into the sales field with very little or no preparation at all? Power Speak founder Severino “Joey” Reyes III says the three most common mistakes sales people make are “lack of preparation and practice, lack of professionalism, and bad habits.”
When you watch a true sales pro speak with conviction, answer objections with credibility, and engage prospects naturally, it is not necessarily because he is a “born salesman.” More likely, he spent countless hours planning, preparing and practicing.
Inner Sun Consultants founder Raju Mandhyan recalls his errors when he first started in sales: “I didn’t plan. I didn’t maximize my time and energy. I hesitated from cross-selling and up-selling.”
Planning is about strategy. You can do a shotgun approach to sales and hit your numbers, but that can waste a lot of time, money, and energy. As Certified Sales Professional (CSP) ® Ricky de Vera explains, “Before what was inculcated in my mind was that ‘sales’ or ‘selling’ is a numbers game. That if one door if closed, go knock on the next. However, I realized that with the changing dynamics of the markets, quality ‘prospecting’ is also necessary. Otherwise, you just waste your time.”
Rodolfo “Dr. Dups” de los Reyes, founder of RAdelosReyes Management Consultancy, shares his own experience when he was starting out: “My first mistake was to focus on small accounts. My learning: It takes the same effort to earn a small commission from small accounts and to earn an amount many times bigger from a big account. So, I learned early in the game to prioritize huge-potential accounts without necessarily belittling little accounts, because these small ones can become big eventually.”
Preparation, on the other hand, is about acquiring the necessary knowledge about the product you are selling. Motivational speaker, TV and radio personality, and best-selling author Ferdinand “Chinkee” Tan says he used to talk to people “without the right information and skills about the product,” an error he made as a sales novice before. “Instead of people getting encouraged to buy, they reject the idea of the product. I learned that I have to be a product of the product and I should master the product before I sell the product,” he adds.
Chinkee says the right foundation is what he refers to as ASK (Attitude, Skills, and Knowledge). Knowledge, he explains, is about the “company your represent, the industry of selling, products, and compensation plans.” Ricky adds, “Some tested and practical advice to sales professionals are to understand well the product or service features and benefits (with the era of convergence, prospects are more knowledgeable and informed) and to look at ‘selling’ as salesmanship, not just a job but a profession.”
Aside from being prepared with product knowledge, practicing your skills is also very important. What kind of skills? Chinkee says you need to acquire relational skills, communication skills, networking skills, selling skills, presentation skills, and leadership skills. You don’t learn skills by reading books or attending seminars but by doing and developing them day in and day out.
For instance, Dr. Dups attributes part of his sales success to his “ability to work hard at making presentations and practicing aloud, and bothering to be careful with my word choice.”
Habit #2: Start Early, Show Up on Time, and Work Late
You’ve heard of the phrase “The early bird catches the worm,” right? It’s exactly the same for highly effective sales pros. They start early to get a heads up over the competition. While other sales people start their work day mid-morning, the top sales performers are up early and hit the ground running. Not only do they accomplish more by getting more things done, they are also at their peak performance when their energy level is up. And often, they get to “catch” their prospects also at their best and when they’re still available and not stuck in a meeting or off to an appointment.
As Raju advises, “Start early, be there early, and fulfil commitments before time. Go the extra mile in terms of quality and sometimes quantity too. Exceed expectations. Create the ambiance and the environment for the buyer to make a happy, confident decision.”
Forming the right habit when it comes to time management shows utmost professionalism. The poor performers, Dr. Dups notes, are not professional. For example, “not arriving on time, or not bothering to dress up appropriately for the client and the situation.”
Ricky says, “Some common mistakes that I have observed through the years as a trainor and consultant among sales people are they aim to make a ‘quick buck’ by being too pushy in sales; they do not respect the personal time of prospects, some make phone calls at ungodly hours; they do not actually tell everything that is needed to be known and omit the more important parts; and at times, they over promise/over commit to ‘bag the sale’.”
Chinkee sums everything up: “Wake up early. Come home late.”
Habit #3: Develop a System and Follow the Process
It is true that a sale is both an art and a science. The best sales pros develop their own sales system that works for them.
Dr. Dups shares that he keeps innovating tools and systems, “the latest of which is my sales closing inventory which helps me prioritize whom to prioritize when I have a few more days or weeks left for my deadline.” He uses a daily sales plan where he categorizes and prioritizes among whom he visits and at what time, whom to call and at what time, and what to work on (e.g. proposals, course designs). Dr. Dups adds, “I keep innovating whenever I can. For example: revising my marketing tools, e.g. re-designing my resume to make it look more attractive and focusing on what to highlight.”
Once you develop your system, make sure you follow the sales process diligently and not take shortcuts. As Raju shares, “ I practice a lot of patience and follow the sales process organically. I keep track of all little discussions, questions, comments, and objectives. I NEVER jump to conclusions.”
Chinkee explains, “Focus on the process not only at the results.” He uses the ASK (Attitude, Skills, Knowledge) method, what he calls the three Building Blocks in Selling. The process includes developing the right attitude. Chinkee says, “I believe that how high you want to go in life is determined by how you think. How you thought yesterday will determine your actions today. How you think today will determine your actions tomorrow. And how you think tomorrow will determine your future.”
Habit #4: Talk Less and Listen More
It’s a common myth that only talkative and extroverted people will make great sales people. On the contrary, people who talk too much can be a turn-off. Sure, it is good to engage prospects and customers with casual talk, funny anecdotes, and clear explanations. But great conversations are never one-sided. The best sales pros talk less and listen more.
Raju points out that the worst sales people “talk too much, give up too soon, and lack clarity and discipline” while the very definition of a great sales person is one who “talks less, listens more, and delivers the solutions.”
Having an interest in people and sociability are important elements for sales success, says Joey. The focus is on other people, not yourself. He advises, “Listen to your prospects and understand human behavior and learn the nuances of language.”
What you say and how you say it are equally important. Sales people make the error of “carelessness with words,” explains Dr. Dups, “unaware that every word has energy, and that any negative word unconsciously said registers not too well with a client.” To cite an example, instead of saying, “You’re not looking any older,” say, “You’re looking as young as ever.”
Habit #5: Serve and Solve
Quick, what is your main goal in sales? If you answered “To make money,” you are setting up yourself up for failure. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to earn a lot of money. After all, there is a lot of money to be made in sales. However, if you are consumed solely to make money or to reach your quota, you are bound to take shortcuts and make compromises. Maybe you will say anything just to get the prospect to sign up. Perhaps you will not divulge to fine print just to make the sale. Or you push a product that is clearly not to the customer’s best interest, just so you earn a fatter commission.
When Inspire Consultancy CEO Alex Araneta started in sales, he shares that “many of my mistakes are in failing to meet their needs or flat out refusing to meet their needs.” The problem with many sales people, he says, is “thinking short-term, thinking about quota only, and thinking it’s all about the money.” Alex says he has long learned to put his customers first and be a solutions provider. “I love to help people succeed. I am disciplined in my sales process. I pray a lot,” he adds. His advice: “Be a solution provider. Establish trust.”
Chinkee agrees that it should be about the customer, not about the money. He says sales people make sales mistakes because “they pursue money rather than pursuing something they love. They are money-oriented rather than customer-oriented. Closing the sale is not the end but the sale is just the start.” So what makes a sales person great? He explains it is “one who understands the needs and meets the needs of a client; someone who is more concerned and sensitive to the needs rather than the income.”
“My definition of a ‘great” salesperson is someone who has professionalized the calling of sales,” Ricky says. This means the “dedication to continuously improve the skills and attitude, enhance the intention of understanding the needs of the prospect or customer, and be focused in providing the best possible advice,” he adds.
Early on, Dr. Dups learned an important lesson in sales. One mistake he made was to “disregard servicing as an important sales strategy. My learning: the best new prospects are your satisfied existing clients. I lost many good accounts when I neglected them after the first year of sales, and I also lost a huge amount of easy money because I didn’t bother to service my insurance accounts that I had easily closed. As a result, some of them didn’t want to get policies again from me because they said I didn’t know how to service them well.” Since then, Dr. Dups has developed an evolving sense of maturity where “I bother to know my client in detail, in both professional and personal contexts.”
Habit #6: Study and Learn
No matter how successful they are, highly effective sales pros never stop learning and growing. Ricky says the three habits of successful sales professionals are “listen, listen, listen; improve, improve, improve; and learn, learn, learn.”
Joey explains that a great sales person is “one who studies his craft and his industry – reads books, attends seminars, keeps on sharpening the saw, and getting better all the time.”
In his case, he recommends Zig Ziglar’s “Secrets of Closing”, Tom Hopkins’ “How to Master the Art of Selling”, and Todd Duncan’s “High Trust Selling”. Alex points to “Top Performance and Secrets of Closing the Sale” by Zig Ziglar and “The Sales Bible” by Jeffrey Gittomer. Chinkee also swears on Zig Ziglar’s books, and of course recommends his best-seller “How I made My 1st Million In Direct Selling and How You Can Too.”
Raju recommends “Spin Selling,” “Selling with NLP,” and “Neuroscience of Marketing.” On the other hand, Dr. Dups suggest his very own series of three books: “Persuade with Passion,” “Woo Whisper and Win,” and “Focus Your Desire.” He also recommends Og Mandino’s books “The Greatest Salesman in the World” Part 1 & Part 2, W. Clement Stone’s “Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude,” any book by Zig Ziglar, and Tom Hopkins’s book “where I learned about fact finding for the first time.”
Mentors are also important in the growth of these top sales performers. Sometimes they can be your own boss or colleagues. Raju learned a lot from two Jewish gentlemen from New York, “one guy called Leonard Heller and another one called Mark Nitzberg. They were big with stores like Walmart, JC Penny, etc.”
Dr. Dups considers as mentors Rey Mortel of Insular Life, Mon Bello of Award Insurance Agency of Insular Life, and Paul
Agus of Indonesia “during my Amway multi-level networking days, plus the many Amway Diamonds who through the audio tapes we were given trained me with excellent insights and strategies.”
Other times, your own parents can serve as your role models in sales. Ricky shares, “I feel my best mentor would be my dad who was a construction engineer and he needed to be cordial as well as candid with prospects to get contracts. He taught me the power of networking, asking the right questions as well as convincing skills.”
Chinkee says his parents are great sales people: “they can even sell a tooth brush to a toothless person!”
Learning also includes developing a clear sense of purpose. After all, Emotional Quotient or Emotional Intelligence, critical in the sales profession, includes having a highly developed selfawareness. Alex says the best sales person is “somebody who knows why he is in sales and understands what his role is as a salesperson.”
Dr. Dups shares a similar definition: “A great sales person is one who, aside from his effectiveness in sales and closing many deals, keeps working on his personhood, so that he stays humble in his victory or in defeat, and continues to affirm, absolve, and atone (my three A’s for genuine long-term relationships). A great person gives, forgives, and asks forgiveness.”
Habit #7: Persist and Persevere
It is true that sales is a numbers game. As Alex points out: “Quantity of calls = quality of calls.” As Ricky clarifies though, it’s also about finding quality prospects in the first place. But this entails a lot of work. No one says sales is easy.
If there is one common denominator among the best sales pros, it’s perseverance. Dr. Dups attributes his persistence and diligence to his success. On the other hand, poor or mediocre performers make the mistake of “easily giving up or quitting too soon or losing the energy after one or two sales calls.” Or as Raju points out: “They talk too much, give up too soon, and lack clarity and discipline.”
If Nike has the slogan “Just do it!” sales people, says Chinkee, should have these three words in mind, “Never give up!”
Profiles of Highly Effective Sales Pros
We gathered together six of the country’s top sales gurus to share their habits that made them successful in their sales career. Now, they are among the most sought after sales trainers and motivational speakers, with some of them being best -selling authors as well. Here they share how they got started in sales.
I’ve had 10 years experience in brand management and over 13 years experience in sales. As a trainor, I’ve been doing it as a vocation for more than 10 years but professionally only 2 years.
I got into sales when I was offered the sales and marketing director position of LG Collins – a consumer durables company. From there I’ve worked for the government to sell the Centennial Theme Park in Clark Pampanga, and in Apo Floors selling flooring materials. I’ve done a lot of consultancy in sales for companies such as Pet One, Matimco, Bostik, Cebu Overseas Hardware, etc.
When I handled the Expo Pilipino Clark Pampanga Theme Park, I was able to bring in over a million people which was a great feat considering the project had a lot of controversy. In LG and APO Floors, we always had year-on-year double digit growth in volume.
I transitioned into training because for salespeople to succeed, it’s not all skill but their attitude, values and behavior, and this is where I believe soft skills training helps them succeed.
My “Successful Selling Workshop” not only teaches a sales person the skill to succeed but rather what must be in them to succeed long-term. As Todd Duncan said, “The True Measure of Success is Invisible to the Client.”
Dr. Dups de los Reyes
President, RA delos Reyes Management Consultancy
I have 30+ years experience in both sales and training. I was forced by circumstance to sell life insurance when my first baby was born, and I needed additional money for milk and diapers. I first sold for Philamlife Insurance in 1975, then quit after a year when I failed to sell to the one and only millionaire I knew (actually, the daughter, Vicky, of the millionaire whom I didn’t know personally, Washington Sycip). I felt dejected and swore never to sell again because it was frustrating. But after almost a decade, in 1983, when the country’s economy plummeted (owing to the Ninoy Aquino assassination), I had to sell again to have guaranteed additional income, because the company I was working for that time was so new, and I knew that anytime it could close if the economy didn’t improve.
The companies I worked for were Philamlife, Insular Life, GNLD, and Amway. All through these adventures in sales, I was working full-time in PROSEC Inc, a training consultancy company. So, all my sales awards I was able to achieve through part-time involvement. This is another lesson in successful selling: hard work and persistence.
In life insurance (Insular Life), I was the Award Agency Top Underwriter for 1985, and one of the top five Million-Peso Producers of Insular Life nationwide, and was in the Top Seven of top underwriters for 1985 and 1986, and had many more top awards.
In multi-level networking (GNLD, based in USA), I was the top networker in March 1996, and was always in the top three for the entire year. And of course, now that I am on my own, my continuous sales results (bottom line income for my firm) continue to soar, and all this is because of professional salesmanship.
I transitioned to the training business in 1976 when I decided to leave International School where I had been English chairperson (the first Pinoy to be such). Why? I had thought that staying in the academe would be limiting for me, and I was quite intrigued to see what was behind all the tall buildings in Makati, because I saw the skyline from the previous location of International School Manila in Bel-Air.
There was a training group that time that went to I.S. to recruit instructors for speed reading. I took the course, and before I knew it, I was Executive Vice President of the group, focusing on marketing and sales. I was doing sales presentations to corporations and schools nationwide, and I was also redesigning the program. Quite a comfortable leap from my teaching comfort zone to a new business courage zone. Reading, indeed, is needed both in school and for continuing business success. The new thing then was speed reading, with comprehension, of course. I was able to start reading full-length books in only one sitting (20 to 30 minutes) and still get good comprehension.
All our programs are flagship. The most essential program is “Professional Salesmanship” for three days. “EQ in Salesmanship” in three days would also be excellent. What makes our programs different is a combination of persona and unique input, emphasizing the importance of personhood in salesmanship or in anything a person does. I have my own unique experience to share, highlighted by my “big bang” which taught him to stop his arrogance and work on his humility. This is an experience and a lesson that no other person can duplicate, and I share the depths of this uniqueness with my other trainers and facilitators, whatever the training program is.
Ricky de Vera
Chairman Emeritus, Philippine Marketing Association
I have had 20 years of salesmanship experience – combining work as well as being into the training business of ensuring sales people becomes sales professionals.
Sales started as early as in high school when I would be selling items during school bazaars as well as when we were requested to sell concert and raffle tickets in school.
My top achievement is being able to see the people we trained become successful in hitting their targets. We have been known as the “Game Changer” trainors who have been instrumental in the growth and shaping of thousands of sales professionals in the country as well in the ASIAN region.
The love for training and development is probably hereditary since my parents have been teachers and I as well was connected with the academe of two prestigious schools in the country.
Our flagship training workshops/learning sessions are Strategic Sales Planning, Effective Sales Management, and Service Salesmanship, From Selling To Salesmanship, Tactical Sales Interventions, Professional Sales Negotiations, Improving Persuasion And Convincing Skills, Questioning And Probing For Better Results and High-Impact Presentation Skills. (Ricky de Vera’s Official Blog)
President, InnerSun Consultants
I have 15 years experience in international sales. I’ve sold across several continents and cultures. I’ve been conducting sales training for over 5 years now.
I first sold turnkey, engineering projects in India for a company called Blue Star Ltd. Then I sold commodity futures, like stocks, like gold, silver, copper, orange juice, etc., for a company called AAA Commodities and Futures Trading in the Philippines. I finally sold soft goods to global department stores in the USA, Latin America, Europe, etc., for Glorious Commercial Exports in the Philippines. Now I sell my training and consulting services here in the Philippines.
My most notable achievement was bringing in US$3.5 million in one year, singlehandedly.
I was “discovered” by the training manager of the British Council in Manila, in 1998, and he insisted I do training. I used to head business associations then and, also, run my own enterprise.
My series of three programs called HeART2HeART Subtle Selling Skills, HeART2HeART Persuasion Principles and Practices, and HeART2HeART Sales Coaching and Management. These three programs are inter-related and they carry very deep, profound and practical philosophies about how people meet, trust, deal, support and lead each other.
The science behind these three programs is drawn from the schools of Whole Brain Thinking, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Systems Thinking, Appreciative Inquiry and the examples, the cases and all the activities are drawn from my experiences and successes from the University of Hard Knocks because that is where most of the world’s best salespeople come from.
All these programs, now, have also been adapted and charged with skills, strategies and techniques needed for the new, cyber, online sales people.
Severino “Joey” Reyes
President, PowerSpeakI started selling in 1973. My first job was selling educational books; it was a summer job. I also sold industrial tapes for a while. Then I sold resort shares and printing services. My longest stint was with real estate sales. I joined Fil-Estate Realty Corporation as a Sales Rep and worked my way up to Area Sales Director. After Fil-Estate, I went to Uniwide Group of Companies and set up the Uniwide Realty and Resources Corporation in house marketing and sales group. I also set up two more real estate marketing companies, before dabbling a bit with non-life insurance when the Asian Crisis hit.
Fil-Estate had a good training program and I think most of what I know now I learned from the company through the many training programs they sponsored since the founders of Fil-Estate Toti Carino, Ferdie Santos and Bob Sobrepeña were all believers of training.
I had numerous awards but I consider as my achievement the successful setting up of three marketing companies that did very well in sales. It was the recruitment and training of the salesforce that led me to my current passion now in training people to their full potential.
The training department once cancelled a program and since my people were already coming I took over the training room and did the program myself. The training director at that time –Mon Manawis – saw me and “discovered” me. Since then he started asking me to pitch in for him and I got better and better and enjoyed it.
As a sales manager I also had to train my group so training was an important skills to reach our targets. If you trained them well you got more sales. So I had to polish and refine my training skills.
Our flagship sales program is called PowerSales. It is a complete course from Prospecting to Closing. I have taken the concepts and theories of selling and combined it with human psychology with my actual selling experience. I also teach a course on Personal Awareness and Leadership so I intertwine the selling skills with a powerful mindset. Skills and Attitude is the winning combination. Participants who attend my courses come out with a strong mindset and effective skills.
Ferdinand “Chinkee” Tan
Motivational Speaker and Best-Selling Author
I have been in the field of sales since age 12 and have been doing it for over 35 years. Do your math. Lol!
I was an executive distributor and top earner of a home care company, a team top earner of a weight loss company, a diamond executive of a food supplement company, a top general agent for an insurance company where I sold over P2 billion worth of policies in two years time, and a top sales agent for a real estate company where I sold over 35 units in two months time, which no one has achieved up to now.
Having been involved in selling since 1977 and helping over 50 individuals make their first million, the point came when I felt my time to do business was already up. So I sold all my interests and shares to my partner. Yet even after my retirement from the industry in October 2006, my passion and joy to help other people fulfil their dreams remains —and there is no better way to do that than to teach them the encouraging potential of selling as a career.
Being part of the selling industry for over three decades, it has not only been good to me and my family, but has also allowed me to develop many life-long relationships which money can’t buy. I believe in the quote, “To whom much is given, much is required!” Since I have experienced so many blessings from this industry, I would also like to give back to it and share my experiences with others who are also in the quest for making their first million in direct selling.
As a sales manager I also had to train my group so training was an important skill to reach our targets. If you train them well, you got more sales. So I had to polish and refine my training skills.
Reading and attending other training seminars are great but nothing beats when you win your scar battles due to personal experience.
What sets me apart from other authors and speakers is that I base what I teach not only on materials or books that I have read, but more largely on my personal life experiences. I walk the talk.
I now develop and write sales and training programs for other sales and direct selling, real estate, and insurance companies. I strongly advocate teaching people and helping them be their own bosses by becoming successful entrepreneurs.
All six are featured speakers at the National Sales Congress on May 3, 2012 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City. This is a joint project of the Sales & Marketing Institute (SMI) Philippines and Learning Curve Inc. For more information, visit www.iluvlearning.com/national-salescongress. Or call Learning Curve at Landline: (632) 696-6981 or 514- 9276, Telefax: (632) 570-7506, Globe: 0917-5632755. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org