Ninety Thousand Hours

Traits of top performing enterprise sales professionals

The world has changed

Many tech and SaaS companies that have enjoyed ‘champagne sailing conditions’ over the last 10 years are now facing their first-ever recession.

No wind means it’s time to put the motor on or risk bobbing along wayward in a rough sea.

  • The honeymoon period is over.
  • The workplace has changed. Globally.
  • Buying decisions have changed.
  • Products now fall into one of two categories; essential and non-essential and for many Enterprise Sales Executives, their prospects are being tasked to cut costs rather than invest.

So we felt it right to talk about what Top Performing Enterprise Sales professionals do and how they behave.

Before we get into it, here at Ninety Thousand Hours we have our own unique, data-driven methodology of qualifying top performers, but I’m not going to talk about that now, as it might sound more like a sales pitch for using us to recruit. However, I do want to validate the below and put some thought into navigating what lies ahead.

Let’s first take a look at what has happened in the last recession, cast your mind back to 2009 where Tinchy Stryder, The Black Eyed Peas, and Dizzee Rascal all had a spell at the UK number 1 spot…  What also happened in 2009 was some ground-breaking research into sales performance carried about by the CEB (acquired by Gartner in 2017).

The research found that a company’s brand, USP’s/product differentiators, and pricing are no longer the main drivers behind customer purchase decisions. In fact, these only accounts for 19% of purchasing decisions.  Whereas 53% of buying decisions are made by the quality of the sales experience.  The greatest differentiator between B2B sellers is the sales experience and their approach.  And for many organizations, a few star sales performers drive the majority of revenue…

So let’s explore the traits of big-deal closers and the methods they adopt:

1. They teach differentiation

They subscribe to their prospects’ marketing and take time to absorb and understand their markets. They spend time checking out newsletters, social media feeds, annual reports, press releases, and other forms of communication and using it to inform their knowledge about the prospect, their business, their challenges, and opportunities.

This allows them to teach differentiation based on their knowledge of the customer’s business and their unique perspective, using their ability for two-way dialogue during the sales interaction.

2. They have a superbly-articulated value proposition

This can be shared in just a few sentences and with no room for confusion or error. Compare this to more junior salespeople who may need prompts or presentations to be confident in messaging. 

Moreover, they are able to tailor their messaging based on their strong sense of their customer’s economic and value drivers.

3. They sell clear outcomes and results

They always focus on benefits rather than features, with ready figures, statistics and examples in their heads which instantly prove relevance and value to prospects. Because of their research, they are able to contextualise these examples, so that they are as relevant to the prospect as possible.

4. They get straight to the decision-maker and settle for nothing less

Compare this to less-confident salespeople who will typically waste precious time and energy speaking to the wrong people in the hope that the message will filter back to the right people. 

This is so common but so true.  A sales leader should constantly be helping their reps qualify who they are talking to.

5. They justify premium pricing

Recognising that you get what you pay for. And by having their value proposition completely nailed down, top-performing enterprise sellers are truly comfortable with the added-value of premium pricing and able to articulate those advantages.

They are comfortable discussing money and can pressure the customer to close.

6. They go the extra mile to see the challenges

The best salespeople will act as a trusted partner for clients who recognise the value, insight and support that they offer with their sales solutions.

This means carrying out detailed research that allows you to talk confidently about the relevant issues that affect your client.

Do this and you will show that you have really done your homework and sought to understand your client’s business. Ask the right questions too and demonstrate active listening.

7. Solutions-focused when crafting proposals

Top performers will take the time to craft a unique client proposal, using different pricing based upon value proposition, this allows the prospect to choose the package, service level, and offer which best meets their needs and budget.

It also discourages prospects from doing the inevitable when receiving a single sales proposal and simply using it as a benchmark to seek out something cheaper.

8. They always remain professional.

Goes without saying right? Wrong!

Sales can be a challenging and emotional field and it’s easy to become emotionally wrapped up in what you are doing and frustrated when things don’t go to plan.

Top sellers recognise that there will be good and bad days and constantly seek to learn from their errors to improve their performance. 

They have high EQ and are able to filter frustrations to ensure that they always remain professional. 

9. They are always networking

OK pre-Covid it was easier to always be attending relevant industry events.  Although there are challenges around logistics, travel restrictions, working from home etc, there are also opportunities.

In fact, it’s never been easier to get 1-1 face to face time with prospects, because they too are working from home. This offers opportunities for early relationship building, creating trust and authority where prospects are looking for solutions to their problems.

You just have to be comfortable with Zoom!

To conclude, top-performing Enterprise Sales Executives use their understanding of their customers’ businesses to deliver new insights and drive their thinking in new and different ways. They bring new ideas, like how to save money or avoid risk, that the customer hadn’t previously considered or fully appreciated on their own. Moreover, they are effective because they build constructive tension.

In today’s post-COVID competitive landscape there is no place for under-performing salespeople. It’s going to be a very tough Q3 and Q4 this year and only those with a strong sales methodology and challenger-based approach will come through smiling.

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