What do great artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo have in common? They were masters. The works they created became legendary pieces, central to the culture, politics, and religions of millions of people around the world.
Now stop and think about sales. Is it an art?
You might not think so, but I assure you -- it is. And like any art form, one of the best formulas for success is to model the greatest masters.
Anyone who has heard me speak knows how deeply I believe in this simple concept: Find successful people and learn from their experiences and actions. Here’s how to model every aspect of your sales team after the people and organizations that have been there before you.
Recruiting Like the Masters
A great recruiting program requires a significant investment of time and effort to ensure that salespeople are working with the best resources available.
Consider the United States Military Academy, also known as West Point, and the United States Navy’s SEAL teams. Each year, West Point considers over 15,000 potential cadets to fill just 1,200 openings, and the SEALS require an impressive performance record from potential candidates before they even consider entry into the program.
Both programs turn out exceptional performers each year. Much of their success can be correlated with the way they utilize their resources.
The SEAL program weeds out participants through institutional rigor, and has about an 80% dropout rate once BUD/S training begins with the vast majority of candidates ringing the bell and placing their helmet on the deck declaring, “No more.” What’s left is the best of the best.
West Point invests significant efforts to identify cadets that are most likely to succeed early on before investing additional time and resources into each candidate. As such, they are very proud of their 83% graduation rate. Both programs take very different approaches to recruiting and both have proven to be highly successful. Clearly there is more than one route to achieving excellence.
Learning Like the Masters
Experience is the most valuable tool in a salesperson’s arsenal. It becomes even more valuable when you can learn from the experience of others. There are three elements to mastery of sales experience that every salesperson needs to understand:
1) Tie your real-world experience to concepts you learn in formal sessions.
Top producers should be applying and honing their skills in the real world while at the same time continuing their sales education through attending conferences, watching webinars, reading sales materials and networking with industry experts.
2) Don’t hide in the crowd.
One thing you’ll never find at West Point is a large class size. The largest class holds just 18 students and there’s a very good reason for that. West Point wants their candidates to step up and show what they’re made of without the safety of cover -- no hiding allowed. Show what you can do and how well you can learn and apply sales principles.
3) Be competitive.
I don’t just mean as a salesperson. Be competitive in life. I’ve completed 15 Ironman triathlons in eight countries spanning five continents over the last 10 years. There is a direct correlation between living an active, healthy lifestyle and finding success as a salesperson.
The Responsibility of a Master
You can’t be a good salesperson without being a good leader. Salespeople who show the ability and willingness to lead will be presented with more and more opportunities to receive greater responsibility. Every company should have a set of systems in place that offer opportunities to their salespeople to take on more responsibility.
Every company I’ve ever led was guided by a strategic system of responsibility. When you provide opportunities for employees to take on responsibility, you quickly discover who your top performers are. The only way to become a top performer is to seek out opportunities for responsibility. Think of your greatest role model and consider the traits that you admire in that person. I guarantee all of those traits relate to leadership and responsibility.
Becoming a Master
Practice makes perfect. If you want to be as good as the greats, you’ll have to do your very best to become one. Find a mentor, role model or successful historical figure that you admire, and begin to dissect their success. Emulate their actions and bring relevance to your position through supplemental learning sessions, continued education and constant improvement as a salesperson and individual. When you have a healthy, active lifestyle that compliments your career path, you’ll know you’ve found the right systems to help you become a sales master.
Originally published Apr 25, 2016 6:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017