5 Critical Ways to Become a Sales Superstar

The key to becoming a superstar is to understand that sales are relationships. They’re a commitment between the salesperson and the customer, and just like any other valuable relationship, it’s formed through trust and energy and effort.

Today’s headlines blare the news that sales are down in everything from designer duds to cars to ketchup. While there are signs that some industries may rally, it’s a wake-up call for salespeople: In order to survive in today’s highly competitive marketplace, they have to become superstars.

Not just average salespeople. Not better-than-average salespeople. Such performers won’t keep existing customers while attracting new ones. If salespeople want to survive and thrive, they have use the kind of tactics that will propel them to superstardom—and keep them there.

As someone who has worked in top sales jobs at Microsoft and HP, I know what it takes to reach superstar status, and I’m going to let you in on a tried-and-true formula that lets anyone make more sales and develop stronger ties to customers.

The key to becoming a superstar is to understand that sales are not really sales. They’re relationships. They’re a commitment between the salesperson and the customer, and just like any other valuable relationship, it’s formed through trust and energy and effort.

This means developing what I call “The Five Abilities,” the critical factors that turn a one-time customer into a lifetime customer for the salesperson. Here’s a summary of The Five Abilities:

  1. Visability*: To be a great salesperson, you must be consciously and consistently seen in the right way, at the right time and by the right people. You must hone your message to customers so you have them hooked in less than 30 seconds and demanding to know more about your product or service. Surprise them and beat their expectations and they’re going to start paying more attention. Work at developing communications that intrigue them and they’ll perk up every time they hear or see something by or about you. This helps you form a closer relationship, one where the customer becomes more interested in learning more about what you can do for them.
  2.  Credability*: Show the customer you’re knowledgeable and willing to put that experience and intelligence to work for them. Then don’t just deliver what you promise—overdeliver. Strive to impress every prospect, customer, decision-maker, and influencer by going beyond your stated product or service. Be consistent and you will get referrals and achieve loyalty that opens the doors to new opportunities.
  3. Viability: Salespeople sometimes have a reputation for being verbose, but superstar salespeople know it’s critical to listen when prospects and customers talk about their needs, hopes, and desires. Once you’ve heard their story, call on your own knowledge, expertise, and experience to decide whether the customer’s expectations are realistic—or need to be adjusted. Ask yourself if you really are qualified and capable of delivering what they need. Can you be successful? Do they have realistic expectations? Remember: Success speaks loudly, but failure speaks much louder. That’s why it’s important to choose your customers wisely: You want to truly help them. If it isn’t a good fit, learn when to say no and move on to your next success.
  4. Capability: Superstars don’t just complete the minimum specifications of a job or piece of work. Superstars figure out the personal motivations of the customer, such as how they like to appear to others and who they need to impress in order for them to be successful. Then superstars take that information and use it to come up with ways they can deliver a personal win for that customer. Superstars know they must fulfill the often hidden and unique motivations for customers that don’t show up on contracts, income statements, and balance sheets.
  5. Reliability: When things go sideways, superstars step up in a big way. They are unreasonably accountable. The make sure they have the right technical and management people on board when the unexpected happens, so they can communicate openly and effectively with the customer. Superstars always anticipate challenges and are honest about problems. They don’t ever blindside a customer, and they listen closely when a customer is angry or unhappy. They always are open and responsive to the need for change and new solutions.

If you want to be a superstar salesperson, you can’t just focus on your commission or bonus. You have to work on developing relationships with your customesr that will not only lead to their success, but propel your career into the superstar category.

* Knowingly misspelled

Rick Wong has more than 35 years working in sales and marketing with Fortune 100 companies, including Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft. His company, The Five Abilities, LLC, is a management consulting firm in Seattle, WA, that helps salespeople learn habits to improve customer acquisition and retention results. His clients range from entrepreneurial ventures to global enterprises. He has a BS in Business & Food Science from Oregon State University and an MBA from the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. He is the author of the new book, “Winning Lifelong Customers With the Five Abilities.” For more information, visit: www.TheFiveAbilities.com.


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