“Sometimes my customers look at me like I’m strange. I get calls from our corporate office asking what I’m doing differently,” my kid brother Kenny told me the other day when I called to congratulate him on a sales award.
I was immediately interested in what, exactly, he was doing so differently. Our call quickly devolved into a debrief session – I threw him question after question, trying to find the linchpin of his success.
Plain and simple: Kenny sells differently. He always has. You can give him a goal and he’ll figure out how to get there, doing it in a way few people have tried before.
The Card Table of Success
In college Kenny got a job selling memberships at a local gym. Each day four to five sales reps waited behind the front desk for prospects to come in, gave a compelling tour of the facilities, attempted to close the deal, and then got back in line to wait for their turn to sell again. After two weeks of observing the process and cringing at the low volume of traffic coming in, Kenny realized he was in trouble. There could be days where he wouldn’t have the chance to sell at all!
The next day he grabbed a card table, a handful of marketing brochures, and a small sign he found in a storage closet and set up camp in front of a local grocery store a few miles away. By the end of the day, he had sold 14 memberships, and all to people who had never even seen the gym. Other reps sold an average of 5 memberships a week.
A Genius Mindset: Three Keys to Kenny’s Success
Today Kenny is in medical device sales and continues to excel. Here are a few reasons for his success I’ve been able to pin down.
Three days after Kenny lost a card game, he called to tell me he had figured out where he went wrong, thanks to an obsessive review of the game. Next time we played, he won handily. The same energy and focus on improvement makes him successful in sales.
But every sales rep tries to improve, right? The difference with Kenny — the reason he delivers revenue — is his holistic approach to addressing every nuance of the art and science that is sales. For example, he performs his own internal and external win loss analysis. He’ll talk to the most successful and least successful reps about their closed deals to understand their approach. He also takes time to debrief the customer after they’ve made a purchase decision.
When a new product is launched, he’ll spend a significant amount of time reading all of the supplied product info, then goes to internal resources (product managers, scientists, marketers, etc.) with specific questions until he feels like a product expert.
Kenny also takes his current company’s education sessions seriously, such as when they come together to review and discuss recent medical studies. That knowledge allows him to address buyers with a stronger understanding of their jobs, customers, and most pressing issues. You won’t find Kenny scanning emails during those meetings.
When a new product launches, Kenny told me he works desperately to get the first sale. Once that’s done, the path to future customers is much smoother. That’s because he lets his existing customers do the selling for him. What could be more compelling than for a doctor to hear from another doctor about how effectively the product actually performed during surgery? Thanks to his constant use of testimonials, case studies, and setting up direct reference calls, Kenny is able to leverage the power of the his existing customer base.
He also uses referrals to get in the door. “I am bold about asking my customers to suggest other doctors or hospitals who might be interested in the product,” he told me. “I’ve noticed some people are shy about asking, but really people are happy to set up the connection when they’ve had a good experience with you and your product.”
“You can’t sell futures. You also can’t wait for the next big product,” Kenny told me. “You always have to sell what you have now.” He noticed the top sales rep in his company performed best in an older product that was in the process of being revamped. The lowest-performing reps are waiting for the new product. (Again, that knowledge is thanks to his own win loss analysis.)
He’s also realistic about what his products can and can’t do. “I don’t like to fall into the trap of saying everything about my product is amazing and the competitor’s is the worst thing ever,” Kenny said. “I sell to doctors and nurses. These people are smart. You have to be authentic and tell the truth.” So, when he recognizes the product won’t address the need the customer expressed, he’s up front about it. He sends the feedback to his product team, and then moves forward helping the customer see where the product might be a good fit.
Success is Not Luck
My sense is Kenny actually has many more qualities and techniques that sum together to yield success. Tenacity alone gets him to the negotiation table half the time, I’m sure.
If you are in sales and seeing success — my hats off to you. It’s a difficult job that only yields success with persistence, skill, and constant improvement. I’m always adding to my list of techniques and success stories – share yours in the comments below.