In startups, the popular 80/20 rule contends that 80 percent of sales are generated by 20 percent of a business’ sales force. How many times do you need to be told “work smarter, not harder”? You are either part of the 20 percent or are part of the 80 percent. Not only that, the people who are part of the 20 percent know how to tell which 80 percent of sales they have no opportunity closing. When I’m not selling, I’m talking to someone who is. We’re either talking about how to find deals or how to close deals. If the 80/20 rule applies to conversations, then imagine how many ideas have absolutely no chance of getting off the ground. It’s scary.
A recent article in Inc. contends that the most productive sales people (the 20 percent who make 80 percent of the sales) know it’s better to have no opportunities than to spend time on deals they can’t win. Think about that. When was the last time you went all out on a deal you had no chance at winning? For 80 percent of you, it’s possible the answer is “this week.” That’s a sobering thought. Most people who fall into this category don’t want to be there. They just don’t know how to get out.
The article got me to thinking about how I try to sort through the everyday noise of selling. I have four rules:
- Don’t be distracted by shiny objects. This is so, so hard. Distractions come in many forms, from chatty prospects to email to ESPN to LinkedIn. Admittedly, I have spent hours scouring LinkedIn profiles for a needle. During the day, I don’t go online unless I have a specific need. Do things with a purpose, not to help you feel busy.
- Perfect is for fourth place. You don’t get a trophy. Too often we let the process overwhelm the potential, from mindless Googling, to chasing contracts for products we will never sell, to overanalyzing every word of an email. I get it about typos — they are poison for credibility. Move quickly, make your point, prioritize your opportunities and chase them with a vengeance (and watch the typos).
- Pick your spots. To the point earlier, 90 percent of the time I can predict the outcome of conversations with the 80 percent who aren’t making sales. They follow their heart, which tells them every prospect is an opportunity when their head knows better. Ask the hard questions in the beginning and the outcome will be much better. Hope is not a strategy.
- Refer to rule No. 1.
So how do you translate this information to a hungry, hard-charging sales representative? We have all been there when dealing with someone who just isn’t quite heavy enough to make the teeter-totter move in their direction. Communicating the four rules takes repetition. The more you consistently train and follow a process, the quicker it becomes second nature and the more lives you can impact. Whether it’s for emergency management or a sales career, those are words every business owner should live by when training their team. The reason good sales reps become great is because they are subjected to consistent training and mentoring to ensure they are prepared for the ever-changing environment they work in.
Be confident, deliberate, focused and repetitive.
A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog here.