Several years ago, I had the opportunity to read the book, “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell.The premise of the book, if you haven’t had the opportunity to read it, is to explain the makings of extremely successful. People who rise far and above the success of others but who seemingly have the same capabilities, intelligence, and even ambitions as their peers. Gladwell described it best in an interview published on Gladwell.com.
“In the case of Outliers, the book grew out of a frustration I found myself having with the way we explain the careers of really successful people. You know how you hear someone say of Bill Gates or some rock star or some other outlier—’they’re really smart’ or ‘they’re really ambitious’? Well, I know lots of people who are really smart and really ambitious, and they aren’t worth 60 billion dollars. It struck me that our understanding of success was really crude—and there was an opportunity to dig down and come up with a better set of explanations.”
For me the book opened my eyes specifically to the roles“advantage” and “opportunity” play in success. After reading the book I realized I’d likely never be an “Outlier,” but this didn’t mean I couldn’t become exceptional at what I do and obtain a level of success that would be fulfilling to me. The conclusion at which I arrived was that extreme success is a combination of opportunity, timing, talent, and focused hard work. I knew that these were all things I could seek to harness in order toreach an exceptional version of myself. I also concluded that high success and becoming a top performer is a reality for me and anyone else willing to do what it takes to achieve it.
Using this model, I’d like to share my observations of sales success and what makes top salespeople in the credit union worldmore successful than their peers. What do they have or do differently thathelps catapult them to the top? And what attributes can you as salespeople, supervisors, and senior leaders incorporate to take your credit union sales to the next level?
When putting this together, I started out with a rather lengthy list. I have managed to narrow it down into 4 simple attributes and behaviors that really anyone can develop and apply. That’s not to imply success is simple. It takes work, dedication and a willingness to learn. But I hope this can give you guidance and insight into the makings of great sales people.
Four things that make top salespeople great in the Credit Union World.
1. Top Salespeople Understand their Products and Services in Order to Sell Better
Top salespeople demonstrate a deep understanding of the products and services they sell, and this knowledge goes far beyond just the features. Top salespeople have a holistic knowledge of the products and services that allows them to see the products differently, giving them two distinct advantages over the average performer.
First, top salespeople know how features create benefits for their member. They use this insight to customize the product for their member and help her see how it will uniquely benefit her.
Second, top salespeople understand the sales process of each product and service differently than the average performer. With this understanding, they begin every interaction with the intention of closing and lead the member through a carefully crafted discussion to gather the right information, receive the right commitments, and ultimately close the sale.
2. Top Salespeople Better Understand Why Members Buy
Top salespeople spend more time asking questions and learning why their members buy. They seek to understand what the member’s true needs are, what is motivating him, and what his unique expectations are. They position information throughout the conversation to get the member thinking of the benefit he will gain and engage the memberin the buying process.
Allow me to share an example of what this looks like. When a member engages the credit union for an auto loan, she isn’t there becauseshe really wants another monthly payment. She isn’t even there because she wants to buy a car. She is there becauseshe has a need, want, or dream that this car fulfills for her. Maybe she needs an easier way to get to work or wants the capabilities the vehicle provides such as off-roading or pulling a camper trailer. It could be, she is looking for a vehicle that is more reliable, or perhaps she has been dreaming of driving a luxury sports car and today that dream is coming true.
Asking questions to learn the member’s true motivations and expectations reveals the information that top salespeople use to align all the products and services that will benefit the member. Top salespeople do this better and more consistently.
3. Top Salespeople Know How to Lead a Sales Discussion Better
As mentioned above, selling is a process. Too often salespeople simply think selling is explaining the features of a product and then asking the member to make a decision. We’ve all heard it in sales training before, the most important part of selling is, “asking for the business.” The “ABCs” of selling, always be closing. We have heard it in training, we see it in the movies, and we hear our peers doing it over and over again. But this isn’t how top salespeople sell.
Top salespeople understand that selling is a process not a phrase. They don’t feature dump then ask the member, “Is that something you’d be interested in?”. Rather, top salespeople ask questions such as, “Do you have just a moment to… (insert the next step here)?”. Or, “May I share how we go about getting our members… (insert the unique benefit the product can provide the member)?”. They lead their members through a process to learn more, educate the member, qualify the opportunity, then get commitments. They understand that when they have followed the process, there is no need to ask for the business because closing is part of the process.
Top salespeople understand what potential objections a member may have.They can read a member’s concerns from his body language and vocal tone, and they proactively address objections before the member has an opportunity to verbalize them. In this way, sales objections rarely become obstacles for a top salesperson to “overcome.”
4. Top Salespeople are More Passionate to Produce, Succeed, and Help
Top salespeople have an energy about them that fuels greatness. It is sometimes called optimism, ambition, or determination; they just don’t settle for mediocrity. To others around them, this energy magically attracts opportunities that lead to success. For some average or low performing sales people, they may think that it’s not fair, that the top performer somehow just gets all the members who will say yes to products and services. Of course, this isn’t true. Top salespeople are simply better at seeing opportunity and capturing it.
As mentioned, I am not an outlier, but I have personally experienced a lot of success in selling while serving as a credit union outbound sales agent.
When I started as an outbound agent, I received a lot of training and coaching from both the team’s manager and the tenured sales people. I came to the department wanting to be a top sales person, so as they mentored me into my new role, I looked for the keys to their success as well as those things they did that created limitations. When I found limitations, I looked for different ways to approach the sales discussion. Through trial and objection, I refined my sales approach to the point where I felt confident that I could get more “Yesses” than “Nos.”
This learning and refining process took about four months. It was then that I started out performing most of the tenured sales agents. I started producing sales numbers that most had never reached. And I was doing it consistently. It wasn’t anything magical, I had just tapped into a sales process that worked, and I was consistent in applying it.
When this high performance began to happen, one of the outbound agents complained that I was sorting through the sales lists and getting the best outbound sales leads. This, of course, was incorrect. The leads were handed out randomly, I just simply approached them differently.
Top salespeople will always out produce their peers because they have the right mindset, a clear objective, and a hunger to succeed. From the outside looking in, it may appear they have an unfair advantage, such as getting the best leads. However, in reality, they get the best from their leads.
For top sales people, there is no conflict in their minds between their member’s interests and their sales goals. Their success is in perfect balance with their morals, values, and ethics. For top credit union salespeople, this means that their focus is on providing their member opportunities to better their situation. Their goal is to add value by expanding and deepening the relationship with the member, and each opportunity they find both validates and motivates them to sell. Each sale they make is in harmony with that goal, and each opportunity they see is vetted through that lens.
While there are always going to be outliers in the world that seem to just achieve more, helping your team become top credit union salespeople doesn’t require them to become true outliers. The great news about top credit union salespeople is that they are not so much more talented or innately lucky than the rest of their team. Their success is not magic. What top salespeople do differently can be trained and developed effectively through coaching and meaningful accountability. What top credit union salespeople do differently can be replicated.
The question is, does your credit union have the training and coaching tools to do it? And do your team members have the mindset and desire to become top sales people?
The goal of each credit union sales team should be to become a top sales team. If that is your credit union’s goal, but you don’t have the resources to get there, the good news is that there are programs available to help salespeople improve and become top performers.