By Cody Gilland
Director of Strategic Sales
Lucid Software Incorporated
Working in sales can be a grind. It’s a competitive industry with greater risk than others, and in order to stay on top, you must constantly be working to maintain an advantage. A successful salesperson will have a deep knowledge of the business, the industry, and the product or service they’re selling, but sales is much more than just a convincing pitch. So, what does it take to become a sales superstar?
You don’t have to be a natural-born salesperson to get to the top of the board and stay there. It certainly helps, but refining your skills in three key areas can establish a solid foundation for anyone who has a true desire to become a sales superstar.
Care About Your Customers
At first this sounds like a no-brainer, but I want to dig a little deeper here, as it’s a must in my book. The key is to remember that sales isn’t just a numbers game around how many conversations you can have on the daily; it’s about the quality of conversations held. Not from you or your manager’s perspective, but through the eyes of the people whose lives you’re trying to improve.
Most people, especially buyers and decision makers, (come on now, you know this ain’t their first rodeo) can read right through a scripted sales pitch you’ve robotically regurgitated a thousand times; no one wants to have some product shoved down their throats from a cold call. No one cares that you might be a product genius. The big question decision makers want answered the second they pick up the phone is, “How will your products improve the lives of those at my organization and/or the customers we serve?”
The sales pitch with catchy phrases and memorable stats just won’t cut it anymore. Start serving the customer even before they become customers. Put some investment into them and their needs before you ask them to invest in you and what you have to offer. Treat the customer as you would a friend instead of just some anonymous email address or next phone number auto-populating in your queue. Put yourself in their shoes, align with their pain points, and apply your knowledge of the product to help them discover how your offering could be the perfect solution for them.
Seek Out (and Listen To) Mentors
I’ve always tried to maintain a very open and trusting relationship with my team members. I hope they see me as a good resource to consult when it comes to business strategies, professional development, and even personal growth. I was lucky enough to have some amazing mentors who coached me through my early days in sales, and I want to do the same for my team.
Much of the nuance that goes into good sales practices can’t be picked up in a classroom. You learn by experience and from those who have been there before. If you have a good relationship with a particular manager or senior co-worker, take the time to pick their brain. A good mentor will ask about you and your goals, but if you want to become a good salesperson, you should turn the conversation back on your mentor and their experiences. You can pick up so many unrecorded best practices from those who worked their way up from where you are now.
Remember: it’s in your manager’s best interest that you succeed, so don’t hesitate to slow down, ask questions, and listen to what your mentor is saying. It never hurts to cultivate a good relationship with a manager or someone above you. They’ll keep a close eye on your development, coach you through areas where you can improve, and give you insight that you would have otherwise had to learn the hard way.
Don’t feel like you currently have a good mentor? One of the easiest ways to get a good mentor, is to ask! Your manager, executive, someone you look up to, or someone obtaining greater results than you would be honored that you value their opinion enough to ask for mentorship. However, getting a good mentor and keeping a good mentor are two different things. The quickest way to have someone become disinterested in continuing to mentor you is by (1) not taking action from the advice and direction given, (2) not reporting back on the successes or failures from their advice and (3) not showing gratitude or being perceived as unappreciative. As you make a point to go out of your way to give back to those helping you, you will find that people will be more willing to continue helping you achieve new heights.
Hard Work, Works
It may sound trite, but that doesn’t make it untrue. Hard work, works! If you want to succeed in sales, you have to work hard. I learned fairly quickly in my career that there will always be someone smarter than me, some expert who just knows the product inside and out. But like I said earlier, smarts alone won’t help you sell your product or service. If you dig your heels in and prove that no one is going to outwork you, you’ll make great strides toward achieving your goals.
The key here is to not only work hard but also to work smart. You can put in all the hours you want, but if you aren’t paying attention to the mistakes you’ve made or the areas in your process in need of optimization, it’ll take a long time for you to elevate your game. As you continue to progress, pay attention to your results from different approaches. If something isn’t working, tweak it. Constantly iterate your process so you keep learning and keep improving.
I am of the belief that there’s not only one personality type that can have a successful career in sales. Anyone can succeed here, provided they’re willing to put in the work. The bottom line and the common thread among all three of these tips to mastering sales is to pay attention. Listen to and empathize with your customers. Heed the advice and insight of your mentors. Keep track of your workflow and look for ways to elevate your performance. If you have passion and are paying close attention, you’re already well on your way to becoming a sales superstar.
Cody Gilland is a senior sales leader at Lucidchart, one of the world’s fastest-growing tech companies. Lucid has nearly doubled in size each year since it was founded, and its core product, Lucidchart, empowers 96% of the Fortune 500 to work and collaborate visually.
As Lucid’s first sales rep, Cody played an essential role in shifting the business from a purely freemium model to a blended enterprise and strategic sales model, with a sales org that now drives a significant portion of the company’s current revenue. His relentless focus on customer profitability, customer acquisition, and account expansion has helped him scale high-performance Account Executive, Account Management and Strategic Account sales teams who now manage Lucid’s top current and prospective enterprise customers.