RAINMAKER SERIES: Becoming a top sales professional – a Rainmaker – is a goal many sales professionals have. Rainmakers know that being at the top of their game builds business, impacts relationships, and generates superior customer loyalty and referral. The series that follow will explore the characteristics and behaviors that top sales professionals embrace. We hope you find this series of short informal discussions around excellence in the sales role to be useful and thought-provoking.
The Five Stages Of A Typical Sales Career… And How To Avoid Getting Stuck In Any Of Them
How does someone make the leap from a good salesperson to a RAINMAKER who closes huge orders and always seems to have a steady flow of new business coming in?
While many think this change comes naturally to a preordained salesperson who just happens to have the right connections, territory, or DNA, the truth is something altogether different: that it’s a journey any salesperson can take, although most get stuck at some point along the way.
When a salesperson begins his or her career, they often follow a path that looks similar to the stages below:
VISITOR. New on the job, they start nervously calling on customers and prospects, stopping in and saying things like “I wanted to meet you and see if you had a need for my company’s products.” At this stage, what they’re really trying to do is build rapport, and maybe even start a relationship with the buyer or decision maker. Most of the sales made by someone in the “visitor” stage come from whatever is “on special” at the moment, since these represent the lowest price – and risk – to both the customer and to the salesperson.
PRODUCT SELLER. As the salesperson begins to master product knowledge, they get better at selling the “nuts and bolts,” focusing on features and benefits to increase their production. The transition from visitor to product seller can be quick, but also dangerous, since it’s an area that lots of salespeople get stuck in… and one that’s likely to lead to a variety of transactional relationships that rely on price and immediate needs.
NEEDS SATISFIER. Over time, as the salesperson gets to know his or her customers better, they begin to see other needs within the organization that might be met by something they sell. In other words, they start to look deeper at their customer base and see sales opportunities that weren’t apparent before.
PROBLEM SOLVER. This is a stage that’s tricky; most salespeople think they are here already, but most never reach it. An easy way to spot a problem solver in action is that they have fewer customers, but the ones they do have are much larger in scope and depth. That’s because they fully understand not only their customer’s needs, but their business model, place in the industry, and future direction, and so they can find the right fit between businesses and solutions, not just products.
TRUSTED ADVISOR. At the highest form of selling, salespeople aren’t just offering solutions, but are actively sought after for the value and counsel they provide as a result of their intimate knowledge of their customer’s business, keen analysis of industry trends and high business acumen. As a result, they are able to anticipate needs and changes in the way that their peers cannot, making them invaluable to the companies they do business with.
The key to evolving through the steps, and not getting stuck in any one of them, requires a genuine commitment to continuous improvement. By refusing to stop growing, and realizing that they can be in different stages for different accounts at the same time, Rainmakers gradually make the transition from working on transactions to taking a more strategic approach.
It’s easy to get stuck in your sales career, even if you don’t notice it at the time. Magic occurs not by hitting home runs all the time, but by looking to get a little better every day and every week. This perpetual thirst for improvement is the only sure path to becoming a trusted advisor to your customers, a Rainmaker for your company, and a successful professional for yourself.