3 Things That Make a Successful Salesperson

May 19, 2016

 What are the 3 things that make a good GREAT salesperson?

When it comes to great sales people there are three key things you need to pay attention to:

1. Skillset - do you have the skills necessary to make the sale?

2. Activity - Are you doing the right level of activity to get the results you want?

3. State - How you feel. (energy, belief, confidence, etc.)

It's important to remember that not all of the above are easily measurable, and in fact can be quite subjective. So, the best place to start is with the activity. By measuring those tangible items such as call, meetings, conversions, etc. you can then determine where the deficiency is - and it will either be in state or skillset. Watch the video to find out how to combat these deficiencies and ensure your salespeople are great.


Tips on differentiation … how to make your business stand out to your ideal customers!

Oct 13, 2015

If you've read or studied marketing in any way, shape or form, odds are you've learned or been told that it is vital that your company has a point of difference. Otherwise you are left to compete on price ... and that's a tough way to be profitable.

I'm going to reinforce that same concept. I believe, before you spend any money or time on marketing, there are two things you need to know:

  1. Who is your ideal customer?
  2. Why are they going to choose you over the competition? i.e. what makes you different and better?

In order to gain some real world teachings, I reached out to lead generation and marketing guru Cheryl Cappellano from Idea Factor. Cheryl has 28 years of experience in opening doors and getting people's attention. She's done it amazingly for her own business and she does it consistently for her clients.

In this interview, Cheryl shares her story and her best tips that you can take and adapt to your own business. She shares examples and how to's on how to stand out from the crowd. Thank you Cheryl.


How to Hire Top Performing Sales People

May 12, 2015

If every there was a holy grail, this would be it. If only there was a way to consistently hire top performing sales people!!

Well I'd love to say I've got the silver bullet for you ... but I think you'd know I'd be lying. What I have got though, are some juicy tips and tricks shared from recruiting veteran Kristen Harcourt. Kristen is a senior consultant with The McQuaig Institute. The McQuaig Institute are leaders in the field of profiling and assessments with respect to recruiting. While The McQuaig Institute can and do help companies assess a variety of roles, their grass roots and expertise is with sales people.

In this interview, Kristen shares with us the 'tells', tricks and tips on finding, filtering and identifying top performers. The whole interview is 37 minutes long and it is packed with gems to help you find the sales people you are looking for.

Enjoy the listen. Please share your thoughts and ideas on the content of the interview below, we'd love to hear your take.

And...if you want to take this podcast on the go and have a listen later, you can! Right click the link HERE and save it to your device.


How to develop a High Performance Sales Team

Mar 6, 2015

How to Develop a High Performance Sales Team …

Every company yearns for a high performing sales team. And to get one, certain key factors need to be in place. This post outlines what they are. The one item that is critically important to building a high performing sales team that is not addressed in this article is recruitment. There is another post that discusses recruiting GREAT People. You can access it HERE.


Now for the juice - The key components in developing your high performance sales team are:


  1. Culture
  2. Roles and Expectations
  3. Compensation
  4. Goals and Action Plan
  5. Measurement and Feedback
  6. Training and Development


  1. Culture

The best culture is one that combines a team spirit and a healthy competition to drive growth. Growth from both a sales perspective and a personal development perspective. The role of the sales manager here is key.


The Sales Manager must build and maintain the culture through how they run sales meetings, coach and recruit their sales people and how they bring accountability to the team. For a great resource on building a sales culture, read Jack Daly's 'Hyper Sales Growth'. This is so important that he dedicates the first half of the book to it!


  1. Roles and Expectations.

The two key outcomes a sales person needs to achieve is new client acquisition and nurturing existing clients to maximise client retention. It is important to have benchmarks in place that help a sales person be clear on what is expected of them in each area. Ideally, their compensation package should be tied to the same benchmarks.


That said, compensation should not be the driving force behind a sales persons behavior but it must be aligned with the outcomes you are looking for. It is common for salespeople to be more motivated by financial compensation than other roles within an organization so it is important but it is only 1 point out of 6 in creating a high performance team.


  1. Compensation

As mentioned above, a salesperson's compensation should be aligned with the behavior you want them to display. If a certain role is pivotal to new business acquisition, then commissions should be heavily weighted that way. If client retention is more important, then the same should be true for that metric. Of course in many cases a balance is necessary, so naturally the compensation package should reflect that. Sometimes, it's not easy to tie compensation directly to one or the other so non-compensation metrics should be used in these cases. See – Roles and Expectations above.


Your decision on how to balance between salary and commission will have a bearing on the types of people you attract and their subsequent performance. I believe a compensation package highly geared towards commission, rewards the outcome you are looking for in sales people.


At the end of the day, the only reason to employ sales people is to make sales. So why would you tie their compensation to anything else? People should be remunerated for the value they bring to the company. And for sales people, it is very clear on how much value they bring … it is their sales.


Knowing your numbers here is key. For example, how are costs allocated through the business model so the company makes the required level of profit?

Here is an example.



COGS - Materials 10%
COGS - Direct Labour (including sales) 45%
Overheads Expenses 30%
Profit. 15%


If this was your business model, and you new that direct labour was 35% then you can pay up to 10% on sales commissions. If however you had a model that had a portion of base salary for sales then that would need to be accounted for in the overhead expenses. Either way you slice it, it needs to add up on the bottom line.


Of course the numbers don’t always present as neat like I’ve presented above, but you do need to understand your model to be able to put the right plan in place. If you overpay for sales, you’ll lack the cash flow to grow - or worst go bankrupt - and if you underpay, well you’ll never get the high performers you seek. It is very important that your high performing sales people can earn lots of money and still have the company grow profitably.


A sliding scale can be a useful tool. What this means is there may be a base level of sales that pays a certain percentage. Then the next tier of sales pays a little higher. Then the next level pays higher still … and so on. In this arrangement you know your profit is covered in the lower levels but the higher levels bring a bonus to the company so subsequently you can pay more out too. It becomes an aligned incentive for both the company and the sales person. Here’s an example below



Gross Profit Levels Commission Rate Total Earnable (including levels below)
$0 - $500,000 10% $50,000
$500,000 - $1,000,000 12% $110,000
$1,000,000 - $1,500,000 14% $180,000
> $1,500,000 18% $270,000 +


In this example, your expectation might be that a sales person should be bringing in at least $1,000,000 in Gross Profit. And you know as long as they do, your profit goals will be achieved. If a salesperson falls below this target, that becomes a performance and coaching issue … not a compensation model issue. And once they are above the $1MM mark, they get rewarded more and more. This can provide a very powerful incentive, so long as the targets are seen as achievable. They may not be easy, but for a committed sales person who is willing to work hard, they should be able to hit it.


One final point on compensation, it is important to link compensation to things that drive the companies growth and are in control of the individual. Therefore carefully consider whether it is sales or gross profit that is the metric to calculate commissions. I think Gross Profit is a better measure. It ensures your sales people aren’t discounting to get volume and you are paying commissions you can afford.


  1. Goals and Action Plan

Each sales person should have a goal they are striving for. As noted by the points on compensation, this also helps them be clear on what the financial reward will be for them. It is important that sales goals are developed with each sales person individually. Someone with 2 years experience and limited contacts can’t be expected to achieve the same as someone who has 10yrs of high performance history.


It is important each sales person is responsible for developing their own goals. Obviously you will work with them but they must own it. The goal must stretch the individual, provide for them financially and be aligned with the companies goals. It is no good having your team with sales targets they are happy with but leaves the company 30% short of its break even!


Once sales goals (note: they are sales goals not sales targets. Sales targets generally invoke a feeling of fear vs a feeling of challenge. Any sales environment that is driven on fear is always going to be outperformed by one that is driven by challenge and growth) have been developed and taken ownership of, now each sales person needs to develop a plan that will enable them to achieve their goal.


A plan will be made up of a Critical Activity Calendar (CAC). A critical activity is an activity that contributes toward a sale being made and is within 100% control of the sales person. (i.e. networking event, asking for a referral, sales call, blog post or presenting a quote.) Each sales person must be clear on what critical activities are in their arsenal and how many of each is going to be required to achieve their goal. This is a rarely known quantity the first time you sit down to create one. A lot is learned over time. So when in doubt, stack the deck in your favor and plan for MASSIVE action 🙂


Execution of the critical activity calendar is not a guarantee that the goal will be achieved - but nothing is. Within the world of sales, we cannot control the outcome, only the activities that lead to the desired outcome. The factors that affect the outcome are the level and quality of the activity. The starting point for achievement of the sales goal is clear identification of the level of activity required over a specified period.


It can also helpful to look at the Sales GAP formula. The Sales GAP formula simply looks at - if nothing changed (i.e. no new activity was done over the next period) what level of sales could we expect? This is the Business As Usual (BAU) sales forecast. Next we subtract our BAU sales level from our Sales Goal to arrive at our Sales GAP.



Sales Goal BAU Sales GAP
$2,000,000 $1,450,000 $550,000


We can then take a look at what has to happen to achieve BAU (e.g. reminder calls to existing clients) and what the CAC needs to look like to bridge the Sales GAP. This is the basis of a simple Sales Plan for each of your sales team.


  1. Measurement and Feedback

Once the goal and CAC have been established, it needs to be tracked and reported on. The most important part of making this happen is helping each sales person to discover the benefit to them of tracking. Most sales people as a general rule will hate measuring activity. It will seem like a waste of time and will be a ‘get off my back’ kind of topic.


Some simple coaching like “what would be your advice to someone who said they wanted to lose 10 kilos?” They may answer, "eat better food and exercise more". You may follow up with “how would you advise them to be consistent with that?” or “What are their best ways to make sure they do that?” You want to lead them into the understanding we can be our own worst saboteurs. Someone looking to lose 10 kilos has a tendency to forget about the donut that passed through their lips at 9:30am when you ask them at 4pm what they ate that day. The same goes for sales people. If you asked them to recall how many sales calls they made in a day, they would say “lots” - when the truth may in fact be three. You want them to acknowledge that if they let themselves off the hook, they won’t achieve their desired financial reward.


"What get’s measured gets managed” - Peter Drucker


Help them to take ownership of this task. If they see you as big sister/brother who is looking at it every week and giving them a slap on the wrist if they didn’t do enough, pretty soon you won’t be seeing the real numbers.


This point links very closely with the next point “Training and Development”. The whole point of measuring data is so they can start to pin point the obstacles that are preventing them from achieve their goal. It is not just about you and the company.


People who are authentic and are in the right environment will want to improve. Everyone at his or her core does. The challenge can be that when we are put under the microscope we can start to feel vulnerable and will lean towards being defensive or not telling the truth. To prevent that from happening, your sales people need to feel you genuinely want to help him or her and you are not judging them. They will judge themselves enough … you don’t need to pile on top. Your role is to help them discover the opportunities to get better.


The best catalyst for putting the issues on the table is always the actual sales results. If the results aren’t there, there is something to discuss. Your biggest challenge as a sales manager will be to bring down the barriers that prohibit candid discussion. Your willingness to be vulnerable, trusting and authentic will be key here. Some good reading is Patrick Lencioni’s “5 Dysfunctions of a Team”. While this book is not sales centric, it does give some great insights on how communication can be enhanced through trust and vulnerability.


  1. Training and Development. 

The level of activity can be guided and measure through the points we’ve discuss above, but the quality of the activity can only be improved through training and development. While all the points discussed to date are essential, it is perhaps this last point that yields the biggest payoffs in the long term.


Big pay offs for two key reasons. The first may be obvious - if you make your sales people better, they make more sales and your company prospers. The second less obvious point is the goodwill and loyalty you build within your people which has massive intangible effects. One of the biggest concerns to a company is that their top performing salesperson will defect and go to the competition or leave them and start a competing company. The only way I know of combating this real threat is to create so much goodwill within a person they could not bring themselves to do it to you. This might sound like a hope and prayer kind of strategy, but there is much evidence it works.


In Malcom Gladwell’s book “Blink” studies showed that the doctors who were most likely to be sued were not those who made mistakes but those who spent less time with their patients or had poor bedside manner. Doctors who built more relationship and goodwill were not sued. People don’t want to hurt those they care about.


Developing your people and improving their quality of life pays dividends in ways that can’t be measured. When people develop their skills and results, their self-confidence increases, they walk taller and bring a more positive impact to your business.


So how do you train and develop your sales team? Here a short list:

  • Seminars
  • In house training
  • Regular sales meetings focused on development
  • Reading books (have a library at your business - have a sales book of the month)
  • Online videos (YouTube, Jeffrey Gitomer’s Virtual Training - search my blog for Gitomer VT)
  • Case study review (successes and failures)
  • Current situation brainstorming - difficult client situations
  • Best practice sharing - identify sales people who excel in certain areas and get them to run a group training on how they do it.
  • Develop your own in house video and audio library.
  • Role playing
  • Daily motivation nugget


I think it is essential that sales people are getting some mental nutrition every day that puts them in the right state and builds their skill set and mind set. It is your job as the sales manager to give them access to these resources.



It can take some time to have all this in place. And that's OK. What might be most important is the constant and clear communication of what you are building. Let your people know where you want to take the sales team, look for their input and enable them to help with the journey. It is a team effort – you are just there to serve and enable them to become better.


How to Hire GREAT people

Feb 23, 2015

 -warning-stamp Long BUT massively value packed post.


Hiring is probably one of the most important areas for any business owner and while most may know that, it is usually a task that has the most disproportionate amount of time allocated to it. As owners we tend to focus on the things that give us more tangible immediate results like making sales, solving crises, responding to customers  etc. And if asked "how important are your people?" we answer with a resounding 'critical' yet for most of us, we don't invest the necessary time to get the right people.

This post is going to outline all you need to know to get the right people on board. And I will preface that while what we've laid out below has worked many many times with consistently impressive results, the systems and processes YOU use, must be a match and fit for your company. I will give you the framework, you need to modify it to fit your needs.

Now, given the amount of time most of you are currently investing in hiring, what I outline below is going to seem like a lot of work so I need to get you into the right emotional head space so you can see the benefit of doing the work necessary. Consider the following questions:

  • If you had a system for hiring that gave you an 80% success rate and all you had to do was say 'go' to make that happen, how would that benefit your company?
  • If you had a team of sales people who continually perform to grow your company, what would that mean to you?
  • What is the true cost to your company for making a bad hire?
    • think actual costs + you and your team's time (recruiting and training), loss of momentum on projects due to others involved with training or just having  a new (non-fit) member involved. And the list goes on ...
  • What is the emotional toll on you and your team of making a bad hire?
  • What would it be like if you had a pool of great candidates to choose from and they were lining up applying to work for you?

Some of those questions may seem a bit 'oh come on' and I guess that is one of the key points I want to emphasise. I believe most people don't give hiring the time it deserves because it is seen as a distraction and pain in the ass. The first stage of hiring GREAT people is to acknowledge that hiring is the absolute foundation to a GREAT company. Your people are your company ... so as a leader you need to make finding the right people one of your top priorities. Great People bring Great customer service, they bring Great finance skills, they bring motivation, they bring Great sales skills, they bring Great operational systems and skills and they are Great at working as a team. All these characteristics and skills are what are going to make your company Great.

OK ... let's get into the nuts and bolts.

The Foundation.

Firstly the bad news. While this post outlines a system and process for attracting GREAT people; a process is useless without a great culture. Great people want to work for great companies and great companies have a great cultures. If you want to understand about great cultures, read 'Delivering Happiness' by Tony Hsieh or here is great article about adventure company GAP that was featured in Profit Magazine. I'm not going to go on about culture here (that is another massive post topic) but I will say that it is critical. Top performers are attracted to top performance cultures. Your culture will attract those who are a fit for it. Be very intentional about your culture.

Another critical foundational piece is a clear  and compelling vision. Great people want to be part of a company that is going somewhere. To be part of a company that has a purpose and the drive to fulfill it. It is not enough to want to grow, be successful and make money. Your vision, mission or purpose (whatever you want to call it) must be something you truly feel passionate about and it must be something you can communicate well to others. Hiring Great people is like trying to acquire new ideal customers. You need to be able to sell them on the ideal of working with you. There must be an emotional benefit that goes beyond 'having a job'. If you are hiring people who 'want a job' then you are not hiring Great people. And you will never have a Great company.

So we have our 2 key foundation items Culture and Vision (or purpose or Mission or whatever ... yes I am a bit cynical about all the terminology. Just show me you have passion about something that is more than yourself). There are many other factors that can affect the success of a new hire but I believe if you have a solid culture, then most of those other things should be in place. An example of what I'm referring to is great managers. If your managers are not able to develop great relationships with those they manage, you will have turnover.

The System.

The key philosophy behind this system is 'deselection'. What I mean by that is you want to attract as many applicants as possible then allow them to deselect themselves based on the barriers you are going to put in their way. It is also important for your mindset to be one of deselection. You want to feel like you are in the position of 'if you don't find the ideal candidate, you will not make a hire'. There is nothing worse than feeling like you HAVE to hire ... that is when the big hiring mistakes are made.

If a candidate gets the feeling that you are extremely selective it brings an exclusiveness to the process. Now we don't do this with a 'fake it' type approach. It must be sincere. I truly want you to have a 'selective' mentality.

Picture your current team like a finely balanced mix of chemicals that if they were to tip slightly off balance would explode. Your job, as the chemist, is to test all new chemicals (potential hires) you want to add to the existing mixture to make sure they are not going make an explosion. You have to be selective or your business will be blown to pieces. This might be an exaggeration .. but the analogy applies.

The Flow - I'm going to outline the steps involved so you can see where we are headed.

  • Attraction - you will work to attract as many applicants as possible and have them apply by email.
  • Phone Screening - after they apply, you will send them an email  (ideally an auto-responder so you can save time) asking them to call a phone number and answer some questions
  • Short list - from these telephone-message responses you will select a shortlist based on how well they presented on the phone and answered the questions.
  • Test Drive - Now you will send the short list a group of tasks. These tasks are designed to simulate and test the skills required to excel in the job. The tasks should require a significant time investment (3-4 hrs) so you can see how committed people are and test their work ethic.
  • Profiling - After the test drive you should be down to 1 or 2 top candidates. You will get them to complete a profile tool (I use DiSC and Flippen) that will help you guide your questioning in the last stage
  • 1-on-1 Behavioral Interview - In a face to face or Skype meeting, you will interview the candidate and make your final assessment.

Step 1 - Your Ideal Candidate

Define your Ideal Candidate. Download our Ideal Candidate form to help you here. This step might seem quite straight forward but the more detail you can define, the more chance you have of finding the ideal person. There is an attraction process that helps here (like in all areas of life). The clearer you are on what you want, the more chance there is of you getting it. The purpose of clearly defining the ideal candidate is for you to get clear + allow you to write the best Ad. Just be mindful that the key attributes you assemble for your ideal candidate are essential for success in that role. (In other words, be sure to steer clear of any prohibited grounds or attributes when selecting your next great team member, and stick to what related work skills they require)

If you aren't aware of the prohibited grounds, feel free to check out the following resources:




You'll see an area on the Ideal Profile called DiSC. If you are not familiar with the DiSC behavioral profile tool I'll be putting a post up about it soon. Sign up to follow my blog and you'll get the notice when it's live.

Step 2 - Writing Your Ad

Writing a powerful Ad (like any marketing) is only possible when you know who you are writing it for. Now that you have your ideal candidate your wording must be crafted with that person in mind. Avoid making your Ad generic like all the other ads out there. The ad must speak to your ideal candidate and also represent the culture of your company.

Critical point - you want people to apply by email. It is best to have a dedicated email address that receives the application because you are going to have an auto-responder set up to respond to each application.

Setting up the logistics - as well as having a dedicated email address (e.g. careers@yourdomain.com) you will need a voice mail box to receive the phone responses. If you have a phone system that can handle that great - if not consider using a Skype (or similar service) virtual number. I've also had clients use their mobile phones after hours to receive the phone responses.

Step 3 - Placing Your Ad

In short, you want to place your ad in as many places as possible. The services available to your will depend on your location. Use free sites, paid sites, community channels (notice boards, newsletters etc), social media (yours, your companies, your employees, your friends) and even print classifieds if you think your ideal candidate might look there. You want to give applicants every opportunity to see your ad. Avoid ruling anything out.

Consider using training agencies and recruiters also. Recruiters can be a little tricky as they will want to do the screening and placement for you (for a fee). You don't want that at this stage. You can however negotiate with some of them to provide candidates to go through your process and if they are successful, a fee be payable. This is not my favourite method but it can work.

Step 4 - The email response.

Once someone applies by email you need to email them back with instructions on what do to next. Use a script similar to this. Include a copy of the position contract/job description for them to review. I've had great success with the questions listed on this script but if you want to put your own in, by all means. The goal is so you can get a feel for the persons phone manner (important even if the role they are applying for is not phone based. How they prepare and present for a phone call is how they will prepare and present for everything), their level of preparation, how well they follow instructions, their confidence and their mojo :).

Key point - resist the temptation to read the resumes before you've received a phone response from the applicant. Reading resumes takes time and can be meaningless. Resumes are what the candidate wants you to know about them. We'll get to that. We need to do some screening first so we don't have to look at as many resumes. Someone who takes the time to prepare and leave a decent message is way better than someone who can't be bothered but has a kick ass resume.

Step 5 - The Short List

As the phone responses come in, you'll obviously listen to them and score them. Here's a scoring sheet you can use. Use these scoring sheets to select your best candidate. Feel free to involve other people in your organization in this part of the process - particularly those who will be working with the new hire. As you review the best responses, now is the time to go back and review their resume.

Step 6 - The Test Drive

Once you've got your best candidates, now we need to continue our screening for attitude (work ethic) and skill. Forget what they say they can do, let's see what they can ACTUALLY do and are WILLNG to do. You need to devise suitable activities that will simulate and test for the key skills and ability you require from the new hire. If they can't be done remotely (i.e. truck driver) then now is the time to bring them in to do the test on premises. This can also be a good idea even if your skills can be tested remotely. Here's an example of how I did it when I hired my right hand person Melina.

Video 1 - Introduction

Video 2 - About my company and the role

Video 3 - Test Drive Exercises

Step 7 - Profiling

Before we do a 1-on-1 interview it is extremely helpful to have some more objective insight into the person. Everyone has strengths and everyone has constraints (behavioural tendancies that don't serve them). We want the scoop on that so we can ask pointed questions and see how they handle.

The two tools I use are DiSC and Flippen. Flippen is by far the better tool and really gives an pin point accurate assessment on a persons abilities. It is not cheap but it is amazing. And given the true costs of a wrong hire, it really is a no-brainer. For an understanding on what Flippen is, take a look at this video I give people to watch before I do their debrief. I only use this video when working with clients (not hiring applicants) but it gives you the low down on Flippen.

DiSC can be helpful also and if you didn't want to do the Flippen, DiSC is an easy assessment to understand. The weakness of DiSC is the applicant is the only one who takes the assessment so you can get a biased answer. In a Flippen, it is a 360 assessment; another 6 people complete the profile on behalf of the applicant, making it impossible to fudge.

Step 8 - The Interview

OK so we are at the interview stage. We have our final 1 or 2 top applicants, they've done some assessments so now we are ready to spend some quality time with them.

Probably the most important thing to remember here is the type of questions you need to ask. You need to ask situational and behavioural type questions vs one-word answer style questions. Any question like "can you do X?" is a waste of time because the candidate usually knows how you want it answers. A better type of question is "Tell me about a time when X happened to you ... how did you handle it?". Here's a list of questions you can ask. Choose those which are applicable to the job you are hiring for...and look for opportunities to ask follow-up questions if you need more information.

Another great tactic when asking questions is to name drop one of their references/past employers such as - "When I ask (name of past employer) about how you deal with X situations, what will they tell me?" This brings about a level of honesty in the response because they assume you will be checking up on them.

Have a couple of people in the interview so while one person is asking a question, the other can be either listening/observing or picking the next question. It is very hard to capture everything in an interview so having multiple people enables you to discuss after the interview and compare notes. I highly advise having people involved who will actually be working with the person once they are hired. If they buy into the hire, they will be more invested in making them successful.

Another learning I've seen time and time again is the benefit of have both male and female on the interviewing team. Different sexes pick up different things. And there is a lot to be said for the female intuition when it comes to reading people.

Step 9 - Reference Checking

While in some countries there are laws prohibiting what can be said during a reference check, I still believe it is a vital step. Even if someone is restricted in what they can tell you, you can tell a lot by how they dance around questions or even their tone and words. Don't skip it. Anytime I have, I've regretted it.


Yes, there is a bit of work to set this all up. But once you've done it and run the process a couple of times you'll experience massive time savings and a much higher success rate. You'll also learn how you need to tweak the system to improve it for your company.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, successes and challenges with it.

Happy Hiring.