In this special launch day episode you can listen to Lee Bartlett, author of The No.1 Best Seller read the foreword, or read it yourself below.
By: Lee Bartlett
The phone rang, and a headhunter promptly introduced himself. Our paths had crossed, and we knew each other by reputation. He explained his agency had been awarded the mandate to build a world-class sales team of A-players and launch a new product line for a large enterprise. It is the same script all headhunters use—part flattery, part self-promoting, and short dialect to demonstrate they are cut from the same mold.
I was crushing it in my role and declined interest, when he unwittingly said something that caught my attention. He said the new CEO specifically told him to find someone “imbalanced.”
When you have worked in the sales industry for long enough, you can appreciate the deeper connotations of this request. This leader understood the best salespeople are different. He sought to hire people with an unparalleled work ethic driven by a greater sense of purpose, because this can be harnessed. Indeed, it is a trait he likely possessed himself.
It takes many years of experience to understand the profile of a true top performer, and longer still to know how to manage them. To proactively seek imbalance meant the CEO was confident in his leadership and ability to align complex, individual personalities with the company’s specific goals. This candidate profile doesn’t lead to an easy life, but if you get it right, it leads to immediate market share and revenue.
Being a top salesperson is not just about customer-centricity, but also a mastery of fundamental sales skills, a commitment to continuous learning, the emotional intelligence to find opportunity in the smallest of triggers, and the ability to constantly adapt to the bigger picture. The psychometric tests used by companies to identify top performers are, in my experience, rarely accurate and therein lies the puzzle few sales leaders solve.
Scott Ingram has done something special with this book and the Sales Success Stories Podcast. He wanted to understand what makes top salespeople tick, and rather than turn to vanilla research for answers, he proceeded to interview the top 1% of salespeople in different industries. He asked the interviewees to explain, in their own words, what differentiated their results from average performers. The outcome is an unfiltered, precise interpretation from leading practitioners in their field. As you read each story in this book, try to delve deeper into the mindset of the salesperson by asking these questions:
What drives this salesperson?
What skills have they mastered to make the decisions they made?
Who are they working for, the customer or themselves?
Is their process repeatable, and if so, why?
How did they control their emotions in each situation?
When you understand what each salesperson believes, you can replicate their mindset and approach. It will become quickly apparent that no “one thing” is happening in isolation, and you’ll see patterns of behavior begin to emerge. You might also notice that certain industries suit different character traits and skill-sets. Try to separate the common and unique traits in each situation, and decide for yourself what makes these top 1% of performers consistently successful.
You will read stories from my friend, Kyle Gutzler, who describes the importance of sales momentum, and the inflection point in a previous role that led to his accelerated success. Others discuss the soft-skills employed by only the best salespeople, such as the importance of not burning bridges, courage, managing discomfort, competitiveness, and when to move on. These skills are difficult to teach in a classroom but are often differentiators that drive success.
A common theme throughout the book is salespeople referring to their mentors. The only way to lead top salespeople is to earn their respect, demonstrate integrity and remove all the obstacles to let them thrive. It is a thankless task that requires a leader to control their ego and propel the best people forward. However, as I found when referring to mentors in my book The No.1 Best Seller, the “thanks” comes years later, when salespeople reflect on the positive impact these mentors had on their careers. Consider each reference a homage to the crucial role these people played.
The beauty of this book is you can compare your own experiences and approach to those of the top 1% and decide what makes the difference between good and exceptional. Each story is a lesson learnt from years of trial and error. Whether cause or cash-driven, the motivational drivers of top salespeople are not important. What is important is how they align themselves with their employer and customer, and you are about to read several masterclasses in enterprise selling that will shave years off your learning curve.
I was delighted when Scott asked me to write the foreword to this book. He was the first person to read my book on the day of release. When finished, his question remains the most poignant to date. “Lee, why did you write The No.1 Best Seller? You didn’t need to….” My answer was “I don’t really know. I just wanted to tell people how I came to be a consistent top performer, and show them it is not luck.” I intended to publish the book and go back to work, because I knew that past successes have no bearing on the future. I would guess the people who wrote the stories in this book feel the same. They have given something back, but they also understand it’s about looking forward and continuous execution, not congratulating yourself on previous successes. The people who contributed to this book are still crushing it in their sales roles, and the next pages will tell you how and why.