In recent weeks, I have discussed the future of professional selling. Among other predictions, I have suggested that within five years, just 5 percent of external salespeople will remain. It will therefore come as no surprise that I have received a number of emails asking if I will clarify what these survivors will look like, what will be their characteristics and what will differentiate them.

Over the past 20 years, I have trained, developed and mentored almost 100,000 sales professionals—from foundation right up to “master craftsman” level—and I think this has given me a unique opportunity to formulate an accurate profile of a “top 5 percent achiever.”

So what is it that top 5 percent players do?

  1. They position themselves with the real decision-makers and avoid those without “approval power.” They are able to first identify and then access the formal decision-making entity—right up to “C-level,” where most of the decisions are being made these days.
  2. They get not only the order but also a satisfied customer, repeat sales, enthusiastic referrals and constantly increasing sales penetration within their accounts.
  3. They know how to minimize the uncertainties of a cold call on a new account by careful planning and rigorous opportunity assessment. They concentrate solely on opportunities they can win and want to win.
  4. They recognize when to treat an old account as a new prospect and keep the relationship fresh, alive and profitable.
  5. They never entertain business they do not want because they recognize that it takes just as long to work an unprofitable opportunity through the sales funnel as it does a profitable one. They trust their own judgment but also rely heavily on objective assessment.
  6. They understand how to prevent a sale from being sabotaged by an internal enemy. They insulate themselves by developing allies in the sale.
  7. They are able to recognize failsafe signals that indicate when a sale is in jeopardy. This comes from experience but also information supplied by their allies.
  8. They are rigorous in tracking account progress and are able to accurately forecast future sales because they use proven methodologies that allow them to weigh every opportunity in the pipeline.
  9. They avoid “dry months” by allocating time wisely to their critical selling tasks, i.e., prospecting for new business, covering the bases with existing opportunities and closing only the best few.
  10. They understand that the old saying “People buy from people first” no longer applies to personality, but rather to professionalism, commercial bandwidth and superior knowledge.

Be assured, the very best sales performers do not achieve that status overnight. They work tirelessly to develop and hone their skill sets and have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge of their industry and sector. Furthermore, they concentrate on eliminating any weaknesses and are anxious to be assessed and receive feedback on a regular basis.

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Jonathan Farrington is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author, consultant and chairman of The JF Corporation and CEO of Top Sales Associates. For more information and tips from Jonathan, visit http://www.topsalesworld.com/, or go to his blog at http://www.thejfblogit.co.uk/.