Performing at the Top Level in Sales

Jeff Cochran


It’s not easy to be in the sales industry. Buyers may not have a sense of what products and services are available to solve their problems, or even that your company exists. The solution they need may be right under their nose the entire time, and that’s where effective sales people come in. Smart sales people know the ins and outs of lead conversion and how to make sure everyone wins.

What Makes a Good Sales Person?

A good sales person meets a number of criteria.

  • Great sales people focus on results. They are goal oriented, and can figure out an effective path to take to achieve their objectives.
  • Great sales people are self-starters. They manage themselves without becoming distracted, and do not need to be immediately supervised. Autonomous sales people have a lot of freedom, and carry a lot of responsibility as well.
  • Great sales people do not take rejection personally. This is one of the basics of being in the industry: you’re going to get a lot of “no” in comparison to “yes.”
  • Great sales people are persistent. In sales, it’s important to be resilient, and not to give up if they are rejected or lose a deal. They remember that selling is a time consuming process and that they need to be patient and keep at it.
  • Great sales people are good listeners. They often listen more than they talk, because without an intimate understanding of a client’s needs, they will not be able to provide solutions. They can then provide honest answers about the products and services available to meet – or not meet – the needs presented to them.
  • Great sales people are balanced. They approach the work with a good blend of introversion and extroversion, and know when to step up and when to pull back.

It Isn’t Easy to Find Good Sales People

It’s difficult to find great sales people. Many managers lower their standards because they have trouble finding the best performers out there under pressure. A lot of this is because of the bad reputation that sales people are pushy and are only in the business to make money on products that people don’t really want. There is little education and professional development available in sales. This makes recruiting all the more difficult.

Aim High in the Face of Adversity

It’s not easy to recruit a good sales person in today’s market, but with the will to work hard and learn the language, it’s possible to become an excellent sales person. It takes resilience, an ego that won’t be bruised, and self-motivation, but with the right tool set, a person with sales potential can become exactly what recruiters are looking for.


[Infographic] Anatomy Of A Top Performing Salesperson

Effective Leadership for Technical Professionals

Jeff Cochran


It’s no secret that good, effective leaders drive forward a successful business. But what makes a good leader? Technical leaders in particular, including as people working in marketing, finance, and sales, have a specific set of needs.

Leadership Needs for the Technical Workplace

Effective leaders should be the driving force behind achieving business goals and objectives, which requires that they meet a number of business needs.

  • Supporting colleagues. This is the first point on the list for a reason. Business leaders are not just there to crack the whip on their team members. Employees and teammates who feel well supported in their work are going to work harder, as long as the leader balances support with the importance of meeting deadlines and accomplishing goals.
  • Autonomy. In business, employees should have some level of freedom and discretion over the work that they do. Tying in with support, the autonomy awarded to colleagues also means high expectations. Employees who have a lot of free reign over their work also have high responsibility, and it is the leader’s job to motivate and check in. Leaders should also be able to reassess what is and is not working when it comes to employee responsibility.
  • Achievement. Ultimately, the greatest needs of businesses are those of actually meeting business objectives and goals.

Common Leadership Pitfalls

When leaders are ineffective, businesses suffer. But just how much? While it may be obvious that productivity decreases, it’s also true that retention falls short, employees are unengaged, their talents go undeveloped, and time is wasted. What makes for some of these pitfalls?

  • Micromanaging. It comes back to the question of autonomy in the workplace. If teammates feel that they have more freedom, they are much more likely to take on greater responsibilities.
  • Failing to step up. Leaders need to improve their skills and take on new responsibilities just as often as their employees, if not more so. Leadership is not solely about delegation.
  • Not managing at all. The opposite issue of micromanaging? Leading without a sense of the whole. Being a leader means managing all the projects in the workplace.

Training to Achieve Essential Leadership Skills

It all boils down to a few very important essentials. Good leaders know how to build trust and collaborative relationships with their colleagues and their clients, as well as how to communicate successfully with all of the above.

Technical leaders face a lot of challenges in the industry, but with good training that addresses ways to leverage limited resources and balance all the various aspects of teamwork in the profession, good leaders can become excellent leaders.



Be the Advantage: Building Strategic Client Relationships

Jeff Cochran


If you’re in sales, then you know that the achievement of transactions is the bread and butter of keeping a business going. But your relationships with your clients should not be “transactional” in the same way. Strategizing effectively takes a little more care and insight, and it all boils down to being proactive.

Know Your Client’s Business

The concept of knowing your customer is a basic aspect of business, and for good reason. If you are invested in helping your client achieve their business goals and objectives, then you need to know their business inside and out. You don’t need to have quite the level of comprehensive knowledge that, say, a manager in the industry might, but you definitely need to have a full working knowledge of your client’s business model. Can you answer a simple question? How does your client make money? If you’re coming up empty, then you have some homework to do.

Be Proactive

If you know the ins and outs of your client’s business, including their business motivations and objectives, then you should have the tools to bring ideas to the table when you are working with the client. It’s important to work in collaboration with the client in response to their needs. After the client delineates their needs, you should be able to meet these needs so they can better accomplish their business goals. That’s a pretty basic model – and you’re probably already doing that. But what if you could take it a step further?

If you want to help your client succeed, then you need to be innovative rather than reactive. If a client has already diagnosed their own needs, that’s great. But here is the biggest reason you need to have a comprehensive understanding of your client’s business: you should be able to pinpoint where the client’s business needs are, even if the client can’t see it on their own. If you have an intimate sense of what they do and why they do it, your outside perspective will be invaluable when it comes to building on what’s working and fixing what is not.

Help Them Strategize

Helping your clients strategize means that you can help them figure out how to leverage online tools available to them. You can figure out how to help them meet their needs in a way that works for their budget. You need to help them figure out how best to serve their own clients. By being an advantage for your clients, you drive results and take responsibility for the outcomes.


Small Incentives Reap Large Success

Jeff Cochran


Take a minute to think about how you incentivize your sales force. Do you rely solely on the commission they can earn with a yearly or quarterly bonus thrown in for good measure? If so, you may be missing out on one of the most powerful ways to motivate your sales team.

The fact of the matter is that not everyone can be sustainably motivated by commissions and bonuses. Some members of your sales force may prefer smaller, more regular incentives to motivate them to meet and exceed their sales goals. To find out how to best incentivize and motivate your salespeople, try this little thought exercise:

Ask sellers how they would like to be rewarded if you have no money to spend, if you have $100, if you have $1000, or if you have unlimited dollars. 

You may be surprised by the answers. Perhaps your top seller would prefer the opportunity to leave work in time to catch her son’s t-ball game more than she likes an extra few hundred dollars at the end of the quarter. Maybe your newest member feels a little shabby and would appreciate a gift card to a haberdashery to commemorate a training milestone. Once you have a good handle on what would truly incentivize your sales team, you will be able to begin a campaign to keep them motivated.

Start Small.

There is no reason why you should roll out a massively expensive campaign. Some of the best incentives are small ones. Here are some small (re: reasonably priced) incentives you can try for your sales team:

  • Buy lunch for the top seller of the week.
  • Gas compensation for quota-makers.
  • “Earn” a day off by meeting and exceeding sales goals.
  • Public commendation on the company social media websites when goals are met. (Bonus: It’s free!)
  • Allow top salesperson to run a training session for newer sales professionals. (Also free, and for many people the opportunity to grow as a coach and leader is a huge motivator.)

Don’t Forget to Recognize the Team.

It is easy to remember to thank and incentivize your top sellers when they meet and exceed their goals, but it is just as important to commend the whole group when a given team meets their goals. Even if some members of the group did not meet their individual quota. Here are some ideas to recognize a whole sales team:

  • Bring in bagels/donuts and coffee for team breakfast. (Food is a powerful motivator.)
  • Consider increasing their commission, if feasible for your business plan. (Especially if this team consistently meets and exceeds their goals.)
  • Give this team more autonomy in day-to-day operations. (They know what they’re doing, let them run with it!)

Ultimately, offering small, regular incentives will provide your sales force with regular motivation to meet and exceed their sales goals, which is key to the growth and profitability of your business. Take some time to figure out the best incentives for your sales team and then put your plan into action. You will be amazed at the results!