Greg Chambers’ 5 Secrets to Sales Success


One of my children is graduating from college this spring and will be starting a new job in sales. In case he decides to ask me what I think it takes to be successful in sales, I have prepared this short primer on sales success. Father to son style. 

  1. Focus on your client’s outcomes, not your reward. As obvious as this sounds, your clients are more interested in what they get from working with you than in what you get from working with them. No one goes to the doctor thinking, “I wonder how much of my $200 office visit Dr. Smith nets?” We go to the doctor thinking, “Make me feel better.” We’re focused on the outcome. Your client’s will buy the results you promise. The good news is, the greater the results you produce, the more they’ll pay for it. The more they pay, the more you earn. So, focus on your client’s outcomes, not your rewards.
  2. Talk to the right people and understand their decision process. I debated making this secret number one because so many sales people miss their number by spending too much time with non-decision makers, but decided that if you’re focused on the client’s outcomes first, that’s the most important secret. Right behind it is make sure you’re talking to the right people and understanding how they’ll make a decision. I’ve found that even when the outcomes are clear, the decision process to get there is not. The secret is to be helpful, and the way you help your future clients is to ask a lot of people how they’ve made decisions. Especially your current and past clients. You become a tremendous resource for prospects when you give them examples of how other organizations, chasing similar outcomes, made yes or no decisions. It doesn’t help to say, “XYZ corp uses us,” as much as it helps to say, “This is how XYZ corp, who is after very similar results, made the decision to use us.” Add value by making sure you’re talking to the right people and you understand their decision process.
  3. Get your client’s story before telling your story. You may remember me saying, “You have two ears and one mouth, use them accordingly,” and that’s basically what I’m saying in secret number three. If you’re focusing on outcomes, talking to the right people, and understanding how they make decisions, the next step is to listen to their story. Before you know what to tell them about you, listen to them. When job seekers ask me to look at their resume, I scan it but it means very little because it has no context. If they can show me the job they are applying for, I’ll have some input because I can match the relevant parts of their resume, their story, to the company’s job/company’s story. Selling is the same process. Before you launch into why your solution fixes their problem or produces a result, understand where they’re coming from.
  4. Listen without solutions in mind, but listen for what can be measured. Whatever you’re selling, know that your product or service doesn’t have any inherent value. The value of what you’re selling comes from the problems it solves or the results it provides. That’s why you need to focus on your client’s story before telling your own. When you hear the client’s outcomes, the first thing in your mind should be “interesting, how do you measure that?” followed by, “what is it now?” and “what do you want it to be?” For instance, if the client wants to reduce customer churn, the first thought in your brain needs to be, “How do you measure churn now?” followed by, “and what is churn now?” and then, “and what do you want churn to be?” That difference between churn now and churn later is the value your solution might provide. Bottom line, your solutions aren’t important until you understand the impact, so keep your solutions to yourself, ask questions and listen.
  5. If the impact is low, you’re free to go. Knowing that your solutions have different value to different people means when you hear a client’s story and the impact sounds low, you have to say something. If you say, “Sharon, based on what I’m hearing, does it make sense to fix this problem? What happens if you just leave it alone and manage it?” You’ll hear one of two things from Sharon. She’ll either offer you more information that justifies investing in a solution, or she’ll agree that the problem isn’t worth solving. Here’s the secret: if the impact is low, don’t be afraid to go. Don’t solve small problems when there are other clients and bigger problems. Move on.

These five secrets will set you apart from most sellers and keep your job safe from the robots for a while. Check it for yourself. Next time you’re considering a big purchase and find yourself in a car dealership or an appliance store, listen for the five secrets. Is the salesperson focused on your outcomes or can you imagine them doing commission math in their head? Are they curious your decision process? Have they learned more about what you want than they tell you about what they sell? Do they interrupt your story and offer quick fixes? Do they try and talk you out of spending your money based on what you’ve told them?

It’s rare to find sellers that follow these secrets. The good news is that all five are learned behaviors and anyone can improve on with practice. Especially you.

Good stuff.