Tel: (203) 644-9197

Achieve Sales Excellence

Achieve Sales ExcellenceAchieve Sales Excellence

The 7 Customer Rules for Becoming the New Sales Professional

Feb. 27, 2007 · By Howard Stevens and Theodore Kinni (buy at

Selling is a difficult profession. While college graduates are more likely to become salespeople than all other career choices combined, most universities don’t offer a formal sales program. Good salespeople are among the most sought-after employees these days, but as Jason Jordan, Principal of Mercer Sales Effectiveness Consulting, says: “There is little knowledge in the sales domain that can be trusted as law or science – at best, there are generally accepted principals. But alas, there is no foundational sales curriculum.”

Enter Achieve Sales Excellence, the result of 14 years of research designed to help salespeople become “world-class sellers.” The book is intended to help salespeople breach what authors Howard Stevens and Theodore Kinni refer to as a “sales effectiveness gap” in today’s business environment.

According to the book, customers assign salespeople a much larger role in the buying process than has been previously realized. In fact, the authors cite seven rules that customers believe spot a world-class salesperson: personal accountability, an understanding of business, applicability, accessibility, problem solving, innovation in customer response, and the idea of “being on the customer’s side.”

The authors go into detail about these rules and how salespeople can follow them in order achieve success in sales. The authors assert that salespeople spend a small percentage of their time in direct contact with customers. Instead, studies reveal that salespeople spend a lot of time on administrative tasks and traveling. They add: “Salespeople are generally eager to spend time with prospective customers, who are often busily avoiding them. On the other hand, salespeople generally neglect their existing customers, who want to spend more time with them.”

The authors write about Erica Feidner, a top salesperson for Steinway & Sons, who was profiled in The New Yorker in 2001, and was Steinway & Sons’ top salesperson for six years having sold $4 million worth of pianos in 1999. According to Stevens and Kinni, Feidner was so successful because she was able to match potential buyers to pianos.

She would spend an hour or more chatting with a customer, finding out their level of ability, playing style, where and how often they will play the piano and encourage the clients to play the pianos themselves. She would also tell a customer to wait until the right piano for them came along.

Salespeople should have expert knowledge of the product, but they should also educate and guide customers to make the best decision. Too many of the sales calls customers receive are not relevant to their needs.

The authors state that customers want contact with their salespeople and that the more salespeople interact personally with their clients, the more the clients are satisfied and the more likely they are to award more business to the salesperson. In the case of Feidner, the sale is just one first step in an ongoing process designed to ensure that the customer receives all the benefits of the purchase.

Salespeople must know who their customer’s customers are, what they want, and how their own products and services can help them. They add, “We also found that the greater the degree of “live” interaction between salespeople and their customers via personal meetings and telephone calls, the higher the customers’ satisfaction and loyalty levels, and the higher the percentage of business that customers award their vendors.”

The authors explain that customers want their salesperson to be accountable for the aspect of the business they are supplying. They explain that a CPA, PR pro or lawyer manage elements of their clients’ businesses and they act as a representative of their clients and for their client’s best interest. The authors explain that when salespeople act as business agents for their client’s interests, they win along with the clients. They are rewarded with sales, customer loyalty and referrals to new customers.

The authors state that salespeople should be in touch with their customers on a regular basis and not hide from customers’ problems. They should seek out feedback and problems and encourage customers to contact them at all times and especially if there is even the slightest problem.

As the authors state, “The best salespeople are always striving to become more accessible to their customers. Further, they do not presume that being “reachable” is enough to satisfy their customers’ expectations of accessibility. Instead, they are reaching out to make physical and emotional connections.”

The authors explain that those salespeople that reach out are rewarded with greater access to a company’s managers and operations, are better able to fulfill customer requests and needs and will achieve higher sales.

The final part of the book features eight brief chapters asking such questions as “What Drives the Company’s Culture?,” “How Does the Company Segment Its Markets?,” “How Efficiently Does the Company Adapt to Market Changes?” “How Are Customers Served by the Company’s IT Initiatives?,” “How Evolved Are the Company’s Sales, Service, and Technical Support Systems?,” and “How Does the Company Recruit and Select Salespeople?.” Achieve Sales Excellence is broken down into four parts: Part One, “What Good Science Reveals about Sales Excellence,” Part Two, “The Foundational Rules of Professional Competence,” Part Three, “The Advanced Rules of Sales Excellence,” and Part Four, “Eight Questions for Identifying World-Class Sales Organizations.”

Chapters feature helpful breakout text boxes providing additional tips, case studies and sales information.

Author Stevens is chairman and CEO of the HR Chally Group, a sales performance consulting corporation based in Dayton, Ohio. He is the author of The Quadrant Solution and Selling the Wheel and is a frequent speaker on radio and television and a contributor to Selling Power magazine.

Chally’s World-Class Sales Benchmarks program has been presented more than 500 times in 30 countries for corporations, trade associations, government agencies and universities. Kinni is a business author and journalist and has written books for consultants, speakers and Fortune 500 companies.