Three Steps for Better Sales Results

Create a target list
Good things happen for salespeople when they create and update their target list of accounts.  This is often a list of 20-50 executives and/or businesses that an individual salesperson is trying to reach. A good target list is essentially a down-and-dirty business plan for a salesperson.  It is built by understanding who your customer is and who makes buying decisions within those organizations.  With a target list, you have a tool for managing your own time and managing the time of salespeople who work for you.  Without this target list, salespeople get reactive and spend their time responding to whoever calls them vs. actively pursuing quality meetings with decision makers. 

While most salespeople know they should have a prospect list, few sales organizations do a great job of creating and using them consistently.  Mike Weinberg, VP-Sales for Gabriel Communications, is a top-producing salesperson who also leads other salespeople for his organization.  Mike's point is simple.  "If you have the wrong prospects, you are not going to succeed...The leaders and managers of most sales organizations don't spend near enough time focused on ensuring that their people are focused on the right, specific targets."

Questions to Consider: 

  1. What makes someone a great addition to your prospect list?
  2. When was the last time you updated your own target list? 
  3. How up-to-date are the target lists of the other salespeople in your company?
  4. What names should be added to your target list?
  5. What names should be eliminated?

Strategically Develop Referral Sources
A strategic view of networking grows naturally out of a well-defined and up-to-date prospect list.  If you define your prospect list correctly, two things will happen.  First, you will have the names of executives on the list who you do not know and to whom you don't have direct access.  Second, you will realize that as your own list of personal contacts gets depleted, you need to find new ways to meet more solid prospects.  Strategically building your business network is one tool for gaining access and generating more prospects. 

An important part of working smart is developing relationships with people who can be an ongoing source of referrals for you.  As legendary sales trainer Bill Brooks once said, "One of the best ways to build a business is to make money next year from things you sell this year."  Building one strong referral relationship in the next few months could pay off in thousands and thousands of dollars in the coming years.

It used to be that networking meant showing up at business card exchanges and happy hours.  Today, networking means developing connections with your prospects or other professionals who do business with your prospects.  It also means cultivating these relationships over time by providing value.  You can provide value to contacts in many different ways.  Invite them to play golf, bring them with you to a business event, or help their kid get into a private school.  Then, focus your time on people who provide referrals for you. The best referral relationships are a two-way street where two professionals who provide different services but call on the same customers combine forces to grow both of their businesses.

Finally, keep in mind that the 80/20 principle is alive and well when it comes to developing referral sources.  80% of your referrals likely come from a handful of referral sources.  Invest time in developing a new referral sources.  One strong source of referrals could make a significant, positive impact on your business

Questions to Consider
Review your sales numbers for the past year.  Then, ask yourself:

  1. How much of your business came from referrals?
  2. Who were your best sources of referrals? 
  3. What are you doing to further cultivate those relationships?
  4. How can you provide more value for those individuals? 

Hire the right salespeople
Sales is easy to understand and hard to do.  Most people are not going to be successful in sales.  As a result, if you are serious about building a great sales team you have to be serious about recruiting great sales talent.  Nothing will make a bigger difference for your sales organization than hiring the right people. 

Ron Clark is Managing Director - Sales for BNY Mellon Wealth Management in the Mid-Atlantic.  He is a successful, veteran sales executive who will tell you that his number one priority is to hire the right people.  Here are some of the characteristics for which he looks:

  1. Integrity, the desire to achieve, and a willingness to be coachable (characteristics that you can't train).
  2. People who have been demonstrably successful at what they've done in the past and can tell you the numbers to back up their success stories.
  3. People who have been committed to being successful at whatever they have done. 
  4. People who are good at building new relationships as demonstrated in part by their community service.
  5. Industry experience.

While Ron has the final decision on any candidate, four different people from the organization interview any candidate and all of them typically must agree on a candidate before he or she is hired. 

In addition, every serious candidate for a sales position must take an on-line sales assessment tool.  As Ron says, "The assessment tools are effective at helping us to circle back and ask more questions about candidates.  It also gives us a format to organize our conversations and our notes.  We like to like people, and the test helps us to be thorough and objective."

Questions to Consider

  1. What are your criteria for a strong sales candidate?
  2. How many candidates have you interviewed recently?
  3. How strong is your interview process for hiring salespeople?
  4. Have you incorporated a proven sales assessment tool into your hiring process?

Improving sales results takes both good strategy and a lot of hard work.  By developing a target list and being more intentional about developing referral sources, you are doing the hard work that every great salesperson is willing to do to be successful.  In turn, by focusing on hiring the right salespeople to begin with, you are being strategic and building a great team that can generate strong results for years to come.

Eric Herrenkohl is Founder and President of Herrenkohl Consulting (, a management consulting firm focused on creating organizations that drive growth and profits. His work has been published or cited in the Philadelphia Inquirer,,,, and  Eric is also the author of Performance Principles, a monthly e-letter that reaches thousands of subscribers across North America and is re-printed in a number of industry and company newsletters.