Here's What It Takes to Be a Star Performer

Edition: April 2002 - Vol 10 Number 04
Article#: 1218
Author: Repertoire

Can you – do you – routinely provide your customers the following:
        • Single-contact satisfaction?
        • The ability to solve problems?
        • The ability to act as a customer advocate?
        • A commitment to keep customers up to date?

If so, that's good. Very good. In fact, it's necessary, if you want to be a successful salesperson, according to studies by the H.R. Chally Group, Dayton, OH, author of the Physicians' Office World Class Sales Survey (published biennially in Repertoire.) But to become a ''star performer,'' you'll need even more specialized skills, depending on what role you play on your company's sales team.

Repertoire spoke about star performers with Don Kitzmiller, 95% Share Marketing, a healthcare marketing consulting firm which distributes Chally's products and services.

Repertoire: Top o' the day, Don. How and why did H.R. Chally create the''Star Performers'' profiles?
Kitzmiller: Chally tested top and bottom performers from medical products manufacturers and distributors. These are called validation studies. The 1999 Physicians' Office World Class Sales Survey strengthened these studies even further, because the ultimate customers – physicians – told us what they looked for in their reps.

The Chally research identifies the four most important traits for salespeople to possess. Are these equally important to all salespeople?
The best way to understand this is the baseball analogy used by [Chally President and Owner] Howard Stevens. If you're the coach of a

T-ball team, you want kids who can swing the bat and not fall down, and kids who don't move away from the ball when it is hit to them. But if you're the coach of a high school team, you want kids who can throw, run, catch and hit. You want “total athletes.'' Sales reps who demonstrate the four attributes mentioned above are like these “total athletes.''

But when you get to the pros, being a “total athlete' is merely the price of admission. You look for the very best pitchers, outfielders, and infielders. Professional baseball players excel at one or at most two skills. Pitchers usually can't hit well; infielders rarely excel in the outfield; catchers almost never pitch. Likewise, “star performers'' in sales usually excel in one area, but not all.

Through its surveys and studies, Chally has identified what it takes to be a star performer in each of the following four positions: the med/surg dealer rep, the manufacturer rep, the equipment specialist and the medical sales manager. What's noteworthy is that the skills needed by one are not necessarily the same as those needed by another.

Is it fair to say that some sales managers hire “good athletes'' instead of ''star performers?''
I wish I had said that! If the manager hires a sales rep because he or she says, “I like people,'' that manager is managing his company like the high school coach manages his ball team. He's hiring generally good athletes, but he'll never win a professional game.

This is the trap that many dealers and manufacturers fall into, believing it's their only option: They feel they can't hire a professional salesperson for their area. They just hire nice people – universal salespeople.

Did you say “universal salespeople?'' Is there such a thing as a universal salesperson?
No. Next question.

But, you just said…
I was only using it to illustrate a point. The fact is, companies have to decide what they want to be, find out what skill sets are needed to accomplish that, and then hire to those skill sets.

For example, reps for manufacturers who use distributors have to be able to give credit to the distributor reps. In fact, they get their jollies by giving away credit for sales. If they get mad about that, they're the wrong rep for the job and for the company.

That makes that rep a bad salesperson, right?
There's no such thing as a bad salesperson, in my mind. What is bad is a salesperson who's playing in the wrong position. If a person's skills don't match those called for by the job at hand, that person can never be a star performer. He or she will also probably be miserable.

The people – and companies – who become star performers have one thing in common: They know what they want to be.

Are you saying that a salesperson can never change positions? In other words, someone who's good at selling commodities and supplies cannot become adept at selling high-end equipment?
I'm saying that there are some reps playing in the wrong positions all the time. They are unhappy and always struggling. As Dennis Waitley, the professional speaker, says, “Follow your passion, not your pension.''

Likewise, there are a lot of sales managers who aren't getting the results they think they could or should get, because they hired “good all-around players'' instead of specialists. Or they're failing to play the right players in the right positions. Look at it this way: Can Tiger Woods become a professional basketball player? Can Michael Jordan become a professional golfer or baseball player? He tried baseball but failed. It's true that some athletes can play multiple sports, but they're so few and so rare, it's dangerous to think you or one of your reps might be one of them.

Thanks, Don. It was a pleasure talking with you.
The pleasure was mine.

No, the pleasure was mine.
Well, you're the customer, so you must be right. The pleasure was yours.

No. Thank you.

Hmmm. Can we talk about something else?

Four Critical Traits of the'Total Rep'
Statistically, almost half of the average customer's perception of a supplier (as a whole) is based on the skills of the salesperson who calls on him or her. Customers' positive buying decisions increase when the four most important salesperson traits are rated as excellent. These four critical traits are:

1. The ability to provide single-contact satisfaction.

The successful sales rep personally accepts full responsibility for the customer's satisfaction. When things go wrong, he or she never blames the company, the shipping department, the technical service group, somebody else's product, or anything or anyone else. The rep takes it upon himself or herself to follow up with the customer, even when other people are needed to reach a resolution. He or she communicates regularly and commits to a completion date and level of effectiveness. When served by an effective salesperson, the customer no longer sees his problem dumped into an abyss, nor does he have to listen to a software person blaming the hardware, or any of a dozen other excuses.
2. The ability to solve problems. The successful rep can personally resolve most issues, instead of waiting for a manager's approval. This reduces the need to constantly call in separate technical or service people (assuming that they are readily available) to correct the most routine and “predictable'' problems that arise.
3. The willingness to act as a customer advocate or “champion'' when resolving vendor disputes or problems. Regardless of the marketing hype, vendors often fail to run their businesses for the sake of the customer. Rules, policies, and guidelines often seem designed to protect the vendor, NOT the customer. Besides, dealing uniquely with each customer is expensive. Skilled salespeople know when and how far the rules can and should be bent to the customer's advantage without creating an inappropriate problem for their own company.
4. A commitment to keep customers up-to-date. The rep keeps the buyer sharp and aware of what's going on with competitors, market trends, regulations, law cases, etc. It's not that customers can't go to one of a hundred meetings, or read countless websites, trade journals and newsletters. It's that there is too much information and too little time. Good salespeople know their customers' needs and priorities, and can pass along select information. This keeps customers up-to-date and happy with the personal added value the sales rep brings to the table.

Med/Surg Dealer Rep 'Star Performer'
Med/surg dealer reps sell medical products to the physician and clinic market, hospitals and nursing homes. They develop and expand business in an assigned territory and provide in-service demonstrations. They perform cost analyses for users and gather competitive information for client customers. They must maintain complete and up-to-date product knowledge and be able to answer objections with probing questions. The med/surg dealer rep who is a “star performer'' does each of the following:
Accepts responsibility
• Commits to taking personal responsibility for results, even when working indirectly through others.
•Avoids using excuses as explanations or justifying negative but preventable outcomes.

Demonstrates Initiative
• Positions himself or herself as a champion.
• Initiates plans and suggestions for reaching goals.
• Is self-sufficient and sees tasks and responsibilities through to completion.

Provides dependable follow-up
•Responds promptly and efficiently.
• Provides timely follow-up.
• Meets scheduled deadlines.
• Is hardworking and persistent despite demanding circumstances.
•Maintains a calm and tolerant reaction to problems and complaints in order to complete tasks as effectively as possible.

Emphasizes closing
• Encourages and reinforces the purchase decision to ensure against later buyer remorse.
• Demonstrates effective timing and urgency.
• Consistently tests the waters through trial closes.

Penetrates accounts.
• Develops a sales plan for each customer and works to increase use of products and services.
• Seeks additional purchase decisions when the timing is right.

Demonstrates goal orientation
• Is disciplined and systematic in building customer relationships.
• Driven to above-average income and the freedom and flexibility it provides.
• Maintains personal control over those factors identified as priorities.
• Concentrates full energy and attention on accomplishing key tasks.
• Prefers freedom and autonomy to an environment in which external dictates rule.

Manufacturer Rep 'Star Performer'
These reps promote the sales of their products and assume total control of their territory. They develop a sales plan for each customer and research customer concerns and needs in order to make tailored presentations. They encourage a customer's decision to purchase without later buyer remorse, and they train customer's salespeople on products, application, and basic sales techniques required to sell products. Additionally, they assist with joint calls in closing the sale and provide customers with reliable information. The manufacturer rep who is a “star performer'' does each of the following:

Develops new business
• Enjoys and accepts the challenge to understand buyers' drives and motivations.
• Effectively generates leads.
•Maintains a positive outlook about widely differing points of view and personal styles of prospects and customers.
• Is continually alert to and looking for new business opportunities.
• Sees beyond personality issues and remains focused on sales potential.
• Maintains consistent customer contact
• Adopts a personal schedule that ensures effective coverage of territory.
• Demonstrates consistent account management.
• Puts customer obligations and responsibilities first in priorities.
• Honors commitments to customers.
• Builds an organized, efficient, and consistent account management process.
• Makes a commitment to customers and won't short them for comfort or convenience.

Makes decisions efficiently
• Makes decisions based on available information supported by an understanding of overall goals.
• Is willing to make a 60-percent-effective decision now and refine it later, rather than waiting to make a 99-percent-right decision that comes too late.
• Practical and expedient, distinguishing and then focusing energy on those issues that can produce a real impact.

Provides dependable follow-through
• Maintains a calm and tolerant reaction to customer problems and requests in order to complete tasks as efficiently as possible.
• Acts by decision, not emotion.
• Is persistent yet prudent in task accomplishment.
• Will not risk everything on a gamble, but gets behind a sure thing.
• Approaches task accomplishment with confidence and optimism that success will be achieved.

Gains distributor commitment
• Assumes an influential role in motivating franchised distributors
• Understands there must be a worthwhile benefit or reward to them.
• Communicates clearly to keep key contacts focused on promoting medical equipment products.
• Generates support from distributors instead of forcing the sale and promotion of products.
• Keeps contacts focused on the promotion of the company products by communicating repeatedly to make sure they clearly understand the products and product improvements.

The Equipment Specialist (Consultant) 'Star Performer'
These reps are systematic vs. just intuitive in learning customer methods and goals. They stay in touch with market trends and are open to feedback from customers about needs and wants. They present products and services in a professional manner and maintain priorities by focusing on immediate needs. They are also ready and willing to train customers' staffs. The “star performer'' demonstrates the following skills and characteristics:
Determined and intense
• Works around bureaucratic red tape or external excuses that can hinder efforts to satisfy customer needs.
• Will bend the rules or push the limit to achieve results.

Driven to succeed
• Directs intensity and work ethic toward goal accomplishment.
• Is hard-working.
• Wants to improve own level of success and achievement.
• Cannot be satisfied with maintaining status quo and sets high standards for own level of success.
• Demonstrates a commitment to business relationships, combining a good rapport with concern for any impact on others.
• Maintains effective business relationships by learning and working interpersonal influence and political skills.

Committed to a sales role
•Effective in a conversational, one-on-one presentation.
• Adopts a less formal approach to communicating information and is more comfortable with a smaller, more intimate group than with a larger, less personal audience.
• Presentation style includes selling self as well as a product or service, and adjusting approach to fit in with the audience.
• Sensitive to the customer's response, adjusting the communication of information or ideas to accommodate their need to know or level of understanding.
• Keeps the focus on content and substance, not flash and performance.

Effective closer
• Motivated to encourage a decision to purchase without later buyer remorse.
• Believes in reinforcement of the decision.
• Demonstrates effective timing and urgency.


Medical Sales Manager 'Star Performer'
Medical sales managers train salespeople on products, applications, and basic sales techniques. They travel with sales reps and assist with joint sales calls. They can delegate tasks to both the sales force and support staff. They balance priorities and projects to generate profitable results and become a champion of the company. Additionally, they take the initiative in planning projects and programs and are motivated to produce measurable results. The “star performer'' sales manager exhibits the following characteristics:
Willingness to train/coach
• Motivated to train salespeople on products, applications, and the basic sales techniques required to sell products and services more effectively.
• Committed to having an impact on others.
• More concerned about results produced or change accomplished than with how attractive or entertaining the training can be.
• Emphasizes activities that will help improve sales skills, focusing on efficiency of effort and eliminating irrelevant fluff.
• Concentrates on the three or four key issues that will make a difference in training people.

Willingness to make joint sales calls.
• Works together with salespeople.
• Willing to assist in reaching the purchasing decision-maker of the end user.
• Dedicated to providing needed backup and expertise to the salesperson in order to secure the close.
• Able to react to opportunities with minimum information and preparation.
• Works with salespeople to help them react to what the customer needs.
• Keeps the individual being coached focused on the activities that contribute to the sale.

Ability to direct and control others
• Has good delegation skills that take into consideration the skill level and business maturity of subordinates.
• Offers encouragement and explanation and utilizes a hands-on or walk-around style to follow up and ensure that delegated tasks are effectively completed.
• Will evaluate and build a book on key subordinate strengths and weaknesses, and makes assignments accordingly.

Profit mentality
• Has the ability to aptly balance the priorities and skills of self and others to generate profitable results.
• Won't become distracted by outside issues that don't influence the bottom line.
• Entrepreneurial with a bottom-line vs. administrative orientation.
• Believes in own capabilities and expects to be successful.
• Doesn't get distracted by or waste time on trivial problems, unnecessary paperwork, or personality issues that don't affect profitable results.

• Champions the success of the business.
• Maintains close touch with key business issues.
• Alert to potential problems and/or opportunities.
• Makes suggestions and initiates plans.
• Is not dependent on upper management for direction.
• Demands relevant information and establishes feedback processes that provide both formal and informal means of keeping up-to-date on the status of plans and assignments.

Effective communications
• Takes lead in initiating contact.
• Researches others' needs and concerns to make a tailored presentation.
• Focuses on the audience to be sensitive to their response.
• Effectively communicates through a persuasive, planned presentation of ideas that is customized to fit individual audiences.
• Prioritizes key points.

A focus on quantitative results
• Driven to accomplish an increased volume of useful outputs.
• Motivated to produce measurable results.
• Gains satisfaction from seeing personal progress in task accomplishment.

Practical intelligence
• Able to practically and intuitively understand complex issues.
• Absorbs new information quickly and relates it to previously acquired knowledge to expand and refine one's frame of reference.
• Enjoys learning and broadening depth of learning and insight in a wide array of topics.

Analytic ability
• Effectively weighs the accuracy of different kinds of information, including inferences, abstractions, or generalizations, in order to define a problem, select appropriate information, recognize assumptions, develop a hypothesis, and reach a valid conclusion.