3 Traits of Top-Performing Commission Sales Professionals
I have a tremendous amount of respect for 100% commission industry sales professionals. With no guarantee of a salary or benefits, you’re faced with the cold reality that if you do not sell you do not get paid. As a result, historically there is a high failure rate amongst industry sales professionals, as it takes time to build up a business.
However, the beauty for those who are successful is that there’s no ceiling to an individual’s income—the more you sell, the more you make. During my 20-plus years in this industry, both on the distributor and supplier side, I have worked with thousands of straight commission sales professionals. I have found that the few who are writing millions of dollars in revenue a year exemplify traits that take their game to a different level. These professionals do the following:
Top sales professionals invest in hiring inside sales personnel to support their growing business. The first hire is typically the hardest mentally. Just when you seem to be getting ahead financially, taking a few steps backwards to hopefully take 10 steps forward is hard.
The reality is that there are only so many hours in the day, and if you are spending all of them maintaining existing business, ultimately you will plateau or descend. By making this investment, a sales professional can pursue new business until that sales support person says “uncle,” typically at $1.5 to $2 million. Once that revenue threshold is achieved, a new support person can be hired, and a growth flywheel has been created.
The most successful sales professionals I know are always actively looking to add new buyers and clients. They are not satisfied with working with a handful of buyers within a company—rather, they want to work with them all.
They identify industries that they’re passionate about and pursue that business by exhibiting at industry trade shows. They also do not simply rely on digital prospect marketing to get sales meetings. Instead, they’ll invest in targeted direct mail campaigns that showcase their creativity and differentiation.
The last trait—and perhaps the most powerful one—is fear. Fear is probably too strong of a word. A better way of describing it is the uneasy feeling that the fruits of one’s labor could go away. The uneasy feeling of a customer contact departing and with that the entire business. The uneasy feeling of having all of your income with one account.
All of this uneasiness can be alleviated with action. Taking the steps to become more ingrained within your customer base through technology, logistical support for programs or annuity solutions make these sales professionals hard to replace.
These three traits seem intuitive and doable, and I believe that’s true. However, it’s easier said than done, and that’s why there are so few at the top.
Pat is currently executive vice president of sales at Boundless. Prior to joining Boundless, Pat was vice president of sales for Toppers, a Top 20 industry supplier. Prior to Toppers, he served as vice president of national accounts for Norwood Promotional Products, one of the largest promotional products suppliers in the industry. In his free time, Pat enjoys drinking a cool beverage while attempting to play golf.