Mastery, Specialization, and Sales

This week, I am attending an industry conference, VMSA Live, that brings together suppliers and buyers of staffing services. There will be a lot talking and sharing. There will also be conversations that will sound like “selling.” 

During my career, I have met a lot of salespeople; the ones with extraordinary lives specialize. They choose a market, a niche, a product type, and become a true expert in that area. With enough time and with a healthy mix of passion and a whole lot of effort, they become Masters. 

Brian sells Data Analytics software to technology companies and has for 12 years; his enthusiasm is palpable. Debbie is a sales expert in staffing to a single account; she loves her customers. Tim is a specialist in Applicant Tracking System software;  his brilliance is unsurpassed. Ron sells Vendor Management Systems exclusively to Fortune 100 companies; 16 years of excellence. Sheila sells practice management software to Northern California-based medical offices; she’s been doing this for 20 years and has no intention of stopping. Ed specializes in the sale of high-end residential real estate in Silicon Valley to high net-worth individuals; there is never enough hours in his day. My expert list can go on.

These are just a few of the ones I know that stand out from the rest. The great ones love selling and are dedicated to being as good as they possibly can be. They are all Masters in their specific domain; a market, a niche, an account, or a technology. They reject the false promise of serving many markets. They focus so they could excel. That means they say "No" frequently to apparent "opportunities."


How can you spot Master salespeople? 

Master salespeople possess a quiet intensity. Their concentration is uncanny. They learn their products and services quickly and thoroughly. They listen so intently to their prospects that sales conversations are anything but sales conversations. 

They see the big picture, yet attend to the details. They understand their client and their circumstances—their hopes and challenges, the constraints they face, and the resources they have. They know where they can help, and where they can’t. They recognize that their prospect has choices and what those choices are. They know what it takes to solve the problem and are willing to make that happen when the time and money are right for all concerned.

They seem to know what will happen before it does and see things others don’t. They are intuitive and just seem to “know” things. They bring new and fresh insights to selling opportunities. They have a vision for what is possible and find innovation springing forward.

Masters gracefully reach their sales targets and push beyond. Their income puts them in the top tier of their industry. They are never satisfied yet they are paradoxically content as they seek new challenges – earning goals, new customers, challenges. They pay attention.
 
They are smiling from the inside even as they struggle with challenging clients, unpredictable service providers, less than perfect products, “unreasonable” requirements, ever-shifting commission plans, and incompetent or misguided managers. They rise above it because they love what they do, they love what they sell, and they love converting prospects into customers and the special bond that forms.
 
But every extraordinary salesperson has specialized; they are NOT generalists. They have developed the specific skills they need in that specialization. They have acquired the in-depth knowledge of the domain they sell in. They have built relationships throughout the ecosystem that surrounds their specialization. They solicit feedback and input—from coaches, managers, customers, peers, and competition. They watch the metrics and KPIs to make sure they stay on track. They live their life so that they can do what they do at the highest of their ability. 

It is an intense existence. But master salespeople relish it. Some of them describe the experience of selling like an athlete on court—being in “the zone” when time stops, and there is just the moment—the client, the presentation, the search. These people have followed their calling and trekked along a steep road from Beginner to Novice to Competent to Master. 

Not all salespeople specialize; some are generalists. Generalists can be competent and capable. They leverage their interpersonal skills but seldom know more than the bare minimum about their products or services, their markets, etc. On occasion, a generalist becomes an expert. I have never met a generalist that is a Master. 

Sales Mastery is the alchemy of passion, skill, knowledge, feedback, routine, and community. Together these things create an amazing life. You might find it surprising, but the true reward for a Master salesperson isn’t the money or the acclaim, though they get plenty of that. Their most meaningful reward is in the moments of joy they experience while selling.

Yes, they love selling and selling loves them right back!