Stepping Up Sales Results

Reprinted from Professional Selling

By Brent Filson -

The close isn't the end of the sales process.  It's only a beginning — the beginning of a new phase of that process.  I call it the Stepping Up Phase.  The more sales we achieve, the more sales we should achieve; for in achieving more sales, we create more opportunities to achieve even more.  We stop getting "more" when we either stop believing that there is more we can get or we don't have the knowledge or tools to get them. 

Good sales people can close, but few "step up" for even more sales from that close.  Yet stepping up should be one of the easiest accomplishments in sales — that is if you know how to build the staircase.  Here are three tips for achieving consistent step-ups.

Start Early: George Burns said, "I had to work hard  for 20 years in vaudeville before I became an overnight success in radio."  That's a lesson in stepping up.  Step-ups don't just happen "overnight."  We must prepare for them.  Prepare for them in the early stages of the sales process when prospecting for new clients, identifying decision makers, and making initial calls.  Ask yourself: "What is the close in this sale?  And how can that close lead to a step-up in sales?"  Looking at your sales challenges from the viewpoints of step-ups gives you new insights into those challenges and new ways to meet those challenges.

For instance, I work with a materials supplier that wanted to acquire new customers in the computer industry.  The sales people aimed to replace their competitors' materials with their materials in computer housing applications.  They would have gotten closes with that focus — but not step-ups.  The differences between their competitors materials and their materials were negligible in cost and performance.  Step-ups would only come when they introduced their materials into their customer's design stage of product development. 

The sales people continued to develop the traditional channels to their customers' purchasing departments.  But they also began building step-ups early by including design engineers in their first-stage sales activities.  They focused on being their customers' "design partners" — not simply showing them where they could save costs and achieve performance advantages but also showing them how they could get market share through the innovative uses of those materials.  As design partners, they not only got closes but step-ups by integrating their materials into new generations of housings. 

Link to Results: Step-ups happen only when you answer the vital needs of your customers — not the nice-to-answer needs but the truly vital needs.  Discover those needs by asking and answering: "What are your customers absolute must-have results?  Those "must-haves" are your great step-up opportunities. 

For instance, I consulted with an insurance company whose growth had flattened out.  We  found out a key reason why.  Their products were not meeting the must-have results of their customers.  Their customers absolutely had to grow.  Yet the company's products did not materially address those growth needs.  Only when the sales people began to develop and sell products that met those needs did the company begin to get back on the growth track.

Get Cause Leaders: Salespeople often fail to get step-ups because they have a short-sighted view of the customer.  They view the customer as only a customer!  Whereas, if we want to get step-ups, we must see the customer not just as a customer but as a "cause leader," one who can lead our cause both inside and outside their company.  Instead of aiming for just a close, aim, too, to obtain that customer's leadership.

For instance, the salespeople of the materials company not only worked diligently on closing with the engineer-customers but also on creating step-ups by persuading those engineers to be the cause leaders for their materials within the company.

Here is the way that they enlisted that leadership.  They discovered that the absolute must-haves of the engineers were productivity and fast cycle-times.  The engineers were under the gun, pointed by upper management, to produce designs faster with fewer resources. 

In response, the sales people developed a materials performance package for the engineers that increased their productivity and cycle-times.  In addition, they brought in productivity experts from their own company to help the engineers streamline their design processes.  They're not only selling their materials.  They're selling productivity as well.  Seeing that the sales people were helping them meet their vital needs, the engineers became the sales people's cause leaders within their company — unleashing a torrent of step-ups. 

Don't sell yourself short by focusing exclusively on the close. Liberate the step-up opportunities that are embedded in most closes.  By starting early, linking to results, and getting cause leaders, you can multiply sales far beyond what simple closes achieve.

Brent Filson's fourth book in his Action Leadership Series — Results!Results!Results! Getting More Faster — will come out this fall.  The founder of The Filson Leadership Group, Inc.,  he helps sales people around the world get sizable increases in results.


© The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

The author of 23 books, Brent Filson's recent books are, THE LEADERSHIP TALK: THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOL and 101 WAYS TO GIVE GREAT LEADERSHIP TALKS. He is founder and president of The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. – Celebrating 25 years of helping leaders of top companies worldwide achieve outstanding results every day. Sign up for his free leadership e-zine and get his FREE report "7 Steps To Leadership Mastery"