Are top salespeople born or made? Is success at pitching a job a gift you either have or don’t?
I recently put this question to Gib Durden, vice president of business development at HighGrove Partners in Atlanta, one of the most successful commercial landscape companies in the country.
According to Gib, the best salespeople, like the best pitchers in Major League Baseball, are born and made.
Top sellers have a natural talent. “They’re comfortable knocking on doors and putting their hand out,” he says, whether it’s at a trade-association event or the Chamber of Commerce or the golf course. HighGrove has found some new clients through creative marketing, but Gib stresses it’s no replacement for old-school, face-to-face interaction between sales rep and prospect.
But top sellers also have to be coachable and adaptable. They can’t think they know everything, because they don’t.
At HighGrove they invest heavily in training their sales team. They perform role-playing exercises. They have the less experienced shadow the seasoned pros. They help new hires to slowly build their portfolios rather than dump a raft of accounts on them and leave them to fend for themselves.
And every Monday morning they religiously gather the sales team for a three-hour Game Plan Meeting, where they recap where they are and discuss the current market. They pore over what sales tactics are working and what ones aren’t. Most important of all, they share their successes and their failures and learn from each other how to tackle their biggest challenges.
Their approach works. In fact, a recent Harvard Business Review study found that this kind of “peer time” is a predictor of sales success and that top sellers seek out coaching, whether it’s through formal training or the informal learning that takes place each week at HighGrove.