I had an opportunity to walk through my friend Joe Flanagan’s sales operation the other day and I can honestly say: what a great opportunity to see a bunch of young, talented salespeople in action. I had brought a mutual friend in order to give him a sense of some possibilities for his own sales operation, and as we walked around, Joe asked random people a very simple question.
- First, he asked, “Hey, what’s the first rule of sales success?” One of his salespeople would say; “A positive attitude!”
- We walked a little farther and Joe asked someone else; “What’s the second rule of sales?” “Ask great questions…”
- Around the corner and down the hall he said; “What’s the third rule of sales?” “Shut up and listen!“ Right on, he would say.
- And finally, “What’s the fourth rule of sales?” And any – any – of his salespeople would say; “Product knowledge.”
Skill & Discipline are More Important Than Product Knowledge
It was such a pleasure to see this in action. Joe and his team have built an powerful, efficient sales engine on these four priorities. Not only do I agree with these elements, I thought the most powerful thing was the ordering in which they were shouted. I believe that attitude, of course, is the key to success in any business. And product knowledge should be last. Why? Because we often over-emphasize it, and salespeople become catalogues of information as opposed to real conversationalists. Skill and discipline always win over product knowledge.
When we spend more time on product knowledge and give less time to thinking through our great questions (I call them “impact questions“) or just listening, we sacrifice a great opportunity to really understand what’s going on and build a relationship. Highlighting features at the expense of asking and listening ends up – best case – in a transaction. A great attitude, combined with questions and true understanding, creates relationships. And that should be priority number one.