I hate list articles.

They are usually full of fluff and wind up being entirely unsatisfying.

So how is this one different?

The three big things you need to succeed in sales is not a list of tips and tricks.

Rather, it is the three big categories of excellence you need to – not master – but be consistently vigilant about.

So what are these three things?

1) Who
2) What
3) How

Hmmm – three of the famous “journalism” questions. Can’t get more categorical than that!

So how can we apply these broad categories to sales excellence (and ultimately sales success) and why should we bother?

Let’s look at each a bit more deeply:



The mindset you bring with you into sales is huge.

Sales is about communicating with people and ultimately persuading them to trust you – to trust your competence and to trust your integrity.

That’s really hard to do it you don’t believe it yourself.

So how can you convince yourself that you are trustworthy and competent?

In short – you have to actually be trustworthy and competent.

In the 10 years I have blogged, one of the most popular blogs I have ever written is about what I call “sales philosophy.” You could also call it mentality. You can read it here, but in essence, it suggests that to win in sales, you need to think about yourself the right way and do the things these thoughts suggest, such as:

● Be a subject matter expert (which demands that you study your craft and your trade)

● Have a service orientation (which means that you position yourself to help your prospect with a solution rather than ramming your solution down their throat whether they need it or not)

● Value your time – which means you have to qualify. Not like a robot, or with a “do not pass go” stupidity, but rather that you recognize that you add enormous value to your clients, so you choose carefully where to spend that effort to avoid wasting time and to make sure that your efforts are directed towards reaching your goals.

Having this mentality will set you up for success, and will help you feel great getting there. Read the Sales Philosophy blog post for more about this important idea.

But what about the other two things – how and what?



Sales is funny – unless you are in a tightly controlled inside sales role, you usually have choices about how you spend your time.

And even in those tightly controlled sales roles, you have choices within individual instances of customer communication to make choices about what to say and do.

If you want to be effective at sales, you need to have a clear idea of how you get from Point A (i.e., not talking to a specific prospect yet) to Point B (i.e., getting the sale).

In my work, I call this the sales process – what to do step-by-step to get into and to get successfully through an individual potential sale. I wrote a series of blog posts about that a few years ago, it remains the single most popular topic on my blog over any period of time.

If you are not sure what to do to get into and successfully through a sales conversation consistently, efficiently and gracefully, give it a read here.



Having the right sales mentality and knowing what to do are really important, but knowing HOW to move through the sales process is critical. This is the “methodology” piece of the puzzle.

I don’t have a blog-size set of words or sentences about this – once you have the right mentality and the big pieces of “what to do” in place, this will take some work and experimentation.

To help with that, I wrote a rather long eBook (almost 100 pages) called “Building Your Sales Process” that deeply examines both mentality (who) and process (what) and then fleshes each step out. It won’t tell you what to do (OK, it does in places), but most importantly it asks you questions that you can answer yourself. If you do, you will begin to build up the whole triad for yourself – who, what and how.

You can download “Building Your Sale Process” here. It’s free.



Together then – knowing WHO you are, WHAT to do and HOW to do it is the big three. If you are working to improve your personal sales effectiveness, and decide to do something to help yourself improve, ask yourself which of these three areas you are working on.

If what you are doing to try to improve doesn’t fit into one of these categories, think hard about what it is doing for you.

There are other important things, of course, but these are the big three. Get them right and you will set yourself up for sales success.

Nurture them all well, and never stop.