Sometimes the most interesting questions about sales come from people who are not salespeople at all. I was recently asked a question about sales by a friend of mine who is an attorney.

The question was if there was any kind of global sales rankings? Without giving me a second to breath a response, speculation began without me about how such a thing would work – which let to a really interesting line of thinking:

How would you go about ranking salespeople across industries, economies and cultures?

The knee-jerk answer is revenue, but this has some pitfalls. From this perspective, revenue works for revenue ranking, but what if we want to measure the effectiveness of on-the-spot selling rather than what might be called “account management”? In a lot of companies, some salespeople make the most revenue by managing accounts they have had for a long time. While this is certainly valuable, and important – and the ultimate goal of a long term sales process – is it really selling?

In my mind – strictly my own opinion here – selling is acquiring a new piece of business – from a new or existing customer. In this sense, there is certainly an element of selling in account management, but also other stuff. For raw selling horsepower, account management and revenue are only part of the picture.

And then there is the other side of the revenue sword – the really big deals. The Donald Trump size deals. What he does is clearly selling. He sells projects and ideas, and when he gets an agreement, it is worth a small fortune. But here again we run into the revenue problem. There may be a software salesperson, or a pharmaceutical salesperson, or an insurance salesperson who could out-sell Trump across 100 sales, and never come close to the revenue of one Trump-size deal.

So given all of that, who is the best salesperson?

  • The account manager who consistently brings in solid revenue year after year without much of what might be called raw, belly-to-belly selling?
  • The Donald Trumps of the world who generate more revenue in one deal than most salespeople will in a lifetime of effort?
  • Or the work-a-day transactional sales guy who is out closing new business every day, at whatever level of revenue it happens to be?

…maybe the problem – the reason that coming up with a good answer to the rankings questions is hard – is because it is not the right question after all!

As long-time blog readers will remember, I used to study Tae Kwon Do (back when when my joints were more nimble and my recovery time a bit shorter).  After years of study and many conversations with many fellow martial artists, I came to realize that many of us believed, in one way or another, that the “enemy” is not the person we face in the ring, but rather the “enemy” lies within. If we are able to overcome our own inner limitations, then we are winning, growing, etc.

I think that this is also true in sales. Of course revenue targets and performance are important – but getting there takes an internal fortitude that only those who arrive seem to understand.

In sales, martial arts, and many other endeavors that take sustained and sometimes bumpy stretches of personal effort for success, there is often (although not always) a certain humility among those that are truly self-made. Those who have made their share of mistakes, probably got some help along the way when they needed it, and overcame plenty of adversity – that could have gone either way – before arriving at what looks from the outside like success that came easy.

In my mind, it is the internal ranking that counts the most. Ranking yourself against who you were last year, and who you are striving to become in the future.  In this way, it is possible for everyone to win, if they make the effort to master their own journey. Those who show up every day, work to improve, and work to learn and grow, win regardless of the relative number attached to some arbitrary ranking.

In my experience, certainly over time, those who make these efforts also tend to be among the best salespeople, by any measure!

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David