Recent surveys suggest that only 5% of professional salespeople reach and remain at the highest level, which we call ‘Level 3’. A further 15% attain ‘Level 2’ status, but the majority – a massive 80% – remain at ‘Level 1’ in terms of potential achievement.
Getting to Level 3
‘Level 1’ salespeople sell products and depend on having the right technical solution for the customer’s specification. ‘Level 2’ salespeople sell solutions, which positions them as a potential strategic resource. Most salespeople manage to advance to Level 2 fairly easily, but find breaking through that final glass ceiling extremely difficult ‘Level 3’ salespeople are able to first identify and then capitalise upon the political component within the buying process. They develop and sustain strong commercial relationships at all levels within their accounts. These relationships endure, because they are based on mutual respect and trust.
Their clients feel secure, so secure, that they would be fearful of changing supplier. ‘Level 3’ salespeople rarely, if ever, lose an order that they really want, because they are always in control of the sales cycle.
What sets them apart
Three additional areas, which set ‘Level 3’ players apart from the rest, are:
Commercial acumen: Collaborative sales professionals have high levels of strategic awareness and they can communicate comfortably with board level players using common language and terminology.
Competitive courage: To achieve consistent levels of success, it is necessary to proactively target competitors and their client base. Individuals who lack the guts for a fight and are not comfortable with competitive selling will be severely restricted.
Being focused on political activity: The sales professional who fails to recognise the importance of politics in virtually every complex sale will almost certainly consign themselves to a career at ‘Level 1’. No one ever said that we must take part in the political game, but recognising that a game is being played, whether we like or not, is essential.
Most organisations will not necessarily need to populate their sales teams with ‘Level 3’ performers, even if they could find and afford them. There will always be tasks, functions and markets where ‘Level 2’ or even ‘Level 1’ salesmen and women can comfortably exceed expectations.
What is important is that you have the right level where they are needed. If an organisation is attempting to compete in a market sector where ‘Level 3’ skills are required and their team is predominately at ‘Level 2,’ they are unlikely to consistently win business.