I've spent my life studying the attitudes, habits and behaviors of the top 10% of all sales people, to try to figure out what they think, what they do and how they act that makes them so successful. My passion is to use these discoveries to help my clients improve their sales results, and put these tactics, techniques and approaches to work for them.

Of course, being in the top 10% isn't for everyone. I can imagine some of you are thinking that it sounds like it must be a lot of work - perhaps more work than you're willing to spend right now. But let me ask you this: do you want to do any better than you are now, even if it's by as little as 1%?

If the answer is yes, then you need to understand and use the habits of the top 10%.

Olympic athletes never enter the stadium hoping to finish in the bottom 3rd. Tiger Woods has never started a tour wanting to just match his performance from last year. And my clients are not looking to make the same amount of money this year as they did the last.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to share with you what countless top performers have told me about the secrets to their success, and discuss how you can use that knowledge every day to sell more, in less time, and make more money doing it.

Love what you do or do something else
Love? Work? Have I gone crazy?

Most people don't associate what they love to do, with what they do for a living. Then again, most people aren't in the top 10%, either.

The truth is, people who don't love what they do, or aren't passionate about the business they're in, will never be truly successful. Oh sure, they may get by, they may even do reasonably well. But they're never going to reach the peak of their industry, their potential - or their earning power.

For every 100 people in the top 10% who I've interviewed, 95 have told me that the number one reason why they're successful is because they love what they do. They love the customers they sell to. They love the products or services they're selling. And they love to sell, period.

Passion is critical to sales success. If you don't love what you do, what you sell and who you sell it to, you won't ever make the top 10%, no matter how talented or driven you may be. With that in mind, I'm going to ask you to make a decision, right now: either commit yourself 100% to loving what you do for a living, or get out, and go do something else.

Think about it - do you really want to wake up in ten, twenty or fifty years, and realize that you've spent your life doing something you didn't enjoy? Here's a question you can ask yourself to help you determine what to do:

If I knew then what I know now about the product I sell, the market I serve and the company I work for, would I have taken this job?

If the answer is yes, then you need to find ways to be passionate about your product and company, and communicate that passion to your clients. If the answer is no, then you need to start making plans to remove yourself from the relationship, and move on.

The four signs that you truly love what you do
Still not sure whether you have the passion it takes to be successful in your current position? Whenever I'm coaching sales teams, there are two surefire signs of passion that I look for, to determine whether they have what it takes:

1. Do you walk the talk?
Do you read your own magazine? Stay at your own chain of hotels (and not just because you can get a discount!)? Use your own company's brand of insurance, pet food or toothpaste?

If you don't, won't or can't, then how can you possibly expect others to? In other words, if the product you're selling isn't good enough for you, how could it ever be good enough for your customers?

Now, some of you sell products that you couldn't ever own, like $1 million telecom equipment or SAP consulting services. Fair enough. The question then becomes, does your company implement the programs and products that you sell? For example, as an HP reseller, does your office use HP? As a CRM consultant, does your sales team use the CRM you recommend?

2. Do you talk the walk?
Second, do you do what you tell your customers to do?

If you're a sales/telemarketing outsourcer, do you outsource your own sales or telemarketing? If you're a financial advisor, do you save 10% of your income for your retirement? Do you live and work in the same way that you suggest your customers do? In other words, are you authentic to the sales message that you deliver?

The same rule of thumb applies to your company as well. If as part of your consulting practice you advocate the real time back up of all data to an offsite location, does your office do this as well? Do you use the same products or follow the same advice internally that you sell externally?

Whether it's a Bell sales person who uses Sprint long distance at home, a Cross pen sales person who writes up orders with a Bic, a travel agent who refuses to leave the city or a corporate trainer who never attends a seminar for themselves, there's nothing more shameful than watching an unauthentic sales person in action. So ask yourself: would you use the same services that you recommend? Eat the same meals you plan for your corporate meetings? Print on the same high quality paper you recommend for your clients?

Talking the walk and walking the talk is about more than good business. It's about being honest, authentic and genuine. When you're selling something you honestly believe is so good that you use it yourself, then you have a passion for what you sell and service, and you've made the first step towards joining the top 10%.

3. Being a winner means being a good loser
In baseball, you're a candidate for the Hall of Fame if you regularly bat 500. Top goalies have a goals against average of greater than 1. And except for Lance Armstrong, even the highest paid golfers, race car drivers and cyclists don't win all the tournaments, games or races they enter. Yet the majority of sales people still get frustrated when they can't close every piece of business that comes their way.

Top performers know different.

Let's face it - even the best sales people have lost far more business over the years than they've won. And that's OK. But while the rest of us whine, complain or blame everyone else we can think of, the top 10% of sales people continue to be inherently optimistic regardless of whether they "win" or "lose." Instead of attempting to pass the buck, they take full responsibility for their losses, never blame others, and always try to learn from their mistakes. Then, they move on to other serious prospects as quickly as they can.

Colonel Sanders faced over 1000 rejections of his secret recipe before a single person agreed to try it. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Steven Spielberg was kicked out of high school. What's important isn't that these top performers were faced with the prospect of failure. What counts is whether they let rejection stand in their way, or whether they chose to remain passionate about what they do.

Passionate sales people walk into every sales interaction knowing that they simply can't sell to everyone. There's always going to be someone who, for whatever reason, isn't going to buy your product, and that's okay. When this happens, top performers are able to pick up and move on to the next prospect right away. Why? Because they firmly believe that what they are selling is so good, there is always going to be a market for it.

The key to making this work for you is to always be prospecting. If you have tons of prospects to sell to, then you don't have to worry so much about whether one or two people aren't going to buy.

The majority of sales people need to have between 2-3 times their quota in their pipeline at all times in order to be successful. Spend at least a quarter of your time every day looking for new prospects to sell to, and watch as your sales begin to soar.

4. Continuing the dialogue
Finally, top performers always aim to maintain a continuous dialogue with their prospects, even if those prospects say "no."

People often say that "sales is all about relationships." Top performers know that sales are relationships. They remain truly interested in - and passionate about - their prospects because they know that building and maintaining relationships beyond the transaction of a sale is critical to their enduring success.

The next time you're out making a call, instead of picking up the phone or heading into a meeting thinking to yourself, "I wanna sell something to this guy," make it your goal simply to start and keep the conversation going.

Why does this help? Because dialogue is the start of a relationship, a relationship is the beginning of trust, and trust is the key to building long-term, loyal and profitable relationships with your clients.

Join us for the next Engaging Ideas when we'll unveil a few more secrets of the top 10%!

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Nonstop Sales Boom by Colleen Francis Make sure you check out Colleen's latest book, Nonstop Sales Boom for powerful strategies to drive consistent sales growth quarter after quarter, year after year.

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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