8 years ago
April 13, 2016

How Great Sales People Learn

With proper teaching and self-guided learning, good sales people can and will become great sales people.

Rhys Metler

Great sales people rarely start great. It takes polish and effort to turn talent into greatness: sales is part science, part art, and no amount of genius lets a sales person skip straight to the top tier. That’s a fortunate thing for most readers–you, or the people on your team, may not rank in the numbers of the truly great sales people yet, but ‘yet’ is the key word. With proper teaching and self-guided learning, good sales people can and will become great sales people. The trick is in putting the time in and spending that time wisely. In this article we’ll discuss a few of the learning strategies that most consistently lead to great sales people, to give you or those you’re teaching their best shot at the big leagues.

Emphasize The Basics

Knowing your process, your industry, your product, your customers…mastery of the basics will always be important, whether you’re a beginner or one of the great sales people of your industry. Without a rock solid foundation, you can’t comfortably innovate and improvise. Why? Because to measure the effect of a given change, you need to be able to pull off ‘standard’ perfectly every time. If your basics are imperfect and unstable, you’ll never be able to tell what a result of your innovation is and what a result of a fluke is.


Accurate self-analysis forms the core of all great sales people. Without an accurate understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses, you can’t effectively learn to capitalize on those strengths and overcome those weaknesses. That means always questioning yourself–when a sale falls through, why did it fall through? How was it your fault (even if it wasn’t your fault)? When you close a deal, where did the sales process drag?

Soft and hard data both play roles here. Hard data will give you the only unbiased information you can receive about yourself, information with all the perceptual bias stripped away. You’ll be very hard-pressed to perfect your learning regimen without hard numbers from some metrics solution. Yes, great sales people existed before such accurate metrics, but with the same amount of talent, the greats of today can exceed the greats of yesteryear.

Learning Broadly, Learning Constantly

There are many moving parts in any sale. Great sales people never find themselves surprised by what a prospect has to say, by a change in the industry, by a bold move by a competitor. We avoid surprises by learning broadly. Knowing absolutely everything there is to know about your product is not enough to excel–you need to know about the competitor’s product, about changes in consumer habits. If tomorrow, new legislation or Supreme Court ruling impacted you, would it come as a surprise?

One-on-One With A Coach

It’s almost impossible to match the benefits of learning from an expert sales person. One-on-one coaching has been proven repeatedly to be one of the single strongest components for building great sales people. A good sales coach, someone who understands your strengths and weaknesses and can work with you using their own breadth of experience, cannot be replaced with any amount of broad advice or self-study. Without a one-on-one coach acting as a booster, you’ll have to gain the benefits of tailored experience the hard way: by doing.

Practice, Practice, Practice

No amount of reading tips on the internet can give that final push that moves someone from the ranks of good sales people to great sales people. You can shorten the transition, you can figure out a blueprint for making the leap, but to make the final move takes real experience. Role-playing can act as a sort of Experience Lite, but eventually you’ll need to take the things you’ve learned and bash them against real prospects.

Everything else you do to learn, you do so that when you’re getting your hours in with prospects they aren’t wasted.

Rhys Metler

Rhys is a tenacious, top performing Senior Sales Recruiter with 15+ years of focused experience in the Digital Media, Mobile, Software, Technology and B2B verticals. He has a successful track record of headhunting top performing sales candidates for some of the most exciting brands in North America. He is a Certified Recruitment Specialist (CRS) and has expert experience in prospecting new business, client retention/renewals and managing top performing sales and recruitment teams. Rhys enjoys spending quality time with his wife, son, and daughters, BBQing on a hot summer day and tropical vacations.