There is no Strategy without effective tactics and effective tactics fall down without a stellar strategy.

If you believe there is an easy button for success in sales, the joke’s on you! While there’s tremendous value in a vast array of digital tools, all emerging technologies have a dark side.

Take the internet itself and its use for nefarious purposes: I wish the majority of its usage were for knowledge. How many people are studying the rich tradition of human history, MOOC learning, culture and fostering communal collaboration to break down cultural barriers, cure cancer and end the common cold?

It’s overwhelming to fathom that the internet has become a TV substitute. The Social Networks are laughing all the way to the bank monetizing your time. But you can be laughing all the way to the bank, too, if you realize this.

One of the most powerful things in the world that you can personally do to improve your life and business career, sales or otherwise is to turn off TV and social media. Understand where the new school tools fit in and acknowledge their place in the cosmos. Modernized sellers who are deadly serious about being elite performers in their field use them differently, I assure you. A cautionary tale privately emailed to me:

Tony, Building our sales team and I just had to fire a sales rep who was only emailing and messaging on LinkedIn and logging fake sales on our CRM. He tanked our company and I’m back to square one building from the ground up. Your post resonated with me and reinforces my belief that HUMAN not ‘social’ connections are the best. Picking up the phone, sitting down for a coffee, flying in for a meeting…are irreplaceable experiences.” – Anonymous

I’ve polled thousands of you from every continent and walk of life, from transactional to enterprise flights, to massively matrixed, complex government procurement cycles that can take 36 months. The jury is in that the phone is still absolutely essential to develop business at every stage of the funnel.

To make the most money possible, the top reps in your company and industry have figured out how to manage their time, leverage old and new tools to position themselves as a trusted advisor and subject matter expert. They’ve figured out which opportunities to prioritise in a pipeline and what they need to close to hit their number.

The simplest way to get there is to build ultra-targeted prospect lists, dial on them yourself with a razor sharp value proposition and set the appointment, don’t try to sell the product. Social is a phenomenal tool for locating which prospects to go after and getting foreknowledge of what they’ll care about but paradoxically, super personalized communication can be a repellent.

Sales Managers who work for ambitious CFOs often prognosticate fantastical growth rates. 30% is not an industry standard, it’s a mass delusion. This is why there’s blowtorch management going on where 10 lemmings get hired so they can systematically fire 7. I can’t help you if you are inside a blowtorch culture. If you have a fair management system, quality product market fit, and you are on a global team in which 20-40% of your peers are hitting their number or exceeding it, so can you!

There’s no secret to sales. You need to hustle and work harder than anyone else to make it pay off for you. “It’s no longer a numbers game,” is a band-aid for the lazy modern seller. I want to contort that statement the other way: it’s harder than it’s ever been. If you truly knew how hard you’d have to work to be successful in this game, you’d probably quit.

Maintain a good sense of humour. See things more clearly, don’t buy into things being more different than the same. Observe the actual day-to-day behaviour of top reps on your team and in your industry. Study the old school and fuse it with the new school. Look at your PHONE as the ultimate social device: “the social phone.” Invest in the best tools money can buy and read your company the Riot Act if they don’t invest in you. They spent 15-25K to recruit you, they can spend the price of a cell phone getting you the best tech for prospecting due diligence.

20% of any system will drive 80% of the results. 20% of any given day’s work will engender 80% of output. That means shockingly 80% of every day is waste, friends! The Pareto Principle is alive and well in all human systems. So in order to optimise the levers that will get you to your financial goal, it’s critical to focus on the most constructive revenue producing daily activities. That’s “tripling” a targeted list – call, text – LinkedIn invite. That’s methodically attacking the same 50 targets for an entire quarter top down, bottom up, middle out, lateral, by bee swarm, referrals, and teamlinks.

After decades years of looking at this stuff, I would say that chasing the wrong people to sell them things they’ll never need is the biggest error. You need to get crystal clear about your target list.

Step one: Go after the competitors of your existing clients. Go after the companies your own direct competitor is working with and are listed on their website.

Step two: You are only as strong as your own intel, just like in war. If you can get an edge, it’s massive. If you can read any LinkedIn Profile, even one that’s hidden to you, it’s pivotal. If you can get a direct phone number to add the power of your tone, intention, and warmth to the sales cycle, it’s imperative.

Elite athletes spend 10,000 hours honing their craft and know every stat down to the wire. They will spend any amount of money getting their driver in golf to weigh one less ounce or having one more component on their racing bike, be made of carbon fibre seeking aerodynamics to crest the hill faster in the Tour de France.

Per Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” You can’t do what hundreds of millions of people are doing and get an elite, unusual, uncommon result. You can’t just social sell or just pound phones, or just use one method of sales.

You’ll get noticed by swimming upstream against the current. You’ll stand out like a sore thumb by doing anachronistic things like writing handwritten notes. You’ll make waves by blending multiple channels in combinations. You’ll jut out by exhibiting business acumen and understanding the fundamentals of how your prospect makes money and SWOTTING where they’re weak.

You’ll get VIP status if you have a confident, sardonic and knowing chuckle because, like them, you are laughing all the way to the bank. You can bank on my methods in these posts, field tested by thousands, and influenced by thousands.

I wish I could tell you, cold calls are dead and it’s all just social selling. The savviest sellers are using both. Top reps are interrupting their “dream prospects” and landing meetings which are converting into rich opportunity pipeline and closing millions in new business. You’ve gotta spark people to realise and react the “pain of same is greater than the pain of change.”

There are too many paradoxes in sales to simplify something that is really an art form. E.g., reconcile these two quotes for me:

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Abraham Lincoln

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who had practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Bruce Lee

I’d look at these two quotes like this to master the art of sales. Abe Lincoln is the strategy piece and Bruce Lee is the tactical piece. There is no Strategy without effective tactics and effective tactics fall down without a stellar strategy.

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Tony Hughes
Tony Hughes has 35 years of corporate and sales leadership experience having generated record-breaking results as a salesperson, head of sales, and CEO leading the Asia-pacific region for multi-nationals. He is a best-selling author, consultant, trainer and keynote speaker. Tony is Co-founder and Sales Innovation Director at Sales IQ Global. He serves on advisory boards and has been published by The American Management Association. Tony has also taught sales for Sydney University, University of New South Wales, and within the MBA program at the University of Technology, Sydney. He has been ranked #1 sales blogger globally by both Top Sales Magazine and Best Sales Blogger Awards. Tony is ranked a top 3 sales expert and thought leader globally by LinkedIn and the most read person on the topic of B2B selling within their platform. He has more than 500,000 blog followers and has been rated the most influential person in professional selling within Asia-Pacific three years in a row. His first book, The Joshua Principle – Leadership Secrets of Selling, is in its 10th printing and his most recent books, COMBO Prospecting and Tech-Powered Sales are published by HarperCollins Leadership New York. Tony speaks at conferences internationally and his clients are some of the best-known brands in the world including Salesforce, Grant Thornton, SAP, IBM, Flight Centre Travel Group, Adobe, Siemens, Docusign and other market leaders.