Don’t die wondering — the real secret to sales success is mastery

How many times have we all been tempted to click on a link that offers us ‘the secret of sales success’ only to find a website or article that is promising a silver bullet (‘if only you do this one thing’) which doesn’t help us at all?

As I mentioned last week, the business of sales excellence is like the diet industry, full of tempting offerings that lead us nowhere fast. It is only natural that people want simple answers to complex problems.

“The world would be so much easier if only…”, we sigh.

However, as Henry Louis Mancken says, “Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong”.

Sales is a complex function with many variables. There are things we can control, things we can influence and then things outside of our control. Sales success comes down to how we think, adapt and work with these variables to realise opportunity and sell better.

There are those, of course, who hit the sales success jackpot because they were in the right place at the right time, or because markets were hot and they stood there taking order after order. Good on them. However, this is not what I am referring to when it comes to the secrets of sales success. Not all markets remain hot and standing on the ‘corner’ waiting for the right place and the right time isn’t a good strategy.

The true test of a salesperson or anyone who is in a revenue generating role is how well we can sell in the down times, how well we can discern and identify opportunity and then go after it, how capable we are of bringing the right ingredients together that deliver good outcomes for buyers and sellers and how innovative, creative and resilient we are when things get tough.

There are many things we need to master to achieve genuine sales success. The secret to sales success is mastery. Mastery is having comprehensive knowledge or skill in a particular subject or activity.

So let’s look at the secret to sales success straight in the eye and determine what we need to master.


  1. Self — how you function, self-awareness, style, motivators, drivers, self-limiting behaviours, etc.
  2. Sales processes, business systems, technology
  3. Markets, customers, competitors, etc.
  4. Technical, products, services, solutions and how they help customers
  5. Business and commercial acumen


  1. Planning – territories, accounts, self-management
  2. Prospecting – new business development in new and existing accounts
  3. Solution selling
  4. Networking, relationship building and team-work
  5. Project management
  6. Analysis and reporting
  7. Proposal development
  8. Strategic account planning, thinking and action


  1. Ethics, integrity and professionalism
  2. Collaborating to achieve results
  3. Self-reflection
  4. Empathy and compassion
  5. Resilience and future-mindedness
  6. Initiative, achievement focused and tenacity
  7. Adaptability

Master these elements and you will be well on the way to achieving sales success.

It is a life-long journey of evolution that cannot be shortcut.

A cautionary note here about the word ‘success’

‘Success’ in itself means absolutely nothing without context and content. Saying ‘I want to be a successful person’ is dangerous. It is a flawed concept — no one can be a ‘successful person’ because none of us is perfect. We are all imperfect by nature.

However, we can be successful at things we do. We can apply ourselves to tasks and build our strength and mastery in any area we like. That is why the secret to sales success is about mastering things we do and pulling them together in concert when we are working in sales. By accepting that we are imperfect by nature but knowing the parts that we can work on to make us successful in selling, we now have the recipe for leading a more successful career in sales. Sales success is not achieved by default or chance, it is achieved by design.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Never miss a story: sign up to SmartCompany’s free daily newsletter and find our best stories on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn and Instagram.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments