This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Ultimate Sales Machine" by Chet Holmes. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What is The Ultimate Sales Machine about? What is the secret to sales success, according to its author Chet Holmes?
In The Ultimate Sales Machine, Chet Holmes argues that the secret to sales success is relentless discipline, determination, and above all, repetition of a few steps. For Holmes, sales mastery is intensive, not extensive—it’s about being an unmatched expert in a relative handful of things, not being adequate or average at many things.
This article takes you through Holmes’s key ideas about becoming the ultimate sales machine.
The Ultimate Sales Machine
Sales are hard work. You and your entire team have to be fully committed to refining and perfecting every aspect of your new sales strategy to ensure that everyone in the company is an expert in talking to customers, generating leads, conveying your company’s value proposition, and servicing clients. This means discipline, focus, and most importantly, plenty of practice.
In the Ultimate Sales Machine, Chet Holmes outlines the following strategy for transforming your sales operations:
- Changing the way you do meetings
- Implementing an effective time management system
- Building an all-star sales team by recruiting people with the right personality and optimizing their skills with regular, interactive, and solution-oriented training
- Marketing like a champ through an instructional approach that showcases your company’s value to the customer, while focusing your marketing efforts on your most valuable customers
- Measuring your success to fine-tune your approach and continually discover new ways to improve
We’ll discuss these five principles below.
1. Change the Way You Do Meetings
According to Holmes, the first step to building a high-performing sales operation is effective time management. And a major part of effective time management is changing the way you do meetings. Simply put, many managers are engaged in far too many meetings with employees every day to be productive.
No “Open Door” Policy
One quick way to curb the requests for your time from employees—end your “open-door” policy. People at the company shouldn’t be able to just saunter into your office at any time to talk about anything they want, whether it’s work-related or not. Instead, insist on regular, scheduled meetings—no more impromptu sit-downs or sidebar chats. Your time is extremely valuable (as is theirs), and you need to take the lead in changing the culture to reflect that.
Have an Agenda
Agendas must be in place for every meeting across the company. People need to know precisely what they’re there to discuss and what is meant to be accomplished in the meeting. When a meeting has no agenda, he warns, it opens the door for wasteful, freewheeling, and unfocused discussion.
2. Implement an Effective Time Management System
The first step to building a high-performing sales operation is effective time management. Implementing a time management system in your sales activities will enable you to extract the most productivity and value from your days.
Tactic #1: Prioritize Your Responses to Emails
Holmes says not to make the mistake of opening all the emails in your overflowing inbox as you receive them. Instead, implement a “just-in-time” rule with emails—only take the time to open an email when you’re ready to take action on it. If it’s not immediately urgent or can be delegated, put it on the back burner and focus on the more important tasks at hand.
(Shortform note: In addition to prioritizing which emails to respond to first, you can cut down on the inflow of emails hitting your inbox in the first place. Some management consultants stress that a large influx of emails is often a symptom of poor decision-making processes and absent protocols in your company, which leads to employees asking questions via email that could be better answered by reference to a centralized workflow process. Implementing clearer processes for decision making and information requests should save your inbox some space.)
Tactic #2: Prioritize With Lists
Holmes further writes that you’ll have a better understanding of what is and isn’t important if you prioritize by making lists. Each day, according to Holmes, you should create a to-do list of activities, ranked by importance, with time allocated for each. You should then focus your energy on accomplishing the most important tasks first. Holmes argues that lists enable you to take charge of your time by being proactive instead of reactive. Rather than just responding to the daily swarm of calls and emails (letting events dictate your time), you’re separating the signal from the noise and carving out allotted time for what you need to do. And don’t just limit it to yourself—Holmes says you should make this system of time management a mandatory company-wide time management practice.
3. Build an All-Star Sales Team
Building a great team is the cornerstone to an effective sales operation. With the right talent, your business can grow exponentially. With bad hires, you’ll find yourself throwing money away and constantly treading water.
Find People With the Right Personality
The first step to building a sales team is to find people with the right personality. Specifically, you want people who have the right mix of self-confidence, pride, determination, and persuasiveness. If someone has the right attitude and psychological disposition, it doesn’t matter if they have no sales experience.
According to Holmes, these are the people who will consistently advocate for themselves and their company when talking to customers, will have the ambition and force of personality to drive sales, and won’t back down in the face of rejection (which they’ll surely encounter a lot in the world of sales).
Re-Think Your Interview Style
Thus, you need to design your interview and recruitment process to identify these candidates. During an interview prescreen, for example, you should aggressively challenge them on whether or not they really have what it takes to join your team. Holmes even recommends being forward and saying things like, “Your sales track record sounds pretty weak. I need top performers, not dime-a-dozen salespeople. You haven’t told me anything so far that would really convince me you can make it with us.”
It might sound harsh, but Holmes writes that people with the right blend of pride and confidence will forcefully push back when you needle them like that—and that’s the exact kind of pushback you’re looking for.
Motivate With Commissions
Once you hire the right people, Holmes recommends giving them the right incentives. That’s why he advocates using a commission-based pay structure to motivate your sales team. You offer them a relatively low base salary but promise them that they can earn many times more than that if they help grow the business.
If you’ve hired people with the right personality, this should be all the incentive they need. Best of all, they’ll grow your customer base for you and you pay them directly out of the new business they bring in.
4. Market Like a Champ
A good marketing strategy builds both trust and awareness. Chet Holmes provides three tips on how to market your brand to achieve both: 1) showcase your value with instructional marketing, 2) make your presentations pop, and 3) earn media through great press releases.
Tip 1: Showcase Your Value With Instructional Marketing
The best way to showcase your value to the customer is through instructional marketing. Rather than just pitching how prestigious your company is or how great your products are, instructional marketing teaches your customers the value your company can provide to them. For example, if you’re selling cybersecurity services, you wouldn’t just create advertisements that talk about how many graduates from elite universities are on your engineering team or the awards you’ve won.
Tip 2: Make Your Presentations Pop
Holmes writes that it’s also important to include eye-catching visuals and compelling stats in your instructional marketing presentations to keep your audience interested and teach them things about their own industry that they may not have known. For example, the cybersecurity company might throw out a stat like “⅓ of small businesses will experience a cyber attack in the next year,” which conveys need and urgency.
Tip 3: Earn Media Through Great Press Releases
Holmes writes that you can skillfully supplement your paid advertising with earned or “free” media from newspapers, magazines, and trade publications. In fact, having a favorable story written about your company in a media outlet can be the most effective way to market, since it doesn’t seem like advertising at all and comes to the reader via a third-party validator. According to Holmes, the way to get this kind of coverage is through writing compelling press releases with interesting data points and friendly quotes, staging press events and press conferences, and cultivating relationships with editors and journalists.
5. Measure Success
Holmes writes that once you’ve put in place all the steps for sales success—recruiting and hiring the right talent, developing your team through interactive training, showcasing your value through instructional marketing, and acquiring your dream customers—you need to measure your success.
It’s important, Holmes says, to establish metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) that enable you to quantify and track your progress. The most obvious metric is total sales figures and revenue, but there are other measurable data that help to drive sales, including:
- Calls made to prospective customers
- Emails sent
- Direct mail delivered
- Instructional marketing events held (and attendance at each event)
- New leads generated
Holmes writes that tracking every metric will help you build a database that will enable you to continue to hone and refine your sales operation. As you delve into the numbers, you’ll get a better sense of what works and what doesn’t and the ratios for success (for example, how many calls or emails it takes to close a sale), and you’ll be better able to identify star performers on your team.
Having this data will give you the tools to optimize your sales team and build your roadmap for success.
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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Chet Holmes's "The Ultimate Sales Machine" at Shortform .
Here's what you'll find in our full The Ultimate Sales Machine summary :
- How to build a first-rate sales operation
- Why it's better to be an expert at a few things instead of adequate at a lot
- Why you should get rid of your "open door" policy