Top 10 Factors that Set Sales Winners Apart – by Mike Schultz

Ever come in second place and wonder why the buyer chose the competitor over you?

If so, the question is, “Why did the other guy win?”

Many people believe they know why, but two things are true:

1. Buyers may tell sellers why they lost, but usually they don’t give the whole story, or the real story, directly to the seller.

2. Sellers often think they know why they lost, but why they think they lost and why they really lost are two different things.

For us to do the best we can in our sales consulting, research, and training work, it helps to know the real reasons buyers choose one seller over another.

To find out, we engaged a major study of over 700 business-to-business purchases to see what’s happening in actual sales situations from the buyer’s perspective.

The following are the top 10 factors from our What Sales Winners Do Differently research report that most separate the winning sellers from the second-place finishers.

1. Educated me with new ideas and perspectives: I put an emphasis on new ideas here. We also asked buyers whether sellers introduced valuable ideas and perspectives. But, that factor appeared on the bottom of the list (35th out of 42 factors that separate winners from second-place finishers). Buyers want to be surprised and inspired. If they’ve heard something before, even if it’s applicable, it’s not as impactful as something new.

2. Collaborated with me: This was surprising. Of all 42 factors, we did not expect collaboration to rise to the top as the number two factor that separates sales winners from the rest. The implication for selling is huge. Buyers want to work together to achieve a common goal and will choose more collaborative sellers.

3. Persuaded me we would achieve results: Sellers must present a compelling ROI case and use the principles of influence to convince buyers they are the best choice. Experience with similar companies, case studies, stories, testimonials, and references can all go a long way to help build your credibility and influence buyers.

4. Listened to me: Common advice, but apparently it bears repeating. It seems this still hasn’t registered like it should with second-place finishers.

5. Understood my needs: Buyers want to know that you are listening (see previous point) and that you “get it.” Note that it is less important that you are able to diagnose needs. In fact, “deepened my understanding of needs” was 40th of the 42 factors separating winners from second-place finishers. Buyers are more sophisticated these days and have often done a vast amount of research before starting conversations with sellers. More often than they used to, they know what they want.

6. Helped me avoid potential pitfalls: While buyers may know what they want, they rely on your company’s experience to make sure they get the desired outcome with as few hitches as possible.

7. Crafted a compelling solution: This factor goes along with the previous four. When sellers really listen and understand needs, they are better able to craft compelling solutions that avoid pitfalls and demonstrate the ROI case for moving forward with you. Skip any of these steps and your solution will be seen as weak.

8. Depicted the purchase process accurately: Buyers don’t want to be surprised. A surprise in the sales process is often an indicator that there will be unforeseen surprises in the product or service delivery. If the buyer can’t trust you and what you say, they will never buy from you or your company.

9. Connected with me personally: Despite some controversy around the importance of relationships in the sales, all other factors being equal, people buy from people they like.

10. Overall value from the company is superior to other options: Value does not necessarily mean price. There’s lots of room for interpretation when we talk about value, and that’s the whole point. Different buyers will value different things and it’s up to you to figure out what each individual buyer values most and how you can help them.

If you’re wondering why you and your team lost that last big deal, look at these 10 factors and rate yourself on how well you did on each. Then, in your next sale, attend to these factors and do what the winners do—you’ll increase your chances of being on the winning end of that next big deal.


Mike Schultz is President of RAIN Group, a sales consulting and sales training company. He helps companies around the world to unleash the sales potential of their teams. Mike is author of the Wall Street Journal bestselling Rainmaking Conversations: Influence, Persuade and Sell in Any Situation and publisher of Follow Mike on Twitter at @Mike_Schultz.


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