Urgency: The X-Factor for Sales Effectiveness

Over the past 30 years, I’ve spent a lot of time training salespeople, and I’ve observed what many amazing top performers have in common. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time, it’s that you can hire two people that have the same experience, the same training, the same tools, the same territories and work at the same company, and you can get two completely different results.

One of them just crushes it and the other doesn’t. Why is that?

Some people just have the “X-factor.” As a sales leader one of the things you do is try to find those people with the X-factor.

Over the years, I’ve tried to determine what that looks like, and I’ve developed something called the Pyramid of Sales Excellence. It’s my personal observation of what top performers are made of. There are 8 specific characteristics — some of them can be taught easily, and some are just a part of a person’s character.

Urgency is one of these characteristics — and it’s been a good measure of those who succeed and those who don’t.

Sales people who have a high sense of urgency are more successful than those that don’t. Of course, those that don’t have a sense of urgency can also succeed (or learn to adopt a sense of urgency), but most of our top performers at LogRhythm all have urgency scores in the 80th-90th percentiles.

Defining Urgency for Sales Effectiveness

The type of people that have urgency have a direct correlation to performance. If I look at all of the people who have gone to President’s Club, I have only 1 person that made it who was below the 50th percentile in urgency. Most of our top people are in the 80th-90th percentile and there are a lot of reasons why. They’re responsive, they have good customer service, and they don’t want to wait around to take action on a deal or with a customer.

What Does Urgency Look Like in Practice?

Urgency manifests itself in the sales world in two ways: responsiveness and energy. We normally see “urgent” people being ultra-responsive to customers and prospects. These are the people you can email at 10 p.m. and get a response by 10:15 p.m.

They also have a very high level of energy. Sales people with a high motor tend to take more calls, make more calls, attend more meetings, and just DO MORE. All else being equal, that nearly always results in better performance.

Clari’s Team Activity automatically tracks rep activity by continually harvesting data about meetings, emails and files exchanged and associating them with the proper accounts in CRM. Through this sales activity data, Clari gives us visibility into the level of engagement that we often see in high-urgency individuals and compare that output to their peers.

In addition, we track quantity of deals in pipeline, pipeline velocity, and a few other things that are monikers of high performers.

How to Create Urgency in Your Sales Team

If we feel like one of our reps isn’t exhibiting as much urgency as we’d like, we show them what it looks like in their colleagues, specifically responsiveness and energy as described above. Even if it’s not natural, it can be developed by doing the things that “urgent” people do. I believe the great philosopher William James said, “If you want a quality, act as if you already have it.” In time, it will become habit.

Here are a few ideas on how I believe you can create urgency in a sales team:

  • Commit to fast response times: Commit to responding to customer emails and voicemails by the end of the day. Is that hard? Sure, it can be. Sometimes you get 20 emails and five voicemails after 4 p.m., but do it anyway. That’s what high energy people do. Because Clari automatically tracks all sales activity and customer engagement data and captures them in a single source of truth, both reps and managers have visibility into how quickly a rep is responding to a customer. While this is useful for monitoring and encouraging urgency, it’s also a great snapshot for gauging the level of engagement in a deal — and thus knowing whether a deal is in play or at risk.
  • Set high goals for engaging customers: When I was a rep, I once had a sales director pay a visit to my territory to do a “ride-along”. When he arrived, he inquired about our agenda for the day. “How many meetings do we have? Three? Four?” I told him to fasten his seatbelt … we did 10 meetings that day.
  • Measure and monitor: Consider your current level of activity and think about what it would take to notch it up. Can you make a couple more phone calls each day? Can you do a few more face-to-face meetings each week? Do you even measure your activity level? Consider setting “activity metrics” for yourself and working to score well and improve them. Clari gives us an accurate measurement of rep output through time, which can be used as a guidepost to encourage reps to increase their activity or to set benchmarks based on activity levels of high performing reps.

Urgency is just one of the 8 Pillars of Sales Excellence, but I consider it to be the most important. For more on the 9 Pillars of Sales Excellence, stay tuned for my full LinkedIn post.

Author Bio: Bill Smith is SVP of Worldwide Field Operations at LogRhythm. He has spent 30 years in the sales as an individual contributor, sales manager, and senior sales leader.

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