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Harely Finkelstein at The Globe Small Business Summit

While there were a number of interesting discussions at the Globe and Mail Small Business Summit on May 3, the one I enjoyed most from a sales standpoint was a discussion titled "My Path to Growth." The panel featured a diverse group of entrepreneurs, ranging from condo developer Peter Freed, to Tricia Mumby of home-grown label company Mabel's Labels, to poutine king Ryan Smolkin.

One of the more interesting moments for me came during the audience Q&A, when the panelists were asked if there were certain attributes or characteristics that differentiated successful entrepreneurs. Communications specialist Mia Pearson talked about the ability and willingness to take rejection, an answer I and other sales advisers give when asked about the attributes of consistently high-performing sales professionals: specifically, those who are adept at looking for prospects and consistently filling their pipeline with new opportunities,a and those who refuse to give up when others long have.

Ms. Pearson pointed out entrepreneurs' ability to deal repeatedly with rejection and failure and stay focused on attaining success. In both starting a business and sales, it is less a matter of outlasting the competitors and more about focus and drive. In another session looking at the DNA of a salesperson, drive and persistence were also listed as two distinguishing qualities. From a sales standpoint, this isn't about who can take the most punches, but who can look beyond the "No," understand the reasons why, and leverage them for future success.

I find many salespeople not only do not take the time to review outcomes, especially losses, but go out of their way to avoid them. We all like to celebrate wins, but when asked how and why they won, many will give a loose and uninformed answer, such as "I had a good relationship with the buyer." Rarely do you hear specific and repeatable steps tied to a process; how they dealt with contingencies, and more. When it comes to losses it is even worse. Most salespeople will blame prices or products, mostly because they tried to sell the deal based on price and product.

But when those same deals are reviewed by professionals skilled at performing deal postmortems, the story is entirely different. Those reviews often discover that the sellers did a poor job of understanding the buyer's objectives, challenges and opportunities. As a result, the sellers were not integrating these factors into approaching their sale.

The other consistent message from the panel that resonated was focus. The successful not only had a plan, but did not allow "interesting" yet irrelevant things distract them from their objectives. One reason more than 50 per cent of B2B sales people fail to make quota each year is the time and energy wasted on things that do not contribute to their success or, by extension, the success of their clients. . Great sellers, like successful entrepreneurs, know that if something does not help you get to your target group and maximize results, you should simply ignore it.

Tibor Shanto is a principal at Renbor Sales Solutions Inc. He can be reached at His column appears once a month on the Report on Small Business website.

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