How to Become a Successful Sales Person: A Conversation with Philip Kennedy

Few people know more about what it takes to become a successful sales person than Philip Kennedy, vice president of sales at CADY, the senior portrait photography company that’s shaking up the whole category and driving incredible growth along the way.

Philip and his team have successfully navigated the pandemic by remaining laser-focused on delivering a superior customer experience. It’s been amazing to watch them continue to capture momentum and market share.

I’ve had the good fortune of supporting the CADY team over the past year, and I’ve certainly learned as much from Philip as I have shared with his team.

I asked him what it takes to go from being a good sales person to a great one. Here are the seven actions he says are critical.

Invest in Developing Better Habits

When it comes to developing great habits, Philip likes to reference the book by James Clear.

He loves the way Clear breaks down the word “atomic” into three meanings.

One of the meanings describes “atomic” as tiny or small. Small shifts in your behavior can help establish better habits in your life and career. “If you improve something by 1% each day, what feels like micro-adjustments and tiny improvements translates into being 37 times better by the end of the year in what you were focused on,” he says.

Taking a holistic approach to creating daily habits or systems within your life significantly improves all areas of your life. “Our habits are the atoms of our lives, and each one is a fundamental unit in the system, our life,” Philip says.

One way to jump-start a change in your habits: Start by waking up earlier. Spend a bit more time going over that presentation or catching up on industry trends. These small habits add up, leading to a better sense of self and a higher level of determination. “You fall to the level of your systems. Those systems are that collection of daily habits that you follow,” Philip says.

Master Your Relationships

CADY’s mission is to redefine “school portraits,” and they specialize in creating a high-quality premier photography experience for students. Their company’s sales team has built a reputation for uplifting every individual and ensuring that students have a positive platform for self-expression.

So when CADY is interacting with a school’s key decision-makers, they are not necessarily selling a specific product. They ask permission to be the exclusive service provider to a community and deliver a remarkable experience each time. “Our team focuses on being highly relational and not just transactional. We want to build long-term relationships with our customers that will last a lifetime,” Philip says.

Top salespeople understand the difference between being good at relationships and mastering relationships. Philip emphasizes that a critical element to mastering relationships is adaptability. Approaching different types of people with the same tactics is not only ineffective — it can even damage relationships.

Successful sales people create a personalized experience that leaves a lasting impression by adapting to each person. When good sales people achieve this mastery, they benefit from those relationships and build more connections, creating a compound effect.

Develop a Strategic Mindset

When a sales person has built credibility within a relationship, it often creates an opportunity to shape strategy and build solutions. As expert strategists, great sales people are constantly on high alert for those moments.

“You’re constantly looking for those opportunities and creating opportunities,” Philip says. Successful sales people are constantly looking for opportunities, even when it seems like there aren’t any available. But when they implement a successful strategy, great sales people can create opportunities for referrals or leverage their product or service in a new way.

This strategic mindset allows sales people to expand their business or client list with potential customers. Even more importantly, they can see the opportunities in both good and bad situations they encounter— a key to creating sales success.

Add Massive Customer Value

“For us adding massive value is going back to recognizing the DNA of your customer and knowing how they define value,” Philip says.

Before you can add value to your customers, you first must understand who they are and what they need. Today’s buyers expect quality products, quick turnaround, clear communication, and excellent service. Addressing pain points by providing an unexpected perk customers didn’t realize they wanted or needed sets successful sales people apart.

Top sales people understand that meeting expectations is simply the baseline. Going above and beyond customer expectations is how you elevate your reputation to a top sales person. Adding massive value to the sales process creates a meaningful experience that your clients will talk about for years.

Establish Your Expertise

A top sales person is “somebody who truly is the expert at everything we do,” Philip says. To become an expert, you must invest your time deliberately around your chosen topic or field.

Spend time researching trends and new technologies. “You don’t become an expert without a lot of time, deliberate practice, and really extreme intentionality to whatever it is you’re focused on becoming an expert in,” Philip says.

While many people are good at many things, very few are genuine experts in their fields. Dedicate your time and effort to your niche to become the expert everyone trusts.

Prioritize Culture, Teamwork, and Collaboration

CADY champions five core values in its work culture:

  • Fanatically Passionate
  • Inspire Creativity
  • Celebrate Each Other
  • Be a Hero
  • Small Details Are Huge

They serve as a guide team members live by when making important decisions, including recruiting and onboarding.

The goal is to have these core values live organically throughout the organization. “So for us, we expect our people to really champion those values and to live by them,” Philip says. “Everybody has a little bit of all five of them,” although some core values may resonate more strongly with individual team members than others.

Balance the Load

It takes a lot of effort to balance relationships, priorities, and more to deliver the best possible service to clients, Philip notes. Being intentional about implementing these best practices brings more balance to the life of a top sales rep.

“The nature of what we do requires reps to get uncomfortable and get out of their circle of influence and go after that new business,” Philip says. It can be easier to rely on existing relationships, account management, and retention because the client is already there. But that approach can also keep you from exploring new opportunities for expansion and growth.

That’s how successful salespeople thrive — by constantly fine-tuning their sales process and investing to be just a little bit better each and every day.

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