With extensive experience selling to the financial sector, corporate law firms and C-level directors, Lee has built multi-national sales teams, been co-founder and CEO of a tech start-up and has recently authored his first publication The No.1 Best Seller.
He shares his personal sales methodology and experiences in his book and blog, both of which discuss the mindset, strategies and processes of top salespeople. They can be found at leebartlettbestseller.com
Hi Lee, thank you for stopping by Activia’s Expert Insights section. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself for our readers?
Thank you for inviting me. I enjoyed a long career as a salesman and VP Sales, selling financial technology platforms for a variety of multi-national corporates. I later co-founded a tech start-up. Shortly after leaving this business, I focused on finishing my first book, The No.1 Best Seller: A Unique Insight into the Mind, Strategy and Processes of a Top Salesman.
What is it about sales that interests you so much?
My first job was in WH Smith on the checkout tills. Even at 16, I always felt I worked more for the customer than my employer. I loved the feeling of doing a good job and always saw the customer interaction from "their" perspective. This attitude served me well throughout my sales career. Also, I have a very competitive nature and the performance related pay model complemented my personality. For example, I enjoyed the pressure of having a target and the transparency of sales success being dependent on how much revenue you generate. Finally, I have always been fascinated with what made the difference between one person selling a product and another failing, so have consciously analysed this throughout my whole career.
Your new book, The No.1 Best Seller: A Unique Insight into the Mind, Strategy and Processes of a Top Salesman has just been released. Could you tell us a little bit about it?
It is a book about sales excellence and, specifically, what top salespeople do differently from their colleagues and their competition. The focus is not on sales techniques, but about how a salesperson takes these learnt skills and then combines them with a mindset and strategy to consistently work themselves to the top of any sales organisation. Specifically, I reflect on the things I did, throughout my career, which allowed me to consistently win the largest mandates in my industry.
What makes your book stand out from other sales books?
To my knowledge, there has never been an autobiographical account written by a top salesperson detailing exactly how they succeeded. The book is completely uncensored and shows how I learnt the skills that allowed me to rise to the top of my industry. I share my inner most thoughts and attempt to provide a balanced view of my actions and the motivations behind them.
I also demonstrate the impact of my experiences and how they enabled me to succeed in both structured and autonomous sales environments. During my career, I found that being a "top salesperson" comes with a unique set of additional challenges. For example, I was often labelled a glory seeker, a hired gun and not a team player. I wanted to address these criticisms and offer my perspective.
Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share with us?
After 2.5 years writing this book, I am halfway through my second (The No.1 Best Start-Up) to release at the end of next year. The period between now and Christmas is for promotional commitments and further developing my website, leebartlettbestseller.com, to include a bookstore and additional content.
Beyond that, I am keen to get back to work, and am considering the opportunities my book has presented. I have recently been asked to be a speaker and sales consultant, but the devil in me wants to go back and do it all again.
I am also considering starting a "value added" recruitment company whereby I train recruits before subsequently placing them. I am heading back to the USA in November to attend the C-Suite conference with businessman Jeffrey Hayzlett, who has endorsed my book. It is an interesting time...
Do you think anyone can learn to sell? Or are some people natural salespeople?
Yes, I think anyone can learn to sell, but I do not believe just anyone can be a top salesperson. Natural sales acumen is not enough. In my experience, being a top salesperson requires a rigorous combination of a trained mindset, drive and methodology. It is also typically coupled with an intrinsic motivation that drives top performers. It is more than just wanting to be the best - top salespeople strive to achieve a personal goal, and this gives them an impenetrable belief to overcome obstacles and do what is necessary to succeed.
A salesperson may be naturally gifted in key areas of selling, such as self-confidence, but nobody is born a true "sales professional". It takes years to develop the skill-sets and gain the necessary experience. Selling at the highest level takes continuous practice, and no natural trait can compensate for that.
Why is communication so important when it comes to sales?
Sales is about understanding and serving your customer. The only way to achieve this is to base your process entirely on their needs and expectations as a buyer. Then, a great salesperson will also explore opportunities outside of the current discussion. This requires the ability to effectively communicate with somebody in the language and format of their choice. You must be able to articulate product and industry knowledge and to control your inherent personality traits to ensure they do not impact upon those of your potential buyer. Effective communication then requires you to remove yourself from the process and facilitate their needs at every stage.
It is also important to understand that the way we are communicating is drastically changing. The growth of social media has impacted buyer habits, who are now better informed before the first contact with a salesperson. The sales industry must adapt to this change and use it as part of their process. Social media is an increasingly powerful tool to reach our clients and communicate our company values and image.
In reverse, we can also monitor our prospects' social presence to understand their company, generate opportunities and trigger a reason to contact them. The ability to embrace this shift in communication will be a key differentiator between businesses and the most successful salespeople of the future.
How do you apply the skills you have learnt from sales to everyday life?
I do not separate everyday life from sales. Being a great salesperson requires honesty, drive, integrity, decency, reliability and these values are part of my personality and upbringing. These traits alone are a solid foundation to reach sales success. The rest is learnt. What I have just described sounds obvious, but it is actually rare, and that is why I have always been comfortable charging a premium for the service I provide.
You have worked in sales for many large corporations. What struggles have you had to face?
By far my greatest struggle has been managing the political obstacles that come as part of working in highly driven sales environments for large corporations. An ex-colleague once told me I have "an overdeveloped sense of justice", so, especially in my early career, I struggled to manage my responses to what I saw were poor company decisions. This impacted my sales performance, and it took me years to develop the mechanisms not to allow these situations to impact my earning potential. This is all part of becoming a rounded sales professional.
Do you have any memorable moments from your sales career that you’d like to share?
Yes! Lots. I share many in my book but a stand out moment was my first big enterprise deal for Goldman Sachs. I was a rookie sales punk who thought he knew everything (didn't we all). I felt so passionately about doing a good job for them that I spent weeks devising a deal to roll my services out to end users, as well as compiling various spreadsheets to support my proposal.
I remember nervously pushing the large iron revolving doors as I entered the reception. The head of the department met me and smiled as he glanced over my documents. Rather than negotiate, he had appreciated my efforts to improve his business and just asked me what I recommended. The deal led to an enterprise roll out of my service, a great deal for both businesses, and a big commission cheque. Win-win-win. It makes me smile every time!
And finally, do you have anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Yes, I would like to thank everyone for reading this and invite them to connect via my new website, sales blog, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Lee's book, The No.1 Best Seller: A Unique Insight into the Mind, Strategy and Processes of a Top Salesman, is available to order now on Amazon. Or if you'd like to connect with Lee, you can find him on Twitter at @No1BestSeller.