Principles of sales success

Three principles of sales success.

The sales function continues to play a critical role in business success today.

For our industry, it is an essential differentiator that brings added value against online-only competitors. It is also a function that has encountered tremendous change over the past few years.

E-commerce growth has been a significant disruptor to the role of the salesperson. As companies have invested in and improved their content and user experience on their websites, they have become an important part of the buyer’s journey.

Within the jansan industry, websites can play a significant role in top-of-funnel sales activities. But nothing beats the first-hand knowledge and service a well-informed salesperson can bring to their jansan customers.

In this business, the customers these sales teams support depend on that knowledge to ensure success within their role.

More recently, the pandemic has upended the tried-and-true practices of the salesperson in our industry and all industries.

Very quickly, sales teams had to adapt to being unable to meet face-to-face. This required innovative approaches to connecting, engaging, and selling.

Much like with digital disruption, sales teams stepped up to the task and found new ways to achieve their goals.

Disruption won’t stop here. It will be a reality going forward. Not all sales organisations will come out with the same results.

In my experience, I have seen the strongest and most successful sales organisations guided by three principles. They are strong sales leadership, aligned incentives, and accountability.

Strong sales leadership

The sales role is full of highs and lows and unexpected issues that demand quick response and daily pivots.

If left alone, a salesperson could easily be caught up in the day-to-day demands and demotivated by a string of unfortunate outcomes.

Having a good frontline sales leader can ensure salespeople stay focused on their goals and motivated to move forward even during trying times.

Your best sales leaders are not always your best salespeople. It’s important to select leaders that have leadership interests and qualities. Once you choose them, invest in them, since they are critical to ensuring day-to-day execution and are close to the customer.

Aligned incentives

Salespeople are motivated by rewards and incentives. In order to ensure your sales team is working towards the right goals, it is critical that their incentives are aligned to organisational goals.

This sounds simple, but as businesses evolve, it’s not uncommon for sales incentive programs to become stagnant and not grow with the business.

Changing compensation and incentive programs to match new business realities can be unsettling for seasoned salespeople, but without changing, you will never achieve your business goals.


Business success and the effectiveness of any sales team comes down to accountability. Having aligned incentives and strong sales leadership in place are critical elements to supporting an accountable salesperson.

Aligned incentives ensure the salesperson is doing the right activities, and effective leadership can keep salespeople on task while holding them accountable to the goals that have been established.

Accountability should be an objective exercise with transparency into each salesperson’s performance.

Good sales leaders will work with their teams to keep them on track and problem solve when there are challenges.

They will also recognise when salespeople aren’t up for the task or don’t possess the necessary skills to succeed. In these instances, it is essential to let poor performers go.

Accounting for the dynamic environment we live in, we won’t be able to anticipate every challenge that will come our way.

But we can put the right approaches in place, particularly within our sales organisations, to provide us with the best foundation for success, regardless of the challenges we face or opportunities we seek.

Harry Dochelli is international director of ISSA and CEO and president of Essendant. He can be reached at This article was first published by ISSA Today and has been republished with permission.

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