What does it mean when a salesperson “sells on a different level”? Take sales skills out of the equation, along with a winning mindset, because these are a given to succeed. What mechanisms enable someone to do more deals, more quickly? The answer lies in who you know and the ability to find and target the right people to get stuff done.
The best salespeople consciously know this and make it part of their strategy to know the right people.
Let me define my understanding of the “levels”.
Level 1 Ground Level Salesperson
This salesperson views selling with a short-term, closed-minded perspective. They read the script, turn up from 9-5, and contact only the people they are told to contact. These salespeople don't possess a meaningful network or understand its value, and make no effort to meet well-connected players in their industry. Level 1 are getting replaced by AI in the near future.
Level 2 Strong Salesperson
This person has mastered sales skills, and is focused on building their industry network. They try to think on a bigger scale, contact Heads of Departments and senior players in their niche territories. This helps them to prospect and close business. Level 2s understand the value of expanding their network, yet have no strategy to move beyond mid-level managers to industry influencers.
Level 3 Disruptor Salesperson
The top 1%er. This salesperson has built an impenetrable network and knowledge base, and can influence their industry by leveraging their contacts. They are more interested in the strategy of selling than pitching for business, and have a database of respected industry leaders, whom they can call upon for help. Deals are typically won before or without a pitch, as the right people make the recommendation at the right time.
Importantly, they have ties to level 4s, and perhaps, a level 5 operative. This person is a well-respected industry figure selling “on a level” few understand.
Level 4 The Game Changer Salesperson
One phone call from these guys can open just about any door. They not only have successful businesses and pitch their products, but their networks are deep, vast and continue to rapidly upscale. They influence a global audience and have a direct connection to the most senior leaders across multiple industries.
Level 4s sit at the top of their game and relentlessly strive for level 5. They are in the limelight and inundated with requests from levels 1-3 but are focused on building their empire and leaving a legacy. There are level 4s at the top of every industry, and they are constantly networking with the upper echelons of the business world. Think Gary Vaynerchuk.
Level 5 The Jedi Knights
One phone call or recommendation from these guys can change your life. Richard Branson springs to mind. These people have achieved a financial Zen and make decisions based on whether they like or believe in you as a person. Level 5 is the top of the food chain, and many remain anonymous. However, they encourage others to join them and mentor Level 4s on the final stage of their journey.
Back to Practical
When building a network, it pays to work on multiple levels with both a short- and long-term strategy. Let me give you some examples:
I know a salesperson whose entire career was built by a single level 4 contact. This person repeatedly earned $million pay cheques and was the sole niche technology supplier to a private equity firm in NYC. From a relationship that grew over the years, his contact, who later became the group president, became his best friend, and he was mandated by default on every deal.
A friend of mine and salesperson in the oil industry spent years building a trusted partnership with clients in the Middle East. Now, he is brokering oil deals with level 4 and level 5 contacts and netting $millions per year.
Another ex-colleague has earnt several $millions in the financial industry, and his best friends are the heads of Investment Banks. He is seen as one of them, and these level 4 contacts make every deal for his company a formality.
These people are “selling on another level”, and they can because they had a strategy from the beginning to build level 4 and 5 trusted relationships.
What is the takeaway?
The best salespeople understand there are different levels of contacts that can help them sell, grow, and achieve their business goals. They actively work towards positioning themselves as someone of value across all levels. This long-term strategy runs alongside their short-term revenue goals, increasing their influence and the pool of opportunities. This is the real ladder to success and should be part of the process for all salespeople.
These thought processes are just my personal view. If you want to jump to the next level, adopt a strategy to surround yourself with people who are already there.