In the past, I’ve written a lot about my own sales management methodologies, but I love seeing great sales in action. That’s why, for this article, I thought I’d get some insight from one of the most successful sales pros out there – Jayna Cooke.

As CEO of Chicago-based EVENTup, a marketplace for event spaces, Jayna has established a stellar career, the foundation of which is based on sales. She previously worked for Groupon as VP of business development, where she became the top sales performer worldwide. Jayna closed major deals with Gap and Nordstrom, Groupon’s two largest deals to date. Prior to that, she became the top seller at Echo Global Logistics and set records for largest revenue and gross profit achieved in one year, one month and one day. She clearly knows her stuff.

I recently got the chance to speak with Jayna about the secrets to her success, what she’s learned as a rep and a manager, and the one rule she wishes sales teams would follow. Here’s what she had to say.

Jeff Fotta: What led you to go into sales?
Jayna Cooke: It was never really a conscious decision to go into sales, but I believe sales positions are a great place to start for many careers paths. For me, it was a natural starting point. I love sales, and it will always be something I enjoy because it allows me to meet and connect with so many different people. I truly enjoy meeting and building relationships so even if I cannot sell the product it is still fulfilling to me.

Jeff Fotta: As you were growing in your career, what did you look for in a manager?
Jayna Cooke:
It’s tough to answer questions on leadership qualities because I am convinced that no one person can possess them all or be the perfect leader. I will add that everyone – and I mean everyone – thinks managing people is easier than it really is. I personally thrive from being thrown into the deep end and figuring out how to achieve the end goal from there. I like good leaders that can get everyone excited to rally around the brand and work hard.

I have had some great role models in my life, especially my mom for showing me what hard work really means.

Jeff Fotta: You clearly excelled from the get go. How did you separate yourself from your colleagues to close more deals and move up?
Jayna Cooke:
Thank you for that! I will be the first to tell you that I am not the sharpest tool in the shed and there is always someone smarter in the room. My work ethic allowed me to separate myself from my peers, and my extensive experience helps as well. I am extremely hard working and can for the most part outwork the people around me. I have been selling and working for so long, that it almost becomes natural to me. Most of my employees have 1-2 years selling experience under their belt.

Jeff Fotta: As a CEO, which are the most important qualities you look for when hiring sales staff?
Jayna Cooke:
I look for three key aspects when interviewing potential sales staff: resourcefulness, kindness, and their ability to mesh with my current team. It is also great when they have previous sales experience or bring connections from the industry forward. Hitting quotas is easily taught, but I make it apparent that the job includes this task.

Jeff Fotta: Were there any behavioral indicators you picked up on that hinted a rep might not work out?
Jayna Cooke: You really have to ask a lot of questions – and even some questions twice, but in a different way so that you can really understand that person. The questions need to be broad so you can really get a feel for where they are coming from. Regardless, you have to go off gut feelings for most sales candidates.

Jeff Fotta: In thinking about modern sales organizations/processes, if you could create one sales rule everyone had to follow, what would it be?
Jayna Cooke: Cold calling is not outdated. Too many modern sales processes leave this factor out because they claim it is ‘dead’. I believe this is an integral piece of the sales method. I always have had to cold call and I still do because it has brought me boundless success. 92% of all customer interactions happen over the phone.

Jeff Fotta: As a CEO, what sales principles do you implement in your day-to-day running of the company?
Jayna Cooke:
I am a firm believer in following up more than once with potential clients. Set a follow-up task for a few weeks out, you might catch the person at a not so hectic time. 80% of sales require 5 follow-up calls after the meeting. 44% of sales reps give up after 1 follow-up. Too many people give up too quickly.