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The Traits of Great Salespeople
Becoming a trusted resource for your customers
By Deborah Curson-Vieira
So often the term “sales” has a negative connotation. To illustrate the point, do a Google image search for the word “salesman.” The majority of the images shown are of stereotypical used-cars salesmen with bad suits and disingenuous smiles. Because of this negative stereotype, a job in sales is often seen as a fallback career—that is, the salesperson had some other career in mind, but turned to selling when the desired career didn’t work out as planned.
However, professional sales is much more than a fallback career for pushy people who can’t take no for an answer. Great salespeople are integral to an organization. And, whether it was their first choice in a career or not, top sales professionals understand they have the responsibility to discover the true needs of their customers and provide the very best solution. These salespeople truly want to make a difference for their customers, a phenomenon known as “selling with a noble purpose”.1 To aid in evaluating your sales efforts and team, here are some traits exhibited by great salespeople:
A mediocre salesperson is only focused on closing the sale. Great sales people are focused on building relationships. They have a personality that attracts others to them. According to an article on Forbes.com, research carried out by the Carnegie Institute of Technology shows that 85% of a person’s financial success is due to skills in “human engineering,” which is their personality and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. Only 15% is due to technical knowledge.2
Great salespeople use their skills in human engineering to build relationships with customers by becoming a trusted partner and helping their customers solve problems and create solutions to meet their needs. These top performers understand that the lifetime value of a customer extends beyond a single sale or transaction. They take a long-term view of the relationship. It is not just about today’s sale but all future sales, interactions, referrals, and customer trust and loyalty.
Be a Great Listener
It is well documented that sellers often have a hard time truly listening because they are too focused internally on what they’re going to say next. A better approach is to fully focus on the person and make the effort to genuinely listen and understand.
According to Tero International’s Winning Communication Strategies Training Manual, the best listeners place themselves in the other person’s shoes and try to understand the situation as they are seeing it.3 Great listeners are also tuned into the present moment without being distracted by unresolved tasks, pressing concerns, or competing stimuli. Finally, Tero’s training manual notes that great listeners pay attention to what the speaker is saying as well as the speaker’s body language and meaning.
Similar to building relationships, great salespeople follow through before, during, and after the sale. They make sure that customer requests are fulfilled quickly. They make courtesy check-in calls, and they send thank you notes. In short, great salespeople provide great customer service.
Great salespeople believe in their companies and the products they sell and it shows. A passion for selling is something that salespeople can rarely fake, because their enthusiasm comes across in everything that salesperson says or does. These individuals do not blame the economy or the competition for sales performance. They also don’t complain about possible weaknesses in their product compared to the competition. Passionate salespeople create their own opportunities instead of waiting around for them.
This doesn’t mean to be pushy or rude, but top performers don’t easily take “no” for an answer. They are also resilient enough to hear “no” time and time again without being discouraged from making the next call or calling that prospect back in the future. Most sales are made after five to 12 contacts between a salesperson and a prospect. Sales people need to be persistent and patient to build the relationship to make the sale.
The best salespeople not only sell a product to their customers, but they also become a trusted resource, providing the latest product information, best practices, and industry trends to improve their customers’ practices. However, value is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Your customers want a problem-solving partner who knows their practice and are able to create value on an ongoing basis. Think of the salespeople who call on your laboratory. When you work with a salesperson who creates value for your organization, you look forward to their visit and look forward to what they have to say—and you wouldn’t even consider rushing them out the door. In fact, you may seek out their advice as a trusted partner.
1. McLeod LE. Selling with Noble Purpose: How to Drive Revenue and Do Work That Makes You Proud. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons; 2012.
2. Jensen K. Intelligence Is Overrated: What You Really Need To Succeed. Forbes Web site. http://www.forbes.com/sites/keldjensen/2012/04/12/intelligence-is-overrated-what-you-really-need-to-succeed. Accessed October 22, 2013.
3. Listening - The Overlooked Communication Skill. Tero International, Inc. Web site. http://www.tero.com/listening.html. Accessed October 22, 2013.
Deborah Curson-Vieira is the marketing and communications manager for Dental Prosthetic Services in Cedar Rapids, IA.