Having been in sales for over 25 years with experience as both an entrepreneur and sales executive, I am intrigued
by what people think makes a great salesperson. When I talk to salespeople and business owners about this, some tell me it’s having the ability to communicate persuasively, some emphasize personal charm and charisma, and for other’s it’s that special person who won’t take “no” for an answer.
Most of these impressions come from their past experiences with sales people. Unfortunately, these notions are outdated and don’t work. In today’s highly complex and competitive business environment, success in sales depends on so much more. Today’s buyers are savvy and have access to more information. They make better decisions and need a salesperson who will help them make a buying decision. They won’t be bullied. When it comes to charm, you can get by on that for about fifteen minutes, but after that you better know something if you plan to make a living in the selling profession.
When I speak to business owners, I hear some radically different views of how they perceive salespeople. Some see them as the front line of their ability to generate revenue. One CEO I know believes salespeople are the backbone of his business, and it’s the sales profession that ultimately grows the economy. Many CEOs feel it’s the sales team that drives the worth of their company. That’s not to undermine other departments, but these CEOs believe, ‘if no one is selling then no one is working’.
For others, salespeople are viewed as hired guns who must make it on their own. The business supplies the product, the marketing, and the facilities and the rest is up to the sales person. I wonder what would have happened to Michael Jordan or Jack Nicklaus under similar circumstances? Would they have risen to be the best of the best?
What makes up a great sales person? Let’s start with some basics. They have desire, commitment and the courage to fail. Of the three critical areas of attitude, behavior and techniques needed to be successful in sales, it’s the attitude the person must have internally. Behavior and techniques can be enhanced with training but the attitude is innate and foundational.
What’s under the umbrella of attitude? It’s things like Self-Concept. It’s important that your self-esteem and confidence be strong (but not obnoxious). Selling is a high-rejection business. If you’re reluctant to hear ‘no’ or get depressed because the sale didn’t happen, chances are all the training won’t change that and you will have difficulty being willing to prospect.
Attitude also includes internal motivation. Are you truly a self-starter, or do you need someone else setting the pace? It’s also important that your attitude include being success driven and money motivated. That doesn’t mean you work 80 hours a week and give up on the rest of your life. It does mean that during your “pay-time” you are committed to doing what it takes. Attitude also means that challenge, growth and change are seen as positive, and you’re not happy with the status quo or your current comfort zone.
Lastly, we need to start with individuals who want success and are willing to do what it takes to get there. You can take a person with ambition and drive, cut him in half, throw him out of a plane in the middle of Wisconsin, and he will find a way to succeed. Think about someone that has low energy and vitality. They have a hard time just getting out of the bed and putting on their clothes.
We need the budding Joe Montanas of sales who want to get better and will build on their natural ability. However, that’s only step one. Without step two, three and four you’ll continually find yourself at step one. Step two, three and four include working with your salespeople to make them better at their job, developing their confidence and self-esteem and providing resources that help them grow your business.
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