Remember the TV show “WKRP in Cincinnati” that ran in the late ‘70’s? Created by Atlantan Hugh Wilson, the show was based on his dealings with the legendary radio station WQXI in Atlanta (“QXI in Dixie”). Herb Tarleck was the sales guy and was stereotypical of what most people think of when they think of salespeople…loud clothes, loud voice, obnoxious personality and always trying to scam someone.
Here’s the irony; the most successful salespeople are none of those things. It’s true there are a lot of really bad salespeople in this world, but you’ll find the most successful ones share some traits that may be counter-intuitive to what you’ve always heard.
- Honesty & Integrity: The best salespeople are honest to a fault because they know their reputation is all they have. To be good in sales you need to build relationships with your customers because in the end, a person is buying the salesperson as much as they are the product or service offered. The definition of integrity is: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. To be successful in sales for the long-run, your customers have to know they can trust you.
- Good Listener & Interviewer: My mom used to say I’d be good in sales because I was a good talker. Ironically, the best salespeople follow the 80/20 rule; ask good questions 20% of the time and then listen the other 80%. Salespeople take copious notes and are curious. People buy for their own reasons, which aren’t always obvious, and the only way to find those reasons is to ask questions and listen. Being a good listener is hard because it’s natural to want to talk about ourselves, but good salespeople learn early on to ask questions and then let the customer sell themselves.
- Persistence: I never wanted to be in sales because I hate rejection. Don’t we all? The top salespeople learn early on (it took me years) that people who don’t buy what you’re offering aren’t rejecting you personally; they simply don’t need or haven’t been convinced they need what you are selling. Statistics show it takes a minimum of five to seven calls/messages/emails before a prospect responds. The average salesperson gives up after two or three tries, but the top salespeople are confident in themselves and what they are selling and find creative ways to engage with those they think can benefit from what they have to offer. They’re the ones who get their calls returned.
- Achievement Oriented: Top salespeople set goals for themselves and measure their progress against those goals. Although we all have egos, those who are successful in sales in the long run keep theirs in check. Customers want to know “what’s in it for me” and to be successful in sales one needs to stroke the egos of their customers and let the sales numbers at the end of the day be their ego boost. Top salespeople are always striving to get better at what they do so they can achieve the goals they have set for themselves and for their customers.
- Empathetic: Top salespeople daily put themselves in the shoes of their customers and prospects. Understanding why people buy your products or services and how that feels is key to making the sale. Empathy is important in all aspects of our lives as we interact with others, but is especially important in sales to build long-term relationships and generate repeat and referral business.
To truly be successful in sales you have to enjoy helping others achieve their goals as much as you want to achieve your own. Whether you answer phones, are in customer service, in accounting or IT or just trying to get your spouse or kids to do what’s right, you’re in sales. Sales isn’t just pushing products or services, its learning how to communicate effectively with people, something we all do every day anyway.
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