I once read about a big benefits-management company that conducted a survey where it asked 365 CEOs and sales-management executives, “What are the three key factors that separate high-performing sales professionals from moderate- to low-performing sales professionals?”
Both CEOs and C-level sales executives (all people who don’t sell, but rely on their salespeople to get paid) ranked self-discipline/motivation as the most important factor.
Next in line were customer knowledge, innate talent/personality and product knowledge. Further down the list were experience and teamwork skills. Totally bogus.
These are qualities of corporate greed, not value, service or help—the three things that customers require to give you their business and maintain loyalty.
If you’re interested in the most important qualities of a high-performing salesperson, let me give you a realistic list of the characteristics needed for success:
Perpetual, consistent positive attitude and enthusiasm
This is the first rule of facing the customer, facing the obstacles, facing the competition, facing the economy and facing yourself.
Belief that the customer will be better off
Unwavering belief in your company, in your product and in yourself are the first three parts. But most critical is that you must believe that the customer is better off having purchased from you.
Use of creativity
Use creativity to present ideas in the customer’s favor and to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Ability to give and prove value
Prove the value of your product or service, as well as your ability to give value to the prospect beyond the sale so you earn the order, the reorder and the loyalty of your customers.
Ability to promote and position
Your use of the internet to blog, create e-zines, utilize social media and achieve top-ranking in Google searches leads customers to perceive you as a value-provider and a leader in your field.
Exciting, compelling presentation skills
You must develop not just solid communication skills, but superior questioning skills, listening skills and a sense of humor, as well as the innate ability to capture the imagination (and the wallet) of customers.
Ability to prove your value and claims through the testimony of others
Testimonials sell where salespeople can’t. The best salespeople use video testimonials to support their claims. But you don’t get testimonials; you earn them. Same with referrals.
Ability to create an atmosphere where people want to buy (because they hate being sold)
This is done by engaging and asking, not presenting and telling. Make your customers feel as if you are working with them to find them the best product possible, not just telling them what you think would be best.
Ability to build a relationship, not hunt or farm
I wonder if the executives talking about the factors of great salespeople are the same one who are dividing their salespeople into hunters and farmers. Great salespeople are relationship-builders who provide value and help their customers win. They possess unyielding personal values and ethics. It’s interesting that 365 executives don’t deem those qualities to be in the top 10.
The personal desire to excel and be their best
This is a desired quality of every salesperson, but the best salespeople have mastered the other 10 elements. And the key is that all 10 must be mastered in order for this quality to manifest itself.
There is no prize in sales for second place. It’s win or nothing. The masters know this and strive for—fight for—that winning edge.
This article was published in February 2010 and has been updated. Photo by Krakenimages.com/Shutterstock