No two salespeople are exactly alike, but outstanding ones have certain things in common. Having been in sales and sales management for many years, I’ve noticed the best of the bunch invariably have these attributes.
1. Tenacity. Great reps usually need to be told when to stop pursuing a lead. “I give up” is not in their vocabulary if they think the prospect is a good fit. A sales manager knows he or she has the makings of a great rep when the manager has to hold back a trainee rather than push him or her to follow up.
2. Ability to learn. Many of the attributes listed here can be learned, which is good news for aspiring salespeople. However, great salespeople are outstandingly receptive to training. They are not know-it-alls, and yet they are very confident. It’s the ability to learn from experience and training that enables them to continually improve.
3. Confidence. Successful reps are not afraid to make cold calls, to face a serious customer objection head-on, to carry on a sales conversation with prospects who may be better informed and more experienced. Without confidence, reps will spend too much time behind the scenes getting ready and not enough time in the field getting results.
4. Money motivated. Hurray for the free market! Great salespeople may be in it for a lot of reasons, but money is always one of them. Whether reps are paid on commission, salary or a combination, the scorecard is revenue. If reps are indifferent about their earnings or content with what they are earning, where will they find the motivation to increase their production?
5. Eagerness to help. Money is never the only motivation with successful sales reps. The great ones genuinely want to help their customers become more successful in every way. They have a real interest in understanding the customer’s business, and in getting to know customers on a personal level.
6. Work ethic. Successful salespeople are hard workers. In many sales organizations, it’s easy to slide, easy to take short cuts. But even if a rep has all the natural talent in the world, success will never come without putting in the necessary time and effort.
7. Ability to prioritize. Whether the rep is a wizard with CRM or scratches out reminders on sticky notes, the great ones are terrific at knowing when they are spending too much time on “A” and not enough time on “B.” They can rank their top sales opportunities in order from 1 to 25, sometimes from memory. This is a vital skill in sales because not only does the rep have 100 balls to juggle, the number and size of those balls are always changing.
8. Ability to listen. The stereotype of a great rep is someone who is a great talker. The reality is, a great rep is a great listener. I’ve seen reps who are not particularly glib that succeed anyway because they catch every nuance of what the customer says and read every non-verbal signal with precision. This finely tuned radar enables reps to understand exactly what the customer needs from them to make a purchase.
9. Belief in their company, product and service. To make sales again and again, a rep needs to believe in what he or she is doing. I’ve seen reps fake it and do OK for a while, but eventually their true feelings show — and prospects pick up those warning signals. A lot of sales reps get down on their employers, but whether justified or not, such an attitude pretty much locks in mediocre sales performance. Great reps love what they are doing — they love selling and love what they are selling.
10. Good team players. Instead of complaining or moping, great reps try to improve weaknesses in their company’s products and services, and they do it in a professional, constructive way. They also work well with support team members in purchasing, customer service and other departments. They are respected and well liked not only by their best customers, but also by their fellow employees.
Not all salespeople are born with these personality attributes in place and flourishing. But most of them, maybe all of them, can be cultivated with effort and the right guidance.