I’ve met some remarkable sales people over the years – many of them, I’m pleased to say, who have been working for me. I’ve always believed that watching how people sell can give you some fascinating insights into their personality – it’s a great way to see how they operate, and to understand what makes them tick as people. As to whether they’re born, or made – well, that’s hard to say: I think the very best sales people do have a natural talent for building relationships and communicating with others, but I also believe that these are skills that can be learned to some extent. This has some huge implications however, because it can dictate where you invest your time and money in training, development and recruitment. Your ability to mould salespeople in your teams has an impact on the decisions you need to take about whether to train in-house or recruit new talent.
There are as many different ways to sell as there are different people – but I do believe that the successful ones have a few things in common. Here’s my take on what those qualities are.
- They ‘get’ other people
Some of the best salespeople I’ve ever met have been supremely confident in their own abilities – but they most certainly haven’t been pleased with themselves to the point of narcissism. Rather, they’ve understood that being a great salesperson actually requires you to open yourself up to what other people are feeling – to empathise, rather than to dominate by the force of your personality. Again, that’s not to say that these people don’t have strong personalities – they do, and they’re often highly engaging ones – but they are prepared to set their own needs aside to put themselves in someone else’s position. Empathy is crucial to being able to sell – without it, you cannot have any real understanding of what your prospects really need. And if you’re trying to sell something to someone when you don’t know what they actually need, you’re not going to sell them anything.
- They never give up
If there’s one quality that I look for in my salespeople, it’s resilience – that ability to take the knocks and to get straight back up again. Because sales is tough – anyone who has done it for any length of time knows that you’re going to get plenty of rejections on your way to closing a deal. One of the most fundamental parts of this quality of resilience is understanding that it isn’t a personal defeat – by not taking things personally but at the same time taking on board all of the lessons of any failure, the very best sales people will fail often, fail fast and move on until they win in the end. These are the kind of people I love to have working with me, because they’re also creative – they’re never put off, and they’re quick to look for innovative new ways of solving tricky problems.
- They never think they know it all
A quality that I think is valuable, not just to sales people, but to everyone, whether they’re in business or not. The ability to approach every situation with openness and humility, to listen and to learn from every interaction they have, whether it’s with a prospect or a colleague, is an incredibly valuable skill. And it’s hard to do – we all like to think we’re experts in one area or another – but being able to see other points of view, understand other’s needs and to adapt your strategies accordingly is crucial to being an effective sales person. Every prospect is different, and every encounter with them is an opportunity to become a better sales person.