Step 3: CAPABILITY: The Three Traits of High Sales Performers
By Matt Sykes, Founder & Director, Salescadence
You may have heard of or read the reasonably well trodden phrase which claims that “people don’t seek out a career in sales, they fall into one.” Slightly harsh on those of us who consciously took the decision to carve out a career helping people and organisations benefit from the products our businesses make, but I can agree with the basic principle.
There are certainly a number of people I meet with the word ‘sales’ in their job description who would confess that they hadn’t planned for it to happen. Equally, as a sales trainer, I meet many who are enjoying the benefits that come with developing their sales skills and irrespective of how, are glad they did find a route into selling.
Whilst there are degree courses available to gain a recognised professional qualification in the art and science of selling, I suspect that this academic option is not being promoted too highly in schools and at careers events. I could be wrong, but the stigma around selling still exists and I can’t help feeling it’s restricting the ability for both people and business to prosper.
So, for those leaving education that might be interested in pursuing a career in sales and find there is a lack of careers advice, or for anyone already selling looking for a benchmark, here are just three of the many characteristics that highly-capable, high-performing sales professionals all have in abundance.
Maybe you see yourself or your sales team in some, or ideally, all of them:
SOCIAL ENGINEER: We live in truly remarkable times. Never in history, has so much information been available for free! Everyone of your existing and potential future customers has a website and will probably have both business and personal social media accounts. These ‘free to access’ media-zones provide a wealth of highly relevant information about business performance, company news and employee behaviour. And, each has a vital part to play in your sales strategy.
A highly capable sales professional will devote time each week to mining this information. They will never start a prospect meeting with “So, how’s business?” because they will already know. If the answer isn’t available on the internet, it will be uncovered during conversations with their connections and at relevant industry events and they’ll use this collateral to create opportunity. Set up Google Alerts to track news about your customers and when appropriate, pick up the phone and talk to them about what’s going on. This approach not only works with prospecting for new business but can also be a part of your client retention strategy. Talk to people about them, it’s their favourite subject!
DR NO: Most people will accept the validity of the statement that “people do business with people they know, like and trust.” If we break that down, the challenge of not being ‘known’ is obvious and it’s highly unlikely that anyone will buy what you’ve got without trusting you first. But do you have to be liked to be successful in sales? It seems counterintuitive, but the ‘need to be liked’ can restrict a salesperson’s ability to get the best outcome for both their prospect and their employer.
Sales professionals at the top of their game will ‘switch off’ the emotional need to want to be liked and will stay on the logical path of diagnosis. This means asking the difficult and challenging questions that uncover the true root cause of the prospect’s problem. Doing this creates genuine clarity around the issue and helps when prescribing the correct solution, even if that sometimes means that the solution lies with another provider.
It’s that honesty which ultimately leads to a greater level of trust and in-turn, can often lead to more sales opportunities and referrals. The time to be liked by a customer happens much later in the relationship. Therefore, let’s make winning their trust a priority, so we can help them solve their problem first.
CHANGE AGENT: If you’ve ever asked for the order and heard the buyer respond with either “leave it with me for a few days, I need to think it over” or “let me talk to others and come back to you next week”, then there’s a high probability that you’ve given them pause for thought.
However, as I found to my frustration in the past, doing that resulted in a longer waiting time than they initially suggested! The reason why sales conversations stall comes down to the fact that there’s a distinct lack of commitment on the buyer’s part – that’s not their fault, it’s yours.
There are a number of ‘buying boxes’ that every committed buyer must tick before they’ll agree to part with their money. What high-performing sales professionals all do, is slow the buyer down and insist on getting commitment at every touchpoint in the buying process.
For example, they’ll seek an advance commitment that the customer will buy right from the start, assuming a suitable solution can be found. They’ll also make sure that the buyer has funds available and that they’ll be invested if an acceptable deal is reached. Positive feedback to commitment requests like these, confirm that the buyer is fully onboard and significantly reduces the reasons why conversion times increase and some deals stall.
So, just three of the many traits and characteristics that the modern-day, highly capable sales professional draws upon as part of their daily role to bring solutions to their customers and profit to their employer – who wouldn’t want a job doing that!