I have a close friend who is on the receiving end of a number of sales calls – some very good and some pretty lousy. And she likes to share horror stories with me. This is one, and it sheds light on the six qualities that win sales by addressing what customers need and want from us in today’s environment. During a phone conversation, the salesperson said, “Can you shoot me an e-mail with the details on this?”
Well, my friend has a sense of humor like I do. So she said, “Sure. I shoot emails all the time. Sometimes it gets pretty bloody in my office. Nothing but dead emails laying all around the floor. I’ll tell you, it’s carnage!” Hey, I’m laughing. But this guy? He didn’t even notice what she said. Just kept going as if she had said nothing. So at his next pause, she said, “And I take it your company came out okay in that big fraud investigation? You weren’t indicted?” The salesman said, “Nope,” and just continued on. This highlights one of the six qualities that win sales, and that salespeople MUST have to succeed these days. These will be in no particular order – except that the most important one will be LAST in this list.
- Listening: As you’ve probably guessed, listening – the ability to capture the words coming from your customer’s mouth, processing them, and interpreting them in order to build solutions for your customer – is incredibly important. For most salespeople, this boils down to simply taking the time and effort to listen, instead of using the time the customer is speaking to form what you’re going to say next. Even so, it’s amazing how many salespeople don’t do this – like the hammerhead that was selling to my friend.
- Questioning: Of course, to be a good listener, you have to have something worth listening TO – hence, you should be a good questioner, as well. What does “good questioning” entail? Well, it means getting beyond the basic questions that are asked in your industry and understanding what the buyer’s real definition of success is. It means understanding your customer’s needs as a whole, and understanding what they will be, or are likely to be, in the future. It means not leaving a question unasked, and it means re-asking questions periodically to refresh your knowledge. Precious few salespeople do that – but the ones that do are the ones who succeed.
- Tech savviness: In today’s world, you have to be able to understand and use technology. You have to be able to have, and use, a CRM system. You have to be able to use various forms of communication platforms – email, text, IMs, Zoom, Teams, and Webex, and be prepared to communicate on any of them at a moment’s notice. It means knowing how and when to use LinkedIn – and it means having, at minimum, a smartphone and laptop available to do them (I add in a tablet as well). Age and seniority are no excuse – if you’re not keeping up, you’ll lose to people who are.
- Intellectual curiosity: Intellectual curiosity is that characteristic which makes us want to know more, learn more, and explore more, even when no one is telling is that we have to. This drives us to ask more questions (see above), and it drives us to seek out new ways to solve problems and add value for our customers.
- Continuous development: I wrote about this in a recent Navigator, but it shocks me how few salespeople take it upon themselves to grow and develop their skills independently of their employer. The salesperson that knows exactly what they knew five years ago is the salesperson who has put an expiration date on their own career. Don’t be that person. Spend time each week reading, watching videos, and building your skills.
- SMART: This is the final and most important one. Today’s salesperson must be SMART. That’s not an acronym – I mean they need to be intelligent. The age of the “charismatic dunce” personality who sells on charisma but can’t think on his or her feet is over in our profession. Sales is an activity of the mind today, not of the emotions – and today’s salesperson must be smart, savvy, and ready to think on their feet and use their expertise to benefit their customer. Nothing less will suffice.
So, there you have it – the six qualities that win sales. Some can be learned and developed, some cannot – but if you are a hiring manager, you need to be thinking about these qualities and assessing them in your hiring processes. If you’re a salesperson, you need to be figuring out what you can learn and develop (remember Continuous Development above), and making yourself the salesperson your customer needs you to be.
That way, when someone throws a great joke at you (and it was a great joke – I cracked up as she was telling the story), you can share a good laugh with your customer and let them know that you really are listening to them.
About the Author
As of 2020, Troy Harrison has trained salespeople from 23 different countries on two different continents. He has worked with principals of companies in the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Middle East. That’s why they call him the “Sales Navigator” – he helps businesses navigate the Elements of Sales on their journey to the Island of Success.
Troy’s sales career goes back to 1990, when he cut his teeth selling cars. After successful stints in publications sales, industrial sales, and plastics, he found his true calling when he became a Sales Manager for a branch of AmeriPride Uniform Services. As much as he loves sales, he realized that he loved teaching, coaching, and developing great sales teams even more, and he struck out on his own in 2004. Since then he has written and published two books, Sell Like You Mean It! and The Pocket Sales Manager.
When Troy hasn’t been helping people succeed at selling, he has been acquiring more cars and motorcycles than the law should allow. In fact, if he’s not working, he’s probably either in the garage working on something with wheels or riding his Harley Road King. Who was his hero? He has two: his dad and his granddad – both legendary car race drivers and talented businessmen. Troy is proud to be their descendant.