The sales profession has trouble pinning down the characteristics of successful sales professionals. This confusion is due to opposing views and does not benefit anyone—not you, not the sales professional, and not the buyer.
Here is my list of the top ten characteristics, based on my nearly 50 years of celebrated experience in sales and sales training.
You will see that certain characteristics are followed by a number. That number represents the order of importance. This article was written in flow, not in order of priority.
In order to be successful sales professionals we need to understand the word “success.” Success implies different things to different people. The definition I follow is “the progressive realization of a worthy goal.”
The problem is most people have dreams tucked away in their mind and have never taken the time to put their dreams in writing and to crystallize them into goals.
1. Goal Setting (#3)
The first question is: Do you have personal and professional written goals? These should be goals that are documented—on paper or electronically—and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Trackable.)
If there are no goals to strive for, there is no motivation, no focus, no plan and certainly no measurement of success. A successful sales professional has SMART written personal and professional goals supported by a plan of action.
Goals and a plan of action are not enough. You must be self-disciplined, focused, and ready to take action!
“Discipline is a commitment to the most important person in the world. It means doing what you have to do, even when you don’t want to do it.”
In order to be disciplined, you first need to identify and replace your ineffective habits with appropriate and effective daily behaviors. In turn these practices will quickly become new result-oriented habits that support your personal and professional goals.
When these daily behaviors are completed, you must reward yourself for doing what you said you would do. “Any behavior that gets recognized or rewarded gets repeated.” If you don’t do what you said you would do, you must suffer the consequences and deny yourself any reward. Rewards can be as simple as a cup of coffee or a meal.
However, before you can master the behaviors of goal setting and discipline, you must master your attitude. It is of the utmost importance to have a desire to set goals and to be disciplined.
3. Attitude Control (#1)
You can’t build anything without a solid foundation. Attitude is the foundation for all successful people, not just sales professionals.
Attitude is the “advance person” of our true selves. Its roots are inward and based on past experiences, but its fruit is outward. It is our best friend or our worst enemy. It is more honest and more consistent than our words. It is the thing that either draws people to us or repels them. It is never content until it is expressed. It is the librarian of our past, the speaker of our present, and the prophet of our future. Yet who is in control of your attitude?
Everything revolves around you and your attitude toward yourself, your organization, the team and the products or services that you sell. Take hold of your attitude, realize it is yours and develop an attitude of self-respect, self-confidence, and self-worth. Develop an owner’s mentality and be proactive.
Take control of what is within your control and have a win-win attitude in all that you do. You cannot succeed alone–you need buyers!
4. Buyer Focused
Yes, buyers are everywhere but what are you doing to help them buy?
Are you approaching buyers for your own reasons—promoting yourself, your organization or the products and services you sell? If so, that has nothing to do with being buyer focused. It is being “me” or “sales” focused!
Buyer focused is exactly what it says. A sales professional must be focused on the buyer. First, identify and profile your best buyers – the 20% that gives your 80% of your revenue. Second, focus on targeting and attracting those high value buyers. Don’t chase after them. Position yourself as an expert in the marketplace where they look for you by name. You want to get the best Return on Your Time Invested (R.O.T.I.).
Finally, focus on the four universal needs of buyers as well as on their body language, tonality, words, communication style, interests, needs and desires, budget, timing, and so on.
Remember, it is all about the buyer. Without buyers, you have nothing!
5. Facilitate the Buying Process (#7)
Buyer communication boils down to nothing more than asking questions, listening to the answers and questioning the answers to help buyers dig deeper and discover their own needs and solutions.
Successful sales professionals are good facilitators. They know their product and/or service solutions, and the emotional pains or pleasures they unravel. However, they do not “tell and sell” the buyers. Instead sales professionals engage the buyers through the use of pre-scripted questions, leading the buyer to determine their own needs, discover where they feel their pain or pleasure, and identify the cost of doing nothing. They empower the buyer to make the decision to buy based on their needs and the budget and decision processes previously identified. They qualify buyers, as discussed below.
Fact: Before you can ask questions, you must first build trust.
6. Establish Trust (#5)
Establishing trust is all about building rapport or commonality. Relationships are built on trust and you want to build a lasting relationship with buyers. Without trust, buyers will not answer your questions. Your number one objective in sales is to establish trust with buyers. That is achieved by being sincerely buyer focused, as discussed above.
The more relationships you have, the bigger your network. The bigger your network, the bigger your net worth.
Once trust is established, you are guaranteed valuable “word of mouth” referrals. They in turn become your secondary sales force.
7. Set Ground Rules (#6)
Two of the biggest complaints about salespeople are: they are full of surprises and they waste the buyer’s time.
Once rapport and trust has been established (the buyer does not stop talking), successful sales professionals set ground rules. They can engage the buyer and ask questions such as: How much time have you set aside for our meeting? What is it you would like to accomplish in that time frame? Is it acceptable if we ask each other questions? Do you mind if I take notes? By the way, I may not be able to help you. If I can’t help you, are you okay if I say no, I cannot help you? If I can, I will say yes. Can we be honest with each other and work on a “yes – no” basis?
Note the engaging strategies empowering the buyer.
8. Qualify Buyers
Successful sales professionals ask questions to uncover buying motivators, financial ability, decision making, and they summarize what they’ve learned. It is at the summary stage that they know whether the buyer is qualified or not. If not, they tell them “No”, as discussed in the ground rules. If “yes”, the sales person reaffirms a yes or no answer from the
buyer following the presentation.
However, successful sales professionals do not give “all inclusive” presentations. They give prescriptions!
9. Prescribe Solutions
The solution(s) presented are customized based on identified buying motivators, financial ability, decision making and timing as summarize during the qualifying steps. The prescription is based on the rule “Sell today, educate tomorrow.” By doing this, you stay buyer focused but bring more value to the client when you educate them after the sale about all the other benefits not previously discussed.
10. Maintain Relationships
Stay in touch on a personal level and maintain your secondary sales force—word of mouth, referrals, etc.
Of course, there are many other characteristics of a successful sales professional such as being organized, following through, persistent, patient, honest, trustworthy, professional at all times; being a good presenter, dressing well, caring; being a problem solver, results-oriented, doesn’t take rejection personally, is enthusiastic and passionate about their profession, their product or service, and the organization they represent.
Based on all the above, take the time to evaluate yourself along side each of these characteristics and identify areas that need improvement.
The first three characteristics of successful sales professionals—attitude, goal setting and discipline—are the foundation to your success in life and not just in sales. Master these three characteristics and you will be well on your way to success in any profession!
The last seven characteristics are the competencies of a proven “Buyer Focused” sales process that can be learned.
All 10 characteristics are part of the internationally proven “Buyer Focused” Velocity Selling System and are discussed in great detail in the book, “Up Your Bottom Line.”
Bob Urichuck is an internationally renowned Velocity Selling Specialist.
For the last 15-years he has worked with Fortune 500 companies and mid-size businesses to inspire, empower and add Sales Velocity to their Bottom Line. Bob is the Author of “Up Your Bottom Line” and “Disciplined for Life.”
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