The recent Harvard Business Review is all about sales. The first article that caught my eye was about sale’s predictors of success. The other article that struck me was the one on what CEOs need to do to improve sales. Both are excellent articles and they bring up salient points. But not sure successful selling is all that complicated.
Having managed a sales force for over 20 years, I know there are really two keys to being a successful salesperson. I’m not talking about the flash in the pan kind of person who can come into an organization and hit the ball out of the park for one or two years. I’m talking about the career salesperson that consistently makes or exceeds goals year after year for an entire career. So what are those two attributes?
- Likeability. The first HBR article alludes to this quality when they discuss the salesperson that spoke broken English but found a way to relate to every prospect and customer. Isn’t that how every friendship is formed? You find a common ground and work at ways to stay connected. Likability also incorporates the other key qualities of great salespeople-they listen. Think about how many times you have to sit at a party or dinner and listen to someone drone on. You are bored to tears and can’t wait for the night to end. People gravitate towards interesting people and “interesting people are interested”. They always ask more than they talk. So when you’re trying to find a great sales candidate, trust your instincts. If you don’t like him or her, neither will your clients or prospects.
- Faith. I don’t mean spiritual faith, but the kind of faith that translates into believing what you’re selling. A great salesperson has to trust that what they deliver will make their customers better off; their product or service is clearly the best; their brand is first in class. Once a salesperson loses their faith in a product, service or the company, he or she will likely move elsewhere. If you can’t believe what you’re selling, then that lack of faith becomes transparent to the customer or prospect. Keep in mind the actual product or service may not be best in class, but you have to believe it’s the best solution for your customer.
As the HBR articles point out, there are many facets to selling, including CEO involvement, metrics and goals. But when you boil it all down, if you can hire people that have these two attributes, you will achieve consistent, long-term sales success.
And for some help on how to manage this great team you’ve built, check out our blog on seven tips for managing high performing salespeople.