What makes a successful salesperson?

IMG_5940In these uncertain times your ability to make the sale can mean the difference between constant financial worries and trying to desperately make ends meet or living confidently where money is available to support yourself and your family and enjoy your life.

The term selling can mean different things to different people. Some people would say that everyone is a salesperson. If you share an opinion or explain an idea you’re selling yourself. You are a valuable asset and can produce well for yourself and other people. Others may consider themselves salespeople when they work on a retail shop floor and tell prospective customers where to find products and give some information about them.

You may be selling large products and services such as houses, cars mutual funds, life insurance, complex computer systems, large industrial equipment or even an engineering, procurement and construction package for a bigger industrial public infrastructure project. But whatever you are selling, to be effective you have to know what separates the successful from the unsuccessful salesperson.

Many people have asked the same question because it is not only important to personal success but to the viability of a start-up business, a medium-sized family company that has national representation or a large organisation spanning several countries.

Researchers some years ago who worked with 7,000 salespeople concluded that a professional salesperson must have two basic qualities – empathy and ego. What they found was that people who lack the required empathy were not able to empathise with the prospective customer’s problem. Yet those who had too much empathy were unable to close sales. They had friendly people personalities but did not have the drive to ask for the order.

Empathy enables salespeople to connect with prospects. But the researchers noted that empathy doesn’t necessarily mean being sympathetic. You may feel for the prospect’s situation but if you know your product will help them and they have the money to buy, then you need to close the sale.

The second key quality which is ego drive means that the salesperson has an inner need to make the sale. It is a personal motivation that is above the money or commission that the salesperson will make. However, salespeople with too much ego drive will be pushy and could lose the sale. A healthy ego allows you to ride the shocks and hard knocks of rejection. Self-esteem and self-image is crucial to motivation. Thank goodness the concept of a pushy salesperson is being replaced with the consultative selling approach. But although notions of zero-pressure or zero-resistance selling abound, the salesperson still has a pretty rough time.

Salespeople without much empathy or ambition will not cut it in the longer term and should find occupations more suited to their career anchors.

These two basic qualities – empathy and drive – ultimately determine whether you will succeed or not in sales. But they are a starting point. You still need to know your product or service well, understand the sales process, be imaginative, creative, free-spirited and hard-working. Above all, you must be able to find out what the customer wants and deliver it and become the best closer you can be in your market or industry.

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