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Common Questions and Answers
Great salespeople aren’t born, they’re made. The key attributes that make someone a good salesperson are all skills rather than talents — meaning they’re things that we learn and not things that we’re born with. What your inborn attributes do is determine which kind of sales approach you’ll be most comfortable with. Within that framework, developing the following skills and attributes can help you reach greatness.
The ability to develop and maintain self-confidence is the most important sales skill of all because it’s so fundamental to your sales approach. Lack of confidence translates into either a fearful salesperson who hates to make cold calls and does everything possible to avoid actually selling, or an arrogant salesperson who covers up his insecurity by pretending to know everything. But a confident salesperson conveys that confidence to prospects. If you are confident in yourself, your company and your product, then the prospects you meet will be more likely to believe in those things as well.
Great salespeople are great listeners. In order to sell well, you have to understand your prospect’s needs — how else can you present your product as a solution to those needs? And in order to uncover that information, you have to be able to listen. More than that, you must have the ability to get the prospect talking in the first place. Active listening is the skill of not only picking up on what the other person says, but also acknowledging those messages in a way that encourages her to say more.
Sales is as much about who you know as what you know. Great salespeople build long-term relationships with everyone — not just customers, but other members of the sales team, network contacts, salespeople from non-competing industries, sales managers, co-workers from other departments, referral sources, etc. Those relationships form an ongoing platform for future successes. That doesn’t just mean future sales, either — although knowing Joe could really pay off when he gets you an appointment with that elusive CEO who just happens to be his golf buddy. Your business relationships can also propel you into that job you’ve always wanted or get you a coveted award.
You might be surprised to see persuasiveness so far down the list of essential sales skills. That’s because it’s really a fallback for when the first three skills don’t get you the sale you want. If your innate confidence doesn’t generate the prospect’s trust, and your listening skills aren’t enough to uncover the right hot-button needs, and your list of contacts fails you, THEN you will need to use just the right words to get the prospect’s attention and give you a real crack at the sale. Persuasion is your tool to convey the emotions that will jar the prospect into listening to you.
Sales experts say that it often takes as many as seven contacts on average to get one prospect to commit to buying. So a salesperson who gives up after one or two attempts is going to lose a lot of sales that he could have closed with a little more patience. Persistence also comes into play during a hard morning of cold calling when every other person hangs up on you. Sales is a numbers game. A great salesperson knows that when prospects decline to buy, they’re not rejecting her — they’re rejecting her selling system. She moves onto the next appointment with a mental note to try that prospect again in a few months. If she starts to hear a lot of rejections, she takes a close look at her selling system and makes a few changes, then tries the revisions out on a new batch of prospects. Great salespeople are also constantly striving to improve themselves and their sales approaches.
About the author
My first sales position was a summer job selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. I continued through a variety of sales jobs ranging from retail sales for a storage company to selling bank products for a Fortune 500 financial institution.
As a small business owner, I now focuses on selling for my own company, Tailored Content, a website content provider. I write on a wide range of topics but my primary focus is sales and how to sell effectively.