How to Excel at Sales

It’s a difficult time for the salesperson.  The last two decades have seen significant changes in the way consumers and businesses alike research and purchase products and this shift has created an environment in which only the very best sales people can flourish.  But what is it that’s changed and what are the qualities you as a salesperson should endeavour to possess or work on in order to thrive?  Or what should you be looking for during the recruitment process if you are making revisions to your sales team?

The major change in consumer purchase behaviour is a result of the amount of research that can be done via the web prior to a purchase; particularly in regard to high spend purchases.  Statistics suggest that consumers nowadays speak to a sales person when they are as much as 90% through the buying cycle. In the past the only way to gain more information about a product was by speaking to someone, which presented a greater opportunity to “sell” in the traditional sense. Now, by the time they speak to you or your sales team they will already have a substantial understanding about your offering and what it can provide them.  They are ripe to buy and what’s said or not said in that initial conversation is vital.

So what qualities make a sales person outstanding?

A Consultant

Savvy consumers can smell hard sell a mile off and will run a mile further away.  Good sales is about establishing what the consumer wants through listening to their requirements in depth and making recommendations based on their needs and expectations, not banging on for hours about something that isn’t suitable.  Consumers are time poor and woe betide you for wasting someone’s precious time – it’s hard to come back from that!  Get to the point and identify and address any concerns as quickly as possible.

An Honest Soul

Nobody likes a liar and outstanding sales people are as honest as they come.  From product recommendation to timescales, the more honest you are from the outset the greater the opportunity to build trust.  Traditional commissioned-based sales environments and product-led targets can often prove damaging, encouraging sales to be made when they’re not suitable.  This can have a massively detrimental impact on a fledgling relationship and thus the likelihood of future purchases and recommendations. A good sales person will see the bigger picture and the value of building an ongoing relationship built on trust.  It may seem absurd but it’s often better to admit that another product on the market is better suited if relevant.  Consumers appreciate honesty and it’s a great trust builder.

A Relationship Builder

Look at some of your best sales people and you will see that they are most probably hugely personable people.  Able to make you feel at ease and with a genuine interest in you.  They are great conversationalists (not talkers) and these people are excellent at building relationships.

A Believer

You’ve probably heard it a thousand times before; “If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will” and that saying is so true.  Self belief is hugely underrated, but having confidence in yourself, and not the cocksure self confidence that gets up peoples’ noses, can work wonders.  It’s the quietly confident nature of someone that makes you feel that everything is going to be just fine.

Equally as important is a belief in the product or service you are trying to sell.  It’s easy to spot someone who is passionate about something.  They will be hugely knowledgeable about the product in question, and no matter how the day is going their enthusiasm shines. Many moons ago, as a recent graduate I landed my first marketing role at a telecoms reseller.  I knew nothing about phones, VoIP or anything else telephony related, and had no interest in it.  I persevered for two years but never progressed within the company as I had no enthusiasm.  After moving industry I flourished as it was so much easier to market something I was passionate about.

A Well Balanced Set of Scales

Now, this last point will not go down well with some companies.  It all depends on your company culture.  But I make no apologies here.  You may have sales people who you think excel in all of the other categories above, but how long will you keep them…

With many businesses having seen a difficult few years, many sales people will have had a pretty hard time of it trying to hit some difficult targets and all too often burnout is a common result.  Resentment builds as home life is put on hold and more hours are worked and that resentment can snowball and soon whatever enthusiasm was once there has gone and you have a miserable sales team with low sales.  Exceptional sales people live their lives.  They work their hours, and they work hard.  At the end of the day they go home and do stuff; exercise, tuck their kids in, take their partner out for dinner.  They also take regular holidays (with their phones and emails switched off!). They’re not slackers and should never be treated as such; they are sensible people who know when to switch off and as a result come to work happy, refreshed and feeling supported by the people in their lives.