Last Friday, I was interviewed by an executive about critical issues in selling and buying. Although it was a wonderful conversation, one question remained in my head. I was asked by him, “What three characteristics set salespeople apart from other people?”
I replied, “Oh, there are so many .” He interrupted and said, “Dave. You only get to pick the top 3 .”
I was struck by this. We all can think of characteristics that make great salespeople, but sometimes we only have three. I thought, “How can I combine multiple characteristics into one?” Maybe I could create a substantial run-on sentence with many adjectives that describe great salespeople.
After some reflection, I came up with three phrases that were carefully phrased:
A goal-oriented curiosity and problem-solving orientation.
Genuine interest in helping others achieve their dreams and goals.
Ability to accept change and get their coworkers to embrace it.
Let me explain myself.
1. A goal-oriented curiosity and problem-solving orientation.
I have met great sales professionals who are incessantly curious. They are eager to learn about their products and to be able to present their solutions to their customers. They are interested in their customers, both their businesses and their customers. They study their customers, their markets, and their competition. Their curiosity isn’t random. It’s focused. Salespeople who are the best know-how to help customers. Their interest is focused and purposeful. It’s driven by the desire to help customers solve their problems. They don’t just go on random fishing trips, nor do they cold call. Every call is meticulously planned and researched so that they don’t waste their customers’ or their time. They aren’t prone to wishful thinking and don’t let their customers fool them with unrealistic expectations. Instead, they focus pragmatically on the problem at hand. Do I have an opportunity to help my customer achieve their goals faster? They are all about the results. The customer produces the product, and the organization makes the results. They are curious about what they do. They read, attend seminars and workshops, and talk to people they respect. They are aware that to be at the top of their profession and to be a top performer in the field, the bar must always be raised.
2. Genuine interest in helping others achieve their dreams and goals.
Top performers care deeply about their performance but also know that the only way to achieve their goals is by helping customers achieve theirs, whether it’s the business goals or personal goals. Top performers love seeing customers succeed in implementing the solutions that they have sold. Top salespeople don’t “hit and run”; if something isn’t working, they return to the customer and try again. Sometimes, they don’t have the ability to correct the problem, but the customer understands that it wasn’t because they didn’t try. Top salespeople care!
3. Ability to accept change and get others to embrace it.
Sales are fundamentally about change. This is what the most excellent salespeople know. Customers are asked to switch suppliers/vendors and to choose a new product. People are asked to change the way they do business, their processes, and how they think about growing and being more productive. Customers are requested to adopt a new vision of their organization and to look at new ways to develop or improve. They realize that they are asking their customers and their employees to make changes in how they hold customers and how they value them. We may be able to offer new solutions and products that will improve our relationships and help grow our business. Top salespeople realize that change can be scary or confusing for some people. They understand their role as change managers, assisting the people in understanding and owning the process and in making it their mission. Sales professionals who are the best know that they are change managers. They must share their vision of change with customers and create the same excitement about change within their companies.