Who are the best salespeople in your organization? What makes them so good at what they do? When I joined a consulting firm, I remember wondering why people, who seemed so different, were all successful at sales. Some were women, some men; some were very intelligent, while others were street smart; some were aggressive, others laid back. There seemed to be no common denominators.
At lunch one day, a good friend, and great salesman, shared an old sales adage, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” As I thought about the sales stars in my firm, I realized that they did share some common characteristics. A great salesperson:
- Cares about people and builds strong relationships: What do you do when you meet a new person and have a conversation? You evaluate everything from their fitness, dress, eye contact, handshake to your estimate of behavioral traits, presentation and ability to care about the other person’s agenda. If they pass the test they may be someone you’d like to meet again and perhaps begin to build a relationship.
- Sees the world through the customer’s eyes: How many times have you thought you knew another person’s agenda (in business or social situations) only to find out you were wrong, and in some cases dramatically so. The key, no matter how much intelligence you have gathered, is to let the customer tell you their direction, goals, and dreams and not jump to premature conclusions.
- Is a great listener rather than a great talker: You’ve often heard that active listening is one of the most important of the communications skills yet we receive less informal or formal training in it than any of the others. Practice listening to someone else talk and then summarize their major points. How many of their points can you remember? The ones you forgot are because you didn’t remain “locked in.”
- Has a genuine interest in solving the customer’s needs: Are you willing to bore down, through research, data analysis and discussion to discover what the customer is really trying to accomplish? After listening, the art of questioning is one of the most important skills a salesperson can have. Practice asking questions when friends are engaged in a discussion (business or personal) that they really care about and see if you can help them to frame the issue and devise a plan to work on it. One last thing: confirm your findings to be sure you have it right.
- Provides the product or service that the customer needs: Once you know, and have confirmed, the need, then present your abilities to solve the issues. This requires a clear, crisp, straight-forward presentation of what you, and your company, can deliver. Don’t be obtuse or add additional services that can become a distraction. Deliver a fast ball right down the middle.
- Goes the extra mile for the customer: After the sales meeting, provide the proper amount of follow-up including any additional information that may be required. Many sales are lost between a meeting, acceptance by the customer, and the time the work begins. Providing adequate follow-up prevents the customer from feeling a lack of respect. Then, once you secure the business do whatever it takes to provide outstanding service.
After my friend shared the adage with me, he added, “That’s pretty good advice for anyone in any function. After all, every one of us is a salesperson every day.” I agree.