With over 3 decades of experience, I have built a successful career in sales. I am also fortunate to have worked closely with a number of world class sales professionals at various levels. Through my experience in sales coupled with my observations of successful sales leaders , I am happy to share specific behaviours that set successful salespeople apart. These behaviours when consistently and diligently followed can accelerate your sales career.
There are of course numerous skills and behaviours a salesman can learn. But I have picked the top 6 behaviours, which I have observed in successful salespeople.
The first and foremost behaviour a good salesman should learn, and follow is to be genuine. Genuineness is critical as this is the starting point of the customer trusting the salesman. The salesperson should be genuine in all his activities and never exploit any customer at any point of time. They must fill their heart with a genuine intent to help and serve the customers. If a client is obtained on these grounds, you have made a client for life.
I used to sell software licences. There was a large organization, which was our competitor’s customer, and they were quite happy with my competitor and didn’t want to change the partner. With my regular follow ups, this customer gave me a chance to quote for their largest purchase for that year. I genuinely worked out a different licensing option for the customer which saved them 40% of the actual cost. All of a sudden, the doors were opened for me, and this customer became one of our largest customers with regular orders. My genuine intent to save money for the customer helped me break this account.
Nothing in this world can be achieved by anyone without enthusiasm. No customer wants to talk to a zombie. Enthusiastic salespeople even at the end of the day and even in their last meeting for the day, will attract the customers with sheer enthusiasm. This one behaviour will differentiate a world class salesman from a mediocre salesman. On numerous occasions, my customers have given me feedback that my enthusiasm was the door opener even when they did not need my product or service. When someone asks, ‘How are you?’, I always enthusiastically respond with ‘I’m on top of the world’. Most customers don’t expect this different response as they are used to the usual responses like ‘Fine’ or ‘I’m doing ok’. In fact some customers thank me as my ‘Top of the world’ response puts them in a good mood.
I have seen many salespeople with poor listening skills. Either they will keep on talking (pouring out whatever they’ve practiced) or they will keep interrupting while the customer is talking. These salespeople are ‘hearing’ instead of ‘listening’ to what the customer is saying. While the customer is speaking, their mind will be somewhere else, or they will be preparing the counter points / solutions in their mind. In the process, they end up missing important points from the customer. Some salespeople also keep judging what the customer is saying and start advising the customer. A good salesman will practice active listening during a client call. He will also ensure that the customer participates in the conversation.
I am able to recall a funny incident that happened several years ago. I along with my principal salesperson went to a client’s place to demonstrate our product. My friend was full of enthusiasm to give the demo and pour out all he knew about the product. I was also following his demo with interest. After some time, I turned back to see how the customer was reacting. To my shock, the customer was sleeping. Unaware of what was going on, my friend was continuing with the demo. A futile exercise. A good salesperson knows when to talk and when to stop, and to ensure a high level of participation from the customer.
For any profession, learning is the key and sales is no exception. If we have a learning mindset this will give us a clear edge over others. Keep learning more about your own products, services or solutions. Learn about the customers. Learn about the competition. Learn about the market. Learn new styles of selling. The learning should never stop. I have seen many salespeople, after seeing initial success, displaying the attitude of a ‘know it all’. That would be the starting point of stagnation. On the contrary, a good salesperson will display the attitude of ‘learn it all’. The student in him will always be alive. Remember, if we stop learning, we stop growing.
If you observe successful salespeople, you will find that most of them are quite composed. Nothing will rattle them. Sales is one of the toughest professions in the world. It is already a profession of interruption. You do not know how and when a customer will behave rudely. You can’t expect customers to be always forthcoming. Some customers might have had a tough time in office or home. They may be indifferent towards you. If you are a salesman with good composure, you will not react to the situation. Rather you will respond with politeness. I still remember a meeting where suddenly the customer stood up, opened the door and signalled me to leave. I was puzzled, as I didn’t know why he was behaving in such a manner. But I composed myself, thanked him and walked out. That same evening the customer called me and apologized for his behaviour. I got the contract, and he became one of my regular clients. Had I reacted negatively, I would have missed this customer.
I have also seen salespeople reacting to customers after they come to know that they have lost the order to the competition. They don’t realise that by reacting, they are aggravating the situation and shutting the door on future opportunities as well. Not only that. If that customer or key contact moves to a different organization, the doors are shut there too. In fact a good salesperson will reach out to the customer seeking feedback, if he loses the deal. Remember no salesperson in this world can win all the opportunities. It is ok to lose a few deals.
A salesperson will have various activities to do. They will be prospecting, attending client meetings and internal meetings, sending proposals, updating the CRM and so on. If he or she is a sales manager, they will have the additional responsibility of ensuring both individual success as well as team success. Some salespeople, without their knowledge or realization, indulge in one specific activity and tend to lose out on others. Balancing plays a crucial role here. A good salesperson is like a juggler on a tightrope, who balances all the balls and still walks on the tightrope to reach the other side. He knows and follows the principle of “nothing at the cost of something”. Every day he spends a bit of time prospecting so that the funnel is always healthy. Even if a few deals are lost, he has back up plans. Thus balancing all roles is very important if one wants to be successful.
The above qualities will have a positive influence on sales and help you stay ahead of the competition. Let us follow these behaviours and be successful.