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What Makes a Great Salesperson?

written by: Mike Sweeney•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 6/26/2011

High-achieving salespeople are always in great demand in organizations. What personalities and skills do they possess the ordinary salesperson does not? There are a few common threads that run through all top salespeople. Learn these traits, and you’ll become a leader in sales.

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    Unique Talents

    Indian Salesman 

    Salespeople are generally perceived by other employees as a unique group of people within the organization. Their compensation is driven by performance, so much so, that in many organizations, it can be 100 percent of their paycheck.

    When business is good, the payoffs can be significant, yet when business is not going as expected, the downside can have a real impact on personal behaviors and sales quotas. Once the downward trend begins to gain momentum, it can be difficult to stop, the salesperson will second-guess everything he does. So, what is it the successful do differently to avoid the drops in business and income and what are the characteristics of successful salespeople?

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    What They Possess

    There isn't one absolute set of traits that works in every situation, simply because different industries require different skillsets. However, there are some common traits that seem to be in most successful salesperson’s repertoire – they're competitive, self-motivated, independent, disciplined, and organized. They also possess excellent listening, questioning, and presentation skills with customers and prospects alike. When objections are communicated at any time during the sales process, the over-achieving salesperson will confidently handle the objection. Once handled, they have the ability and skills to know when and how to close the prospect for business.

    Competitive

    Competition is what drives most salespeople to be their best. And it’s not just competition with their peers, even though that is very important. It’s an internal competitive drive to be perceived by others as the best at what they do. And, if not they’re not perceived as being the best, they will search for ways to learn as much as they can to gain the upper hand. Seminars, workshops, and DVDs that provide sales information are regularly purchased or attended by these people. They are always looking for something to give them an edge over their competition.

    Self-Motivated

    Salespeople like to call their own shots. From arranging sales calls, to prospecting for new customers, independence is an important trait. The standard 9:00 am to 5:00 pm routine does not appeal to them. Having to be in the same place, at the same time, each and every day, typically doesn’t work well for the high-achieving salesperson. Being able to make their own decisions about when to come in the office or how often to report to managers, are activities they want control over. The bottom line is the bottom line, to them. As long as the salesperson hits quota, then these other business activities become more variable and less critical in relation to achieving sales every month; unless of course sales managers insist they sell onsite such as in a car dealership or art gallery atmosphere.

    Self-Disciplined

    Since they require more independence, the successful salesperson is very disciplined when it comes to schedules, prospecting activities, follow-up information, customer calls, capturing information, preparing proposals, keeping current on trends and business information. Being self-disciplined is a key characteristic of successful sales people.

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    Top Skills

    Businesswoman and diagram 

    Presentation Ability

    Successful sales people are very comfortable presenting the features, advantages and benefits of their products and services one-on-one, or in large groups. They also understand the importance of knowing the needs of their prospects and customers, and they craft their presentations to show how their solutions can meet or exceed those respective needs.

    Listening and Questioning Skills

    Strong listening skills is a common thread found in all successful sales people. They know when to speak and when to listen, and they do both exceptionally well. Giving prospects and customers their undivided attention, being respectful to their needs, and knowing when and how to ask meaningful questions is a key characteristic of successful salespeople.

    Handle Objections

    Objections are a common occurrence and a natural part of selling when communicating with prospects and customers. You may have heard the phrase; selling doesn’t start until you hear “no." Well, that’s probably true. Having the confidence and skill to handle any objection, while being able to turn a “no into a “yes," takes a lot of patience and perseverance.

    Know How to Close

    This is ultimately the clincher in determining the skill level of a sales person. You can present and listen all you want, but the bottom line in sales is, how many deals do you close? Successful salespeople routinely ask for the order in ways allowing the prospect or customer feel less pressured and more in control of their own decisions. Because of their confidence in all parts of the sales process, asking for the order is a natural part of their sales process, and one of the key reasons they are so successful.

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    Sources

    Setnor Byer Insurance; The 10 Must-Have Traits of a Salesperson; Anita setnor Byer; March 2006 retrieved at http://riskbriefs.setnorbyer.com/post/The-10-Must-Have-Traits-Of-A-Salesperson.aspx

    University of Florida; Characteristics of a Superior Salesperson; Amanda Ruth and Allen Wysocki retrieved at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/sn004

    Image Credits:

    Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Sujin Jetkasettakorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net