In the first of this two-part series, we established the gap between effective salespeople and their underperforming counterparts, stating that a major distinguishing factor between both is the ability to build lasting relationships by keeping their promises. In addition to being creative, authentic and service-oriented, this second part of the series highlights 12 other attributes of effective salespeople:
- They ‘break the rules’ – Professional salespeople are entrepreneurs at heart. Organisational values and standards are foremost, but within that framework, they learn everything they can about the product or service they represent, they approach every customer with an attitude of respect and a desire to please. Outdated rules and principles may encourage a sense of superiority over the customer, attempt to persuade the customer to purchase the most expensive product or service or move inventory that has lingered too long on the shelf. Such attempts will ultimately lead to failure.
- They know how to build a client base – Effective salespeople know the value of networking. They attend conferences and professional meetings, collect business cards and take advantage of opportunities to make new contacts to enhance their career. The goal is not to see who can have the most contacts, but to build a reputation for being the first person a contact thinks of when they or an acquaintance is looking for a product or service.
- They are macro thinkers – Key salespeople are macro thinkers. They focus on the big issues while remaining aware of small (important) details. They understand that they may not always meet their goals, yet they aim high. Their attitude is: “Why not? I have everything to gain and nothing to lose?” They focus on both the means and the ends in achieving their goals.
- They study each customer’s business – Excellent salespeople have an encyclopaedic knowledge of their clients’ business histories, challenges, successes and failures, expectations, plans for the future, business plans, and clientele. The goal is to become a service partner, not just a service provider. Sharing new business strategies as well as new products or services that improve customers’ market penetration and profitability, adjust for market highs and lows, and grow their customer base will generate a compatible business relationship and mutual success.
- They investigate their competitors – Successful salespeople learn about their competitors. They learn about the business strategies, strengths, and weaknesses of their competition. They do not hesitate to refer clients to other firms if they are certain that it will have a positive long-term effect on the interests of their potential clients. They play the “long game”.
- They keep in touch – Successful salespeople understand the importance of keeping in touch with their customers without becoming an irritant. Cards, letters or phone calls on birthdays contribute to a friendly relationship. A client’s business achievement or community involvement is an opportunity to send a letter or card, make a phone call, or send a congratulatory email message. Scheduling occasional coffee hours or luncheons with a small group of like-minded clients is a good strategy for exchanging information about new organisational policies, products or services, success stories, and market conditions. Unannounced visits are not, as a rule, good use of anyone’s time and can be annoying.
- They are detectives – Star salespeople gather information about clients, competitors, and the market to empower them. They avidly read trade journals, newspapers, users’ manuals, and books that keep them current on happenings in the local marketplace and global economic and political influences. Websites are sources of useful information and links to related interests. Clients are always impressed with a salesperson who responds, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out,” then gets back to them with helpful ideas.
- They cultivate references – Every customer wants to do business with people and organisations with good track records. Testimonials from satisfied clients are essential for successful salespeople. Positive references and recommendations can be the difference between gaining trust – and making a sale – or not. Confident salespeople never hesitate to ask a client for a written reference, whether it’s in the form of a letter or an online post, business cards that include a mailing address and website URL will make it easier for buyers to submit that reference.
- They ask for referrals – One of the best places to seek new business is from present customers. Whether currently active or inactive, a ‘present’ customer is anyone with whom a salesperson has done business. Professionals work hard to maintain a positive and active relationship with their clients even after concluding a transaction with them. They know that they may not always get business from their inactive clients, but a referral from them could secure a new client.
- They create customer profiles – Excellent salespeople know that not all prospective clients can be put in the same category; some are better business prospects than others. Customer profiles may be kept in a notebook with the help of personal contact or internet research or may be created on the spot with a simple but thoughtful conversation with promising prospects. Profiles help to match service or product characteristics (e.g., price/affordability, convenience, utility) with the business demands or lifestyle of potential customers. Star salespeople know that they are wasting their limited sales time when they fail to create a profile of a potential customer. Incompetent salespeople push to make a sale without fully understanding the customer’s needs and qualities, an approach that takes more time and has a far greater chance of failure.
- They believe in ‘win-win’ negotiations – The best salespeople understand that negotiations work best when all parties are satisfied with a ‘win-win’ outcome. No one feels like they’ve been “bested” or out-manoeuvred. Less capable salespeople reduce prices to win customers, thereby short-changing themselves and their organisation, or make service or delivery promises they cannot keep, a sure way to lose that customer’s business in the future and endanger their reputation as a reputable business person.
- They keep accurate records – Smart salespeople keep detailed records of successes and failures. “What communication styles seem to work better than others?” “What questions do customers always ask and were my answers always accurate and satisfactory?” “When I lost a sale, did I talk to the customer and learn why they made another choice?” “Have customers ever thanked me, or criticised me, for my efforts? What did I learn from that?” Records serve as an encyclopaedia of references, first, to affirm what works well and boost self-confidence, and second, to serve as a reminder of what doesn’t work well. In either case, records are a personal reflection, a guide for achieving success.
Have you ever had to refer a salesperson to a potential customer and regretted it afterwards? If yes, what was the experience and what alternative means was used in convincing the customer about the product/service?