Working in sales is no cakewalk. You need to find prospects, build relationships, develop unique pitches, and follow up relentlessly—and even then, you may still come away with a “no.” The most successful sales pros thrive on the challenge, and are masters of brushing off rejections and overcoming obstacles to reach their objective: closing a deal.
But what other traits do you need to succeed in this competitive field? Read on to find out what makes a good salesperson.
It’s not enough to merely be an order-taker who accepts any business that comes your way, says Donald C. Kelly, a sales trainer and podcast host who runs TheSalesEvangelist.com. Rather, take the time to ask questions and dig for more information, such as why the customer is interested in this particular product at this particular time. Being inquisitive helps ensure that your customer gets the right product for their needs—and could result in additional sales.
Anthony Iannarino—speaker, author, and sales trainer who runs TheSalesBlog.com—believes that self-discipline is the cornerstone of success in sales. “No one gives you work,” he says. “You have to make it happen yourself.” Like diet and exercise, it requires making time to do work that you may not always want to do. From prospecting leads to planning sales calls and following up, it’s essential to be able to buckle down and get it done.
According to Kelly, it can take eight to 12 touchpoints with a potential customer before you’ll make a sale. “Since your timing won’t always be perfect, expect plenty of nos,” he says. The key is to not get discouraged and to keep reaching out in a way that’s not overbearing. Kelly recommends using an “omnichannel approach,” which involves nurturing the relationship without only focusing on your product. Send the customer an email about industry news, for example, or comment on their social media posts.
It’s essential to have a “bulletproof mindset,” says Kelly. If you believe in yourself and the product you’re selling, it’ll be easier to keep at it, even if there’s an overall drop-off in sales or other obstacle in your way.
“Sales isn’t actually about selling,” says Elinor Stutz, an author, speaker, and CEO of SmoothSale.net. “Rather, it’s about finding out how you can help somebody.” To do that, she says, focus on listening more than talking. This will ensure you understand what the customer’s needs really are and why your product caught their attention. And don’t be afraid to take the conversation away from business; learning more about your customer will deepen the relationship and help you build a broader sale.
People are so busy these days that getting through to them can require thinking outside of the box. You can start with an email—one that shows you’ve done your research—but when you follow up, perhaps you make it a short video message. Once you make a connection, let your creativity shine. Consider sending an old-school snail mail, perhaps with a gift card to a coffee shop near them and a request for a “coffee break” video chat.
It takes courage to believe you can sell to someone, says Stutz, who began her career being told she would fail as the only female in her company’s sales department. “Use any negative comments as motivation to succeed,” she says. It also helps to set a far-distant goal—such as supporting a family—then draw on that vision for encouragement when you need it.
Ultimately, sales is based on trust, says Stutz, so if you say you’re going to call at a certain time, make sure that you do. Other ways to show you can be counted on: Send thank-you notes immediately, reply in a timely manner, and follow up when you say you will. (Pro tip on follow-ups: Ask your customer what’s a good time for them and they’ll likely be more amenable to hearing from you.)
Giving up when you’re faced with a problem is not an option if you’re a salesperson. “Coming up with clever solutions is essential for every step of the sales process,” says Iannarino—and that starts with how you get your foot in the door of a prospective customer. Think beyond traditional methods of reaching a certain outcome, use whatever tools are at your disposal, and even ask people for help if you get stuck.
Salespeople don’t just sell a product, says Iannarino, they sell an outcome—so be sure every client gets what you’ve promised or you’ll likely lose the business. In other words, the work doesn’t end with the sale. You still have to follow up, solve any problems that may arise, and keep your customers happy. And chances are good that if you’re diligent, it could lead to more business in the future.