Dan Arens

Best selling author Harvey Mackay asked a successful salesperson friend of his how many calls he made on a prospective customer before he gave up. His friend told him, “It depends on which of us dies first.” While selling is truly an art, there are some guidelines that can help you and your company improve the top line.

When Mackay researched and talked about the sales function with many of his associates over the years, he asked them to list or profile the skills they looked for when hiring a top salesperson. There were three qualities:

Ranked right at the top of the list was persistence. The unwillingness to give up is truly a huge characteristic for sales people. As Mackay said, “When people ask me to name the top three skills of a sales person, I answer: Hungry fighter. Hungry fighter. Hungry fighter.”

Enthusiasm is another quality for successful sales people. Most of the time, positivity is part of that enthusiasm. A pleasant smile is also part of the enthusiasm mix. Mackay had a colleague who said, “He believes that everything you give a client should reflect enthusiasm— whether it’s a presentation or a piece of paper.”

Finally, “Showmanship is also important. A first-rate salesperson has to deliver an outstanding performance — even when the customer’s mother is the competition and it seems like a lost cause,” Mackay said.

Here are some other suggested qualities or traits to look for when hiring someone in sales:

Dealing with rejection. This quality is very important. No one can hit a home run everytime they are at bat. The same analogy applied to sales. A successful salesperson must deal with and accept failure. Mackay said, “You can’t be afraid to fail. In many sales arenas you get rejected nine times out of 10. In baseball, if you’re successful three out of 10 times, you get a $6 million contract.”

Know your customer. Be certain to find out as much as you can about your customer and their offerings. Think about how your product or service can be of help to them now and well into the future. Find out their areas of growth. Be aware of their successes and even their failures.

Identify the decision maker. If you don’t know who will be making the decision, do everything you can to find out who will decide your fate and try to get in front of them. As Mackey said, “Knowing the decision makers and inner workings of the companies so you can position yourself with the person who calls the shots.”

Be flexible. There are several issues that relate to being flexible. One customer might be very transparent in everything they say and do while another one might be tight lipped and not very communicative. A successful salesperson has to be willing to flex their personality and change the approach they take when dealing with various personality types.

Be a good listener. Try and really hear the needs of the customer. Then do everything you can to be able to meet those needs with them. You should also be able to adapt, adjust, and interpret what the customer is really saying or doing. In other words, “Read between the lines.” This should include being able to understand what is NOT being said.

Know your product or service. Every successful salesperson knows what they are talking about when it comes to what they are selling. Be confident in the presentation of your firm and what you are selling. A customer will not be a customer very long if you cannot back up what you have said or do not know what you are talking about.

Mackey has such a way with words when it comes to selling something. “You have to realize that even if you are doing everything right, your product may not be right for the customer. Think of it this way: Should you sell ice to an Eskimo, just because you can? Ethical behavior is not only highly desirable, it’s central to your success…..without the right sales skills, something terrible happens: nothing.”

While the art of selling has always existed, many people clearly do not fit the role. As you look to grow and expand your company, do not forget to take some of these sales qualities into consideration as you go about hiring new sales people or continue training your current sales staff.

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