From my two decades of training and coaching salespeople, here are six fundamental truths about what it takes to become a great salesperson.
Many people are in sales, yet few excel at it. My advice to young people considering a career in sales is: “Go for it!” Professional selling can be the best paying job in the world or the worst. Only you will determine which end of the economic spectrum you’ll reside in.
Here are six truths you should know about superstar salespeople:
1. Superstars don’t look for a silver bullet to success.
It’s not one single thing that makes a great sales career – it’s a bunch of little things done well, day in and day out. Consistent prospecting, building a referral network, gaining business knowledge, knowing your products, developing a list of great questions, self-awareness, practicing the art of conversation, personality styles, time management, setting priorities, presentation skills, sources of motivation, negotiation skills, etc. Stop looking for that one thing to propel you to greatness. Instead, focus on developing your personal and professional skills to build your career.
2. Superstars are students of human behavior.
People live and behave in fascinating and confusing ways. Over time, by paying attention combined with assessing your real-world experiences, you can become more acute in reading people, which is a critical skill to possess as a sales professional. For example, instead of reading only books on sales, read books on human behavior. Here are a few to get you started:
3. Superstars toss out the garbage quickly.
If a “sales guru” tells you something to say or do that doesn’t seem right–then don’t do it. Throw it out (i.e., feel-felt-found; trial closes). Professional selling is a very practical career requiring consistent tangible results. There’s no time for clichés or outdated sales techniques. Selling is not so much persuading people to buy. It’s discovering what is important to a person and aligning what you offer to match that desire in a highly effective way. The way to test a particular sales technique or concept is to ask yourself: “If I were the buyer, would I want a salesperson to say or do that to me?”
4. Superstars practice their selling skills like an athlete.
The same way a professional athlete practices for many hours, so you must consistently practice cold calling, networking, asking questions, uncovering value, presenting solutions, closing the sale, servicing accounts, etc. Your first choice for a practice partner should be your sales manager. A good sales coach can help you greatly improve your selling skills. For independent reps, find an experienced mentor or seasoned salesperson to practice with you.
5. Superstars check their sensitivity.
Ask for honest feedback–especially the unflattering stuff. Always demand an unfiltered assessment of your performance. A good sales manager who mentors and coaches you with unabashed honesty is a gift. Never take feedback personally. Embrace it. Examine every morsel of coaching as another opportunity for self-revelation and focused sales development. Only the salespeople who are willing to accept the truth about their performance will begin to reach their true potential. Those who shy away from it will wallow in mediocrity.
6. Superstars seek to serve–not be served.
The highest calling of a sales professional is to serve others. Serving the interests of others by helping them overcome challenges in order to achieve their goals is a satisfying way to live. You get paid in so many ways beyond a paycheck. Life is truly lived by the moments of service to our fellow human beings. Find the area where you can serve your clients best and you’ll find the joy and contentment you seek.
Take the art and science of professional selling seriously. Really study the profession. Read, learn, and grow for the rest of your life. It will pay off well.