Keys to being great in sales
Updated: May 7, 2018
The snow in 1979 was record breaking and it was still piled high in our yard late into the spring. My brother Rob was so anxious to see the green grass that he decided to sell the snow. He drafted up a sign and put it out in the front snowbank. He was determined to sell it all.
Last weekend, I was sitting around with a couple of other families after a day of skiing, when the conversation turned to sales. One of our friends had a school mate who had become one of the top commercial real estate agents in the country. Asking if he had any indication in his early years that his friend would be so accomplished, the question that followed was, 'Do you think he was manipulative when he was younger?' Then the conversation turned to me, 'Dave what do you think, are really good sales people manipulative?'
I was surprised at the question because having dealt with supplier salesmen for 30 years in retail and having trained people in sales for 30 years, none of the great salespeople I ever knew were manipulative. Award winning people I have known who have dedicated their lives to helping others in sales include Dana Young, Rheece Harte and Dennis Bonagaura. The staff I had who never won any sales awards but worked daily in selling things to make a difference in peoples' lives included Gary, Kathy, Theresa, Marie, and so many others.
That is not to say that I have not met salespeople who have tried to be manipulative and deceptive, or tried to sell me things for their benefit and not mine. It's true there are people like that, and they may even achieve their goals for a short time. However, the best salespeople, the ones who are able to be really and truly successful, who win awards and achieve lifetime recognition in sales are those people who have a number of the following traits:
Great salespeople care - In his book The Greatest Salesman In The World, Og Mandino suggests that the greatest attribute any salesman can have is love. This is not taught in any sales courses or ever discussed in the boardrooms of companies that have sales forces. Award winning salespeople like people and care about them. They are relational and are sincerely interested in helping their customer achieve their goals. Far from being manipulative, great salespeople want their customers to be happy with their purchase.
Great salespeople ask great questions - People who are great at sales ask questions to discover the needs of their prospective customers soliciting information to move the sale along. We ask questions to ensure that each person purchases the product best suited to their needs.
Great salespeople follow a system - Whether they have been trained in sales or not, the really good salespeople follow a system of developing relationships, uncovering needs, determining budgets, presenting a solution and asking for the sale in a way that ensures the continuing loyalty of their customers.
Great salespeople have persistence - Working in sales takes a long time to really be successful, to understand "the business of sales," to face the daily rejections, to build up a sustainable customer base and to develop meaningful and valuable relationships. It takes training to know your products or services. It takes persistence to gain an understanding of psychology in order to know what your customers are going through when you are selling something to them. It takes persistence to deal with the loneliness that salespeople feel when they are traveling away from the families they love. Sometimes closing a sale might take days, or weeks, months or even years, and persistence is key to ongoing success.
The next time you deal with a salesperson, remember that being in sales is a tough job. There are targets, deadlines, demanding sales managers and bosses. There are objections, recessions, budgets, and even weather to deal with that can punch a hole in the best made sales plans. If you run into a salesperson who is manipulative or deceptive, move on, ask the company you are dealing with to let you work with someone else.
My brother Rob never sold any snow that winter due to an overabundance of supply and lack of demand, however he went on to sell millions of dollars in software services because like the best salespeople, he was persistent and cared about people and giving them value.