Updated: Mar 10, 2020
Part of my job consists of interviewing people for the entry-level sales positions we have available. Every conversation usually follows the same structure and ends with me asking if they have any questions they'd like me to answer. One of the most common questions interviewees ask me is, "What does it take to be successful here?"
Great question! I think more people should ask it. How can you confidently accept a job offer if you don't know whether or not you possess the skills necessary to succeed in that position? My answer is always the same and it goes beyond success at this particular company. I think about all the great salespeople I have encountered both professionally and personally in my life and there are 5 characteristics that they all share to some extent.
Excellent Communication Skills
First of all, what are communication skills? Some people think it is the ability to articulate their thoughts into words effectively. That's part of it, however, communication is a two-way street. As important as being well-spoken is, the ability to listen and interpret what someone is saying is equally critical. Communication skills refer to the ability to adapt and engage in every conversation. Great salespeople understand their audience and adjust their tone, pace, and body language accordingly.
The most important tip when it comes to communication is to be perceptive and understand your audience.
Attitude, in general, is probably the biggest component to success in any aspect of life. In sales, a competitive attitude is a must. A desire to win is what gets some people out of bed in the morning. They wake up with the goal of being better than they were yesterday or better than their competition. Most sales organizations are very transparent about what each rep produces and has some sort of "scoreboard" that projects the performance of the team. Great salespeople look at that scoreboard and strive to have their name atop the list. They truly believe that second place is just the first loser. They take failure as a challenge and strive to prove people wrong.
Elite salespeople have an extreme level of self-belief. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance and top salespeople tend to toe that line. However, they understand that a certain amount of humility is required along with confidence. For some less successful salespeople, their confidence can get in their way. They may over promise and under deliver. Great salespeople have the confidence to walk away from a promise they can't fulfill. In many instances, confidence comes from experience, but to get experience, you must have the confidence to get started and get your foot in the door.
In any sales position, you're going to get rejected more often than you make a sale. The important thing is how you handle that. Some people set rejection goals for themselves because they know they will have to hear a certain amount of 'no's' before they get a 'yes'. Understanding that being rejected is just a part of the job and the process with help you keep a positive outlook.
From a larger perspective, sales is an industry where you will inevitably have ups and downs. Growth is never perfectly linear. You are going to have really great months and you are going to have really terrible months. Great salespeople stay level headed regardless. Momentum plays a role in sales. Ride the highs but don't beat yourself up over the lows.
This is a big one. To experience long term, sustainable success in sales, you have to understand the long term implications of every short term decision. Telling a lie to get the client to buy may help you achieve short term success. But when that lie comes to light, it may not only change that client's perspective of you but also people within that client's network. As a salesperson, your brand and your reputation is extremely important. Ask yourself the question, "How is what I am doing today helping me get closer to where I want to be in the future?" and you'll quickly find out if you have a big picture perspective. Great salespeople take ownership and responsibility of their clientele and treat it as though they are running their own small business.