Salespeople are a diverse group. They hail from different backgrounds and walks of life, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Overtime, they develop their own tricks and specialties, the things that make them unique. For some, it’s forming connections with clients. For others, it’s aligning disparate decision makers to close complex, multitiered deals. However, despite these differences, there are some traits successful salespeople have in common. Fortunately, these are not the natural-born, genetic gifts that often give professional athletes a competitive advantage, such as size, strength, or speed. Instead, the things that set sellers apart can be learned, practiced, and perfected. Here are the top six traits that set elite salespeople apart:
Contrary to popular belief, there are no natural-born sellers. Instead, the best sales pros operate from a genuine desire to solve problems and provide solutions. Elite salespeople are driven, determined, and passionate about helping others. After all, problem solving not only benefits clients. For sellers, the process, the work to identify prospects you can help, is rewarding. From here, it’s the emails, phone calls, and meetings seeking to clarify and understand their needs. Then, it’s overcoming objections and defining and refining solutions. Elite sellers know there is no substitute for the process or the satisfaction that comes from that effort, so they must develop the drive to see it through.
Greatness is never an accident. It requires discipline. Even those elite athletes who have a genetic predisposition to excel at their sports need discipline to maintain their skills and improve at their craft. One might be six-feet-six inches tall, but that doesn’t mean they can move while dribbling a basketball or consistently hit a mid-range jump shot. It’s no different for sellers. Though there are no sales gyms, with exercise bikes and free weights, there are tried-and-true sales workouts, such as prospecting, which includes social searches, emailing, and cold calling. Like doing several hundred sit-ups at 5 a.m., elite sellers have the discipline to get up and stick to their schedule.
Elite sellers have been around the block. They have seen and tried enough to know what works. Like a doctor knows when to suggest an over-the-counter remedy vs. a prescription, good sellers know when an off-the-shelf solution will do the trick or when they need to get creative, mix and match, or customize something completely new. They know their products. They’ve done the demonstrations. They understand the competition. And they have the stats and statistics to present to clients. In addition, they are savvy enough to offer expert advice to help clients see the total picture and gain peace of mind, which is the most important but least quantifiable value sellers provide.
In pop culture, salespeople are often presented as so confident they’re arrogant. However, real confidence isn’t boastful. It’s not a puffing of the chest or a haughty attitude. Instead, it’s knowing when a client needs reassurance. It’s having the ability to understand and be empathetic. It’s trusting your knowledge and experience because they come from past mistakes and lessons learned. Rather than speaking, it’s knowing when to listen. Instead of lying or faking your way to a sale, real confidence is the ability to say, “I don’t know. Let me check into that for you.” It is a trust in oneself that inspires others. It is a positive force for helping people.
A good general sales rule is no two clients are alike. They may come from the same industry or even work in the same neighborhood, but their problems are different. In addition, buyers’ personalities vary like the days of the week. Also, from economic fluctuations to natural disasters or even a global pandemic, the sales environment is constantly changing. Elite sellers must be willing to adapt to whatever situation presents itself. Part of this is, of course, experience. Once one has been through enough, it’s easier to change with the times. However, even more so, this must come from a willingness to learn, grow, and welcome whatever challenge comes next.
In sales, no one retires undefeated. The best salespeople have lost deals. That’s why experience is such an important factor. The difference is resilience, the ability to come back from defeat and be better next time. Sure, defeat hurts. For sellers, there’s nothing worse than losing a deal at the last minute, especially when it looked like a sure thing. It’s like having the rug pulled out from you, and it can be disorienting. Elite sellers know that failure is a part of success. Professional basketball players often talk about championship experience, how losing in the finals can prime a team to win it next year. Successful sellers are those who don’t stay down. Instead, they use past defeat to fuel future success.
While it can be tempting to stereotype professions, like saying doctors have God complexes or police officers are authoritarian, this is as incorrect as it is insulting. Still, one cannot deny that select traits and characteristics can benefit certain professionals. For example, many would prefer a supremely confident surgeon over an insecure one. Though salespeople are often maligned as manipulative or worse, the best sellers do share characteristics that make them elite. However, unlike acrobats and actors, who seem born into a family business, or athletes born with genetic gifts, the traits that make for elite salespeople can be learned, practiced, and perfected, making it possible for those who want to be elite sellers to achieve that goal.