Sales constitute the bottom-line of any organisation and the people who bring this kind of value to an organisation are known as salespeople. They serve as intermediaries or bridges between buyers and sellers, making their organisations profitable and giving them the competitive advantage. Yet, what makes a successful salesperson has always been a challenging question, which is what led us to conduct 35+ interviews with successful and experienced salespeople in different industries in order to learn what distinguishes successful salespeople from the ordinary ones.
The responses we received were interesting and insightful. We discovered that the role of successful salespeople has evolved due to new market dynamics, changing consumer behaviour and technological advancements. Here is a summary of the important qualities, attributes and skills that play an essential role in the development of successful salespeople.
Focus On the Basics and Be On Your Toes:
Understanding the fundamentals of sales is a prerequisite to becoming a successful salesperson and implies that he or she will achieve the given sales targets. These fundamentals include awareness about the product(s) you are selling and your ability to make the product both available and visible in all the right places. Availability is linked with productivity, whereas visibility is linked with purchase intention. To meet these fundamentals, you have to go to market on a daily basis to meet retailers, wholesalers and other customers. This will also increase your market acumen and intelligence. Always strive to meet your sales targets and remain focused on your goals. Do not waste time on non-sales activities. Be proficient in identifying the needs of your customers, pitch your products effectively and make your sales to the right people at the right time. The basic drive of successful salespeople consists of hunger, growth and competitiveness. These three attributes work in a chain process and imply that you want to be the best and grow – and the more you grow, the better you become at your job, pushing you to perform even better. This chain results in higher sales growth as well as higher customer satisfaction.
Be Agile and Vigilant:
Remain in constant and continuous coordination with other departments (IT, marketing, finance, and so on). You have to be agile while managing and dealing with different stakeholders and be proactive. Vigilance is another vital quality; different challenges come from different fronts and you need to be vigilant and agile to deal with unfavourable situations if and when they arise.
Selling is a behaviour and an attitude. This means you have to be prepared to change your attitude and behaviour in accordance with the person you are dealing with - because every customer is different and unique. Furthermore, in today’s world, consumer behaviour is changing very rapidly and you have to develop an understanding of these changes and adapt accordingly. This also means knowing how to deal with different channel customers such as LMTs, IMTs and kiryana stores. The more you excel at dealing with different customers, the more successful you will become at selling. A high degree of adaptability is extremely important.
Face Your Fears and Win:
Never be afraid of the word “NO” while selling. Research has proven that salespeople who hear and listen to the word "NO" are likely to hear "YES" the next time they pitch a sale. The reason is because when people receive a negative response, they will usually try to figure out where the problem is and make efforts accordingly.
Believe in Yourself, No Target is Impossible:
Your success is determined by how successfully you achieve your targets. Remember, no target is impossible and every target can be achieved, if you break it down into smaller targets and goals. If you believe you can achieve any target, you will be able to explore new ideas and ways to succeed. This belief will give you confidence and enable you to enjoy your work rather than worry about falling behind the numbers.
It is essential that you allocate your financial resources and efforts at the right place and at the right time. Success means being good at execution and having a strategic mindset. Make sure you get involved in the planning process.
Honesty is the Best Policy:
Never compromise on your integrity. You may gain more sales in the short-term by manipulating your customers, but in the long run you will lose them and your sales as well. Sell honestly and care about your customers’ interests. This will enable you to build better customer relationships, which in turn will generate further sales and growth. Being honest also means fulfilling your commitments to your customers and meeting your targets.
Be Open and Vocal:
Never hesitate to ask for help and don’t be reluctant to learn from other people. If something is not working, discuss it with your team/supervisor and try to reach a better outcome. This will result in a win-win situation for both the customers and for the company. Always try something new, bring new ideas to the table, voice your concerns and learn from the mistakes of others.
Your First Impression is Your Last Impression:
Develop a sound understanding of the products you are selling; hone your communication skills and demonstrate professionalism when pitching your products. This will help build a positive persona about the product and the company in the minds of your customers and push them to make a purchase decision. Research has shown that what you wear and how you present yourself has a positive impact on your customers. Work on your personal and professional development and never take a customer for granted; every single customer is important.
Understand your customers’ needs and put yourself in their shoes. Always be willing to go the extra mile as this guarantees long-term profitable relations. The more you understand your customers’ business, the easier it will be to generate innovative ideas to help them grow their business.
Lead by Example:
If you are managing a team of five or more people, be a good leader, otherwise your team will not be able to deliver at optimum level and achieve the desired result. Sales is a two-way process; the sooner you understand your team’s needs, the better they will understand what you want from them. Motivate your team, acknowledge their efforts and reward them with both monetary and non-monetary benefits. Guide, coach, mentor and train them – and lead by example.
Your Network is Your Net Worth:
Keep expanding your network, build new friendships, strengthen relationships and learn from your experiences. This will lead you to explore new markets, generate new leads and identify opportunities to grow your career exponentially. Salespeople who do not know how to expand their network and build relationships with new clients will never be successful in sales.
Dedication and Persistence:
Be persistent and willing to do what it takes to achieve your goals and responsibilities. Turn challenges into opportunities and be patient and keep searching for better opportunities by being persistent and accepting rigorous challenges.
Health is Wealth:
Because of the rigours of the job, pay attention to your physical and emotional health.
Keep up with current market trends, develop insights about your customers and carry out rigorous industry analyses. Be well informed about the competition and always be proactive.
The New Game: In modern sales, analytics play a vital role in improving selling techniques and strategies. Develop a sound knowledge of the different analytical tools and software available and which will help you to better monitor your daily sales and take appropriate measures accordingly. Use different tools to optimise sales and deliver the best sales experience to your customers. This means constantly reviewing the after sales feedback and identifying ways to improve existing processes.
Ekhlaque Ahmed is a trainer, social activist and HOD Marketing at the College of Business Management, IOBM.
Syed Osama Ali Shah is a final year BBA student majoring in Marketing at the College of Business Management, IoBM.
Daniyah Zahra is a BBA student majoring in Marketing at the College of Business Management, IoBM; currently on an Exchange Program in Yasar University, Turkey.