As I travel around the country, I often get asked, “What makes a successful salesperson?” Some people tell me they think it is much more difficult to sell today than it has ever been. Others tell me about customers who won’t answer the phone or make appointments, and wants to keep them at arm’s length because the last thing they want is “to be sold to.” Some of the salespeople I meet tell me stories about millennials and what you have to do to sell to them. Others want to talk about lobbies with no receptionists—just a cold, hard phone—so that even if they bother to visit, they are no better off than if they had just stayed at the office and tried to call in.
Over the years, I have heard every excuse in the world of why salespeople can’t sell, and although there is some truth in all of them, the excuses are nothing new. It has always been hard to sell. Years ago, if it wasn’t the millennials (and I really wish we would stop blaming them for everything!), it was the old guys who were on the take. When I joined the sales force many years ago, the stories were about bribes, hookers, and junkets to Vegas. Sales guys—and yes, they were always guys—complained that if they did not go to the wild side, they would not be successful. Those were the good old days when salesmen were drunks, and, well, women weren’t in sales.
Look, there will always be obstacles to being a great salesperson or for not doing a great job, but that’s all they are—excuses. I’m sure that when the first sales guy sold that first wheel, he complained about his customers not being smart enough to see what they could do with it. That was then an this is now, but nothing changes—if you don’t want it to.
There are always salespeople who find a way—the Ricky Romas out there who are always creative enough to make their forecasts and take home the gold Cadillac. The guy who is out quietly making sales while his compatriots hang around the water cooler complaining about the lousy leads or the lousy products and/or services they sell. Unfortunately, there are more of those gripers than the winners. So, for the sake of or trying to help those who just cannot buy their way to a sale, here are five things that every great salesperson needs to know.
- Believe in your product. You have to think your product is the greatest on the market today and it is your mission to make sure that everyone has it.
- Be engaging. Engage your customer in a meaningful conversation—a dialogue, not a monologue—where they do most of the talking, and you do most of the listening and learning.
- Bring value along with your product or service. When your customer sees you walk into their office, they have to think, “Good. This salesperson is going to teach me something and bring me value.”
- Be compassionate. Be more concerned about your customer’s needs and challenges than your own. You are not there to make a sale; you are there to solve your customer’s problem(s).
- Be creative. The more creative you are, the more successful you will be. Always be on the lookout for ways to be creative, whether it’s finding a way to acquire an appointment, solve your customer’s problem(s), or closing the deal. It’s much easier to find reasons why you can’t make a sale than ways that you can.
And one more, in the spirit of under promising and over delivering:
- Do just that—under promise and over deliver, which is another way of delighting your customer. You want to do everything you can to make sure your customers are thrilled with your service, product, and most importantly, you. You are the face of your company to your customer, and it is your duty and responsibility to represent your company in the best light possible.
Most people choose a career in sales because they love the freedom, they love to meet people, and they love the creative challenges it requires. They have a passion for helping people and for finding ways to solve their problems. But once you lose that—if you’re complaining more about what you do rather than enjoying it—it’s time to do something else.
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.