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What Makes a Sales Person Great?


Disciplines > Sales > Sales articles > What Makes a Sales Person Great?

The drive to sell | The drive to learn | The drive to connect | The drive to qualify | The drive to close | See also


What makes a sales person great as opposed to merely good? The answer is first of all drive, a powerful motivation to not only sell but sell well and successfully.

Below, Five Drives are presented as essential passions for the sales person to achieve greatness.

The drive to sell

What separates a good salesperson from a great sales person? The first answer is the drive to sell. The good salesperson works hard and may enjoy selling, but views the work as a job, a means to making money to pay for a desired lifestyle. The great salesperson, on the other hand, is driven by an inner conviction where their whole identity is defined by selling and their higher goal is simply to be great at selling.

Of course, when they are starting out, the great sales person is not great in terms of selling, yet they still have the seeds of greatness in them and so may yet be considered great. Yet they never truly consider themselves great, even after years of experience. And, paradoxically, this is what makes them great. Like the golfing champion who still practices long and hard, the great salesperson always knows there is room for improvement and earnestly seeks to do so at every opportunity.

The drive to learn

Because their driving purpose is to sell (rather than to make money) the great salesperson takes every opportunity to learn. This means they spend time studying both theory and practice, finding out what really works and why. They connect the dots to find both the immediate and the deeper root causes of successful selling.

To learn you must be open and never think you know it all. In fact you must be always ready to openly consider that your most treasured assumptions are not wholly right (and could even be mostly wrong). This requires a humility that also helps you in other ways, such as being better able to sense customer needs.

Because learning is a combination of perception, theory, practice and analysis, an experimental approach is often the best way to find what really works. This does not mean half-hearted ‘giving it a go’ that is likely to fail. It is more like a scientific experiment with defined actions and analysis of solid data. Learning is about true understanding that gives useful results.

The drive to connect

The great salesperson sells to people, not companies, prospects nor even customers. And to sell to a person you have to connect with them at an emotional level, so you feel their inner motivations and they feel your concern for them.

Truly connecting with people is a two-way process. It is a joining of identities where each feels a part of the other. This can be quite exhilarating as the sense of self is expanded. It leads to sharply increased trust that opens the door to persuasion. It also increases care for the other person, which sharply reduces the temptation to deceive.

This force for honesty is a paradox that holds back the average sales person’s drive to connect. Their job is to sell and, if truth be told, they will temper deceit mostly by the risk of discovery and the need for repeat sales. For the great sales person, concern for people shapes their whole approach. They believe deeply in their products and sell in order to help others. They see their customers almost as a family and will sustain connection with them after the sale is complete, constantly looking for little ways to help out. When the customer is ready to buy again, the great salesperson is then the natural choice.

The drive to qualify

The good sales person knows it is a numbers game. Only a certain proportion of prospective customers are ready to buy so you have to cast you net far and wide, attracting many in order to find the few who will buy.

This mass method makes speed a priority, otherwise the average sales person would be swamped by the search for the needle in the haystack. This in turn make qualification an important process and a key goal of the good sales person is to jettison prospects who seem unlikely to buy as quickly as possible. This is done order to find those who are ready to buy or who can be persuaded with the minimum effort.

Success for the good sales person is a slick, short sales funnel in which the goal is to either move prospect on or move them out. While the funnel is wide at the top in order to scoop up possible customers, it narrows quickly to keep only the probable customers who squirt out of the end, delivering a rapid stream of sales.

While the good sales person fishes with a net, the great sales person uses a line. They play a long game of connection, treating everyone as a potential customer or ally and gradually reeling them in. This is a slower process but it leads to an active pool of customers each of which is inching towards their next purchase. In this way the great sales person make their numbers more from known people than from new customers.

While the good sales person qualifies out, the great sales person qualifies in. This is a subtle difference in attention as qualification is both a selection and rejection process. The good sales person hates wasting their time and so works quickly to remove poor prospects so they can spend more time selling to the good ones. The great sales person spends more time finding people who may one day buy from them and then connecting with them in ways that will subsequently help gentle nudging forward.

The great sales person’s funnel is wide and long (and looks more like a pipe than a funnel). Many can enter it and yet few leave it. Its wide spout means the great sales person can make their numbers with a slower flow rate. This can be perplexing for the good sales person for whom speed is key.

The drive to close

All good sales people know the importance of closing. While doing a good job in attracting and qualifying customers is important, it is all for naught if all the prospective customer does not buy. The ABC maxim (‘always be closing’) promises that a constant attention to the finish line is the best way of getting there as soon as possible.

And nothing quite beats the rush of closure. As the customer signs the order or hands over the money, the good salesperson is jumping for joy inside as they see targets being met and commission paid. The knowledge that you have persuaded another person is pretty thrilling too. This drive leads to the good sales person knowing a range of closing techniques and being ready to use what works with the customer in front of them. This may involve certain psychological tricks but the draw of the close makes these essential tools of the trade.

This drive to close naturally leads to a readiness to negotiate and the good sales person is a good deal-maker. They will discount, barter and create packages, whatever it takes. They are good readers of people and can see the signs that show where a little extra give or pressure will tip the customer into agreement.

The great sales person also has a drive to close, though it is somewhat different to the hurry of the good sales person. They look more beyond the sale to the benefit and satisfaction the other person will gain from their purchase, and work steadily to awaken this vision. A useful test of a good sales person vs. a great sales person is that customers of the great sales person never suffer from 'buyer's remorse.'

Rather than pushing, the great sales person create pull. This works through connecting with the customer, their purpose and the product in an integrated, aligned structure where the customer sees clearly how the product will help them and feels the lack of it as a hole in their lives that can only be filled with the purchase. In this process the great sales person not only affects how the customer behaves in buying the product but also in their relationship with the product, the brand and the sales person, way into the future. By taking the long view, the great sales person works to develop intense loyalty that extends through the lifetime value of the customer.

The good sales person knows that buyers may need to persuade other people in their organization and provides support for this. The great sales person knows that they are selling to a complex system and proactively manages it as a whole. Early in the sales process they seek to understand the customer’s culture and operation and so address the human system as well as the formal structures.

See also

Personality, Motivation, What Salespeople Need to Know


Sales Books

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