Prospects simply tune out pushy, annoying sales people using sales tricks like “I have just the right solution for you to help you save money. Can we chat?” Instead, a great salesperson has a diverse set of qualities that guarantees sales success.
Successful selling is a result of skill and practice: the majority of characteristics, traits or skills can be cultivated or improved. Curious to see what the skills of a top-performing salesperson are? This list of 7 traits will help guide you.
1. Great listeners
Research by Hubspot shows that 69% of buyers say that really listening to their needs is the most important element of a positive sales experience. Above all else, a great salesperson spends most of their time asking a series of questions and then listens attentively, in order to identify a potential buyer’s struggles. The right questions can even end up getting the prospect to do the selling for you. Questions like “How would having to spend less time on x impact your business?” will get a prospect to highlight what they can potentially gain from your offer for themselves.
Soaking in all information helps you to prepare to combat objections which makes it a no-brainer for a qualified salesperson. If you know how to handle them, your success rate can get up to 64%. For example, if a prospect is worried about the time it takes to implement a new solution, send them a step-by-step guide highlighting how quickly your solution can be up and running and showcase your professional expertise. In fact, research shows that 95% of buyers chose a solution provider that provided them with ample content through the buying process.
2. Able to read between the lines
The better a salesperson’s instincts to interpret what’s being said, and more importantly, what not, the more successful your sale will be. Prospects aren’t likely to lay all their cards on the table at once: know when and how to move forward after each touchpoint. Is this person really interested or not? Are they a fit? What is a great next step? Before you finish a conversation, get some sort of agreement from the customer. Ask: “When do you plan on having a decision for us?” or “Can you meet me in one week at X time to evaluate?”.
Persistence is important, but you don’t want to hound prospects too... so use your smarts and creativity to really make the difference. Train your ears not only for what prospects want from you business-wise, but also try to grasp what’s on their mind. Write down personal details in your notes such as birthdays, family situation, future plans for the company and so on. Your prospect just became a dad? That calls for friendly congratulations. Is the company planning a major redesign of their website or a big event? Drop a line when the time is right. They’ll surely appreciate it. And if you feel your prospect is all business and likes to act fast, show them you’re a quick mover too. It’s all in the details.
3. Manage expectations like a charm
For every phone call, email or face-to-face meeting, clearly define expectations down to the very last detail. Reaffirm why you’re there, the topics to discuss, as well as likely outcomes and next steps. To build trust, never oversell or promise something you can’t deliver. Great salespeople clearly articulate the benefits of what they're selling, but never make empty promises.
How to master the fine art of managing expectations:
- Don’t make assumptions: don’t expect a prospect to know when they can expect something so leave plenty of room for them to ask questions. Make sure you provide your prospect all supplies to follow through. Pass on all types of information (customer testimonials, helpful buyer guides, etc.) to close a deal.
- Communicate clearly: this takes time to master, but listen to your call recordings, meticulously take notes and start making conclusions and drawing patterns. Do you have difficulties to keep the conversation going and keep a prospect engaged? Is your introduction really grabbing your prospect’s attention? This will help shape your future conversations.
4. Create real rapport with prospects
If there’s one thing top salespeople do really really well, it’s creating a connection. And building real rapport during a sale is always doable: after all, your prospects are just human beings too. Never forget that, if your sales call list is so long you can't be bothered to add just a sprinkle of personal appeal, your sales process will be a cold machine that leaves you or your salespeople drained and your potential buyers unimpressed.
Building rapport is a bit harder to pull off through email or an occasional voicemail. You ask someone’s hard-earned money and irreplaceable time, so prospects prefer to be acknowledged and recognised through a phone call or face-to-face meeting.
According to Webstrategies, only 18% of buyers buy from a salesperson who doesn’t fit their personality type as opposed to 82% when it’s aligned. Identify your buyer’s style and modify your approach to align to it. Eugene Schwartz, author of ‘Breakthrough Advertising’ and genius sales and marketing copywriter, identifies 3 dimensions to your prospects’ mind to build a connection:
- Desires like love and warmth have a tremendous driving power. You can’t create them, but you can sharpen them by focusing on how your offering improves, for example, their work satisfaction, allows them to spend less time at work, reduces frustrations, and so on.
- Identifications: people don’t buy things just because they serves their purpose. What does your product or service allow your audience to be? Does it make them a better manager because they can organise their work more effectively?
- Beliefs: What are the beliefs associated with your product or service? Does your prospect share those beliefs? If you sell eco-friendly garden furniture, people who couldn’t care less about the environment will never buy it. But if they are, focus on topics such as sustainability and recycling to capture your prospect’s attention.
Think like your prospect: see things from their perspective, their needs, objections, etc., to gain empathy and stand a fighting chance. If you don't, you'll quickly come across as patronising and naive. If you constantly highlight how your offering will generate revenue but all an organisation cares about is to keep the status quo, this will make you come across as just plain stupid. Use mini-questions at the end of your sentence like “Does that make sense?” or “Would this work for you?” to create more value when you sell and stay way from making assumptions. This feedback will put both you and your prospect on the same page and get your priorities clear.
Empathy is what sets you apart: you’re really here to help a person or a company achieve their goals. This approach is something that can be spotted in many modern sales techniques like the consultative approach. If one of the 3 words to describe a salesperson includes “helpful”, you’re on the right track as research shows that 70% of prospects make purchasings decision to solve problems.
6. Extremely well-organised
Before every meeting, great salespeople ask themselves: “How will I bring value to this customer?’ differentiate myself from others? Successful salespeople never-ever go in without a plan: they make sure they do their homework. Not using a channel like LinkedIn or a small online search to research clients to look for common ground or personal information has become unacceptable. The cherry on top? Use company trigger events like an office relocation, a new product announcement, dissatisfaction with their current vendor or a major industry development to your best advantage.
Salespeople are subject matter experts in two areas:
- The buyer and their business: the buyer’s (pressing) issues and intent
- Their own product or service
7. To the point
People have too little time to talk, so salespeople need to cut right to the chase, and walk someone effectively through a process or concept. A good rule is to never communicate more than 3 points in single conversation with a buyer. For example, use step-by-step guides and presentations with a clear outline and agenda. Killer sales meetings always go by the KISS-principle: “Keep It Short, Stupid!” Focus only on what your prospect cares most about, and nothing more. Which is only logical: if you’re a car dealer that continues to ramble on about the different car options to someone just looking for a simple, gadget-free car, your prospect will quickly zone out.
Top salespeople recognise the importance of expert knowledge, perseverance, creativity, and empathy. They are extremely well-organised and build a connection to deliver a positive sales experience and close deals effectively.