7 Traits of Highly Effective Sales People
So I’m not saying I’m right. Nor am I insisting that you should listen to what I have to say or even believe me, but...
What I AM saying is...
...after years of working with a lot of salespeople in different countries, here are some traits I’ve seen in successful salespeople I’ve come across.
I can confidently say that throughout my sales career, the number of people I have seen come into sales and then leave shortly after - is in the billions. 👀
(slight exaggeration for effect)
And, to me, there are some clear reasons for this.
There is one trait of success - which is unquestionably at the top of the list in those that went on to do great things - and I saw lacking in those that didn't make it in their sales career....
Numero Uno - Proactiveness
It’s a simple concept: If you are not proactive then nothing happens.
A sale doesn't happen by chance or, by luck, a sale happens because people make it happen. So if you're not constantly learning, questioning, engaging with peers/clients/your manager on your own accord then sales probably isn't for you.
Have a think:
When was the last time you emailed or called your manager and asked for a training session out of the normal meetings you have?
When was the last time you asked for an email tear-down or, a sales roleplay outside of the normal meetings you have?
When was the last time you reached out to your peers, clients, or colleagues for feedback so that you can improve?
What was the last sales book you picked up (because you wanted to), took notes, and put into action on the job?
What as the last sales course you took, and not one your company paid for?
If you've answered never / not often to any of the above, then yeah, you might want to reassess your willingness to be in sales.
And If you're a manager and your reps aren't hitting you up on a regular basis asking the above, then you might have a challenge on your hands.
The hustle culture: Healthy? Toxic? Misunderstood?
Here’s what I think. If you are happy doing what you do, and loving what you do; why not put in the 10-14 hours a day working towards something you really want?
By the way, I am in no way encouraging burnout - it's really about encouraging people to go after what they really want. If you think hustling will burn you out, then it's more about being kinder to yourself and acknowledging that burnout is real. Regardless of how much you 'want to win', sometimes you need to take a step back to regroup.
The best salespeople I've seen are on it first thing in the morning and they are the last ones to hang up their boots at the end of the day. Also, this might be hard for you to believe, but they’re also really good at taking time for themselves when they need to.
What does hard work look like?
Working on your goals late at night
Sacrificing weekends or playtime to work on your goals
Prioritising your goals and your work
Deploying grit when times get tough
Learning your sales craft, daily
Pushing yourself to do things that make you uncomfortable
Doing the hard tasks even when you're completely tired and don't want to (notice I said tired, not burnt out)
Taking risks even when you are scared
You may not like some of these but it's the hard truth to getting what you want.
If you're not willing to do these things then that's totally fine, but you'll need to accept that your goals or, dreams may take way longer or may not happen at all. You just can't get mad or upset at other salespeople who are killing it and being praised for their work when you know they're putting in twice the work that you are.
In sales, you are completely accountable for pretty much everything, including your pipeline
Whether you are hitting quota or not that's entirely your fault, and no one else's. As soon as you realise that you're in control of your own pipeline your job becomes very liberating.
You don't have enough leads from marketing/ SDR?
How much prospecting are you doing yourself?
You've got a 'crappy' territory/ vertical that doesn't seem to be working?
What else have you tried, does your particular ICP/ Persona prefer a different outreach?
You don't have enough time for all your tasks?
Have you discussed new process ideas with your manager? Have you suggested other technologies to improve outreach?
How much complaining are you doing without acting?
If you find yourself blaming others for your lack of results, then you'll have to start blaming others when you do start to win. You can't have it both ways.
Be accountable, own your mistakes and people will respect you for it. When you realise you're in control, you become very creative at solving those 'perceived impossible' problems.
Change your thought from "I can't" to "how can I?"
Have you ever had a really good conversation with someone and you felt like they just 'got you'? There's a 99% chance it was because the other person did more listening than talking.
When you have a genuine sense of curiosity you're always wanting to find out more, and understand why, or delve a little deeper…asking thoughtful questions and listening.
In life, we have become so accustomed to surface-level conversations that by the time someone responds to you with something other than "Damn that's crazy," you're hooked right into a conversation!
What does curiosity look like in Sales?
You ask questions and actively listen to understand, not just waiting for your turn to speak.
You ask meaningful follow-up questions based on what the person just said. You'd be amazed by how few people actually do this.
From a sales perspective, you learn, do your research and prepare as much as possible for your client interactions. Jeb Blount says:
"Show me that you know me"
You could also call this KYC (Know Your Customer). Find out what's going on in the person's industry and what are the big changes going on with the person's role. You’ll find that you’ve moved from a product-led conversation to a problem-led conversation; talking about them, their priorities, their objectives, and what's currently preventing their progress.
I feel that there are strong ties between curiosity and empathy.
When you have a desire to understand other people's situations (curiosity) it allows you to understand them and imagine a world in their shoes (empathy).
Over the years I've learned that this leads to much better business relationships and long-term friendships. Not only that, but when you move the conversation from 'making a sale' to having an understanding' it just becomes a lot more fun.
Feedback is an incredibly powerful and underutilized tool to aid in people's growth. Sadly, it can often get misinterpreted or misunderstood as an 'attack' or personal criticism which leads to a lost opportunity for growth.
For the Coacher: Feedback is a powerful tool and can make or break someone's confidence. Handle it with the care it deserves. Bear in mind It is much easier to find fault and criticise people than it is to find 'bright spots'. Be kind and your people will flourish
For the Coachee: Feedback can accelerate your growth. The person offering you feedback is often doing so for the sake of your personal growth and development. Listen intently and make the changes. If the person offering you feedback isn't perfect in their delivery, give them time to try and correct their message, they are probably well-intentioned but, sometimes we (as leaders) mess up how we communicate, we are human after all.
Their needs to be a mutual respect and the right intent between both parties for this to be effective. This starts from trusting one another. If there is an absence of trust this just isn't going to work
Let me give you a scenario….
You're in a role-play with your manager and you think it's going really well. You're asking great questions, you’re listening intently and engaging really well with the fictional client.
The role play wraps up and your manager asks you how it went.
You answer, "I think it went really well. I went through everything I needed to and I got all the information required to move it to the next step. I’m sure this could lead to a really good sale."
You're feeling really happy with yourself seeing how far you've come in sales. “Good job,” you tell yourself.
Then the manager reviews her notes.
"I’ve got some feedback for you…."
Your manager then proceeds to list out all the things you missed.
Not understanding the urgency to act now
Not understanding what's changed for them recently
Not understanding the business outcomes they are really driving towards
Not understanding who the economic buyer really is
Not understanding how the client will measure this from a $$ perspective
Not really. You're kicking yourself because you know this stuff and it slipped your mind, sh*t happens.
This is the point at which you need to engage your growth mindset.
Being coachable means taking feedback like this, thanking your manager for their feedback, and identifying the things that can help you be better.
Your emotional control is a big part of coachability which stems from self-awareness.
Coachability means being in control of your emotions and accepting feedback knowing the intent is for you to become better personally and professionally.
Have a think right now: How do you really accept feedback? Do you view it as a personal attack? Or do you view it as a growth opportunity?
Those that embody 'coachability' often grow and progress the fastest. Especially in sales! In sales, you speak with so many potential clients you can easily measure your conversion metrics with strong data and actually see your performance improving in real-time.
Coachability = emotional control + action
Some people refer to this as being a go-getter or Hustle. However you define it, It’s about perseverance or, tenacity for something you really want to achieve. The word being used to describe this in more recent times is Grit (passion and perseverance for long-term goals)
Grit is passion and sustained persistence applied toward long-term achievement, with no particular concern for rewards or recognition along the way. It combines resilience, ambition, and self-control in the pursuit of goals that take months, years, or even decades. - Angela Duckworth
However you'd like to describe it, your internal desire to achieve something for yourself is a strong indicator of your success in sales. This is why I'm a big believer in understanding your personal values and goals as these define our behaviours and actions.
When you understand where you want to go, who you want to become, and what you want to achieve you can become relentless in that pursuit.
Why is being Driven important?
Sales is a tough gig and it takes great willpower to take the emotional knocks you'll inevitably encounter. When you know 'why' you're doing these things and putting yourself through the ups-and-downs, it allows you to gain perspective and enjoy the process.
How do you know if you're Driven or not? It might sound cliche but, are you jumping out of bed in the morning to pursue what you really want? Are you seeking out professionals for advice on how to improve your skills? Are you questioning everything around you try to be better and more innovative? Are you doing really hard things that make you nervous because you know they will make you better?
Welp, then you're probably on the right track!
Caveat - The idea of being Driven is the pursuit of your own success (however you define it), not comparing yourself to others. This is a dangerous slope to burnout and anxiety.
The idea of 'Hustle at all costs' can be damaging to your mental health leaving you feeling pretty unhappy and empty. Take time to reflect and be patient with yourself.
To be honest, this goes without saying. Success isn’t always about hard work and grit. Yes, this has a lot to do with it however, success is also about updating your skills, expanding your knowledge, and just simply learning new things.
This isn't a new concept, Stephen Covey in his timeless book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, calls this Sharpening the Saw (Habit #7)
Think about it, if you’re all about giving the best value to your clients - because you believe that they deserve your best, then you’ll have to continue bettering yourself. When you improve your sales knowledge, you'll increase your conversions, guaranteed. Not only that, it shows that you take your profession and career seriously.
One of the pivotal moments in my career, and there have been a couple, was the time I came across an audio recording created by Allan Pease called 'How to make Appointments by telephone'. Now the learner in me was curious. This was a super-old-school-looking sales recording which, I thought wouldn't be of any use. I went home, gave it a listen, and started applying some of the techniques the next day.
💥 BOOM! 💥 I instantly, and I mean instantly started having more success.
Booking meetings faster
Reduced sales cycles
It's amazing what can be achieved with such a small tweak in your skillset and from this point forth I never took any strong sales advice big or, small for granted
However, learning isn’t just about reading more sales books. It’s also about learning to use new technology or, new platforms to help engage with your prospects better, it's about getting into the world of your clients and learning about them - their hopes, dreams, and fears and what's getting in their way. As you can see this ties us back into the trait of curiosity.
Learning comes in many forms, personally, I love reading (Psst, I even wrote a blog post about some of my favourite Sales books which you should definitely check out)
Start focusing on these 7 things and see how you get on!
As I said, you really don’t have to listen to me…. But you'll probably be happy you did.