Are great salespeople born? Or can anyone learn the tricks of the trade that make for sales success? While certain personality traits and natural abilities translate well for those in a sales-oriented career, much of what creates a successful sales professional can be learned with proper training in three areas: attitude, ability, and action.
- Attitudes develop bit by bit over years. Those who believe they can and will achieve great things tend to succeed in whatever they pursue, as long as they’re willing to couple that ambition with hard work. Switching over to a positive attitude requires effort if you tend to focus on the glass being half-empty, but in time, a can-do outlook will become second nature. Positivity isn’t the only helpful attitude for sales. Other attitudes to cultivate include modesty, reliability, goal-orientation, curiosity, healthy competitiveness, and a lack of self-consciousness.
- Abilities, or skills, can be acquired, thanks to teaching, coaching, and repetition. According to Steve W. Martin of Harvard Business Review, there are four skills beyond the typical list – hard work, tenacity, integrity, empathy, etc. – that really make a difference for self-made salespeople: language specialization, modeling of experiences, political acumen, and greed. Language specialization requires becoming a maven in your sales field, going beyond the standard recital of a product’s benefits and features to discuss domain-area expertise – and in the field’s jargon, to boot. “Modeling” refers to linking similar data and experiences into predictable patterns that influence future behavior. Developing a methodology of analyzing sales calls and sales cycles helps you to learn from each interaction, successful or not, to breed future success. Using acumen to understand human behavior and actions based upon self-interests helps the salesperson to accurately map out a decision maker’s influences and motivations. Finally, greed in this sense isn’t miserly or corrupt – rather, it’s a desire to be paid fairly for the time and effort invested in the sales process, pushing beyond the comfort zone to close a sale.
- Actions are the measurable steps you take to execute a sales strategy. These require planning as well as follow through and reporting. While the proper actions might seem intuitive to some, they can be learned by reading and studying from the plethora of sales advice available online and in print. Some actions to incorporate into your business cycle include setting sales goals in writing, tracking progress, reconnecting with customers every 30 to 60 days, and preparing scripts to overcome potential objections. Don’t overlook the importance of continued education and professional development. Dedicate a set amount of time to researching your customer’s industry, attending sales training courses, or meeting with a corporate coach to improve your value as a sales professional.
Keep in mind that someone could have all three areas understood, and if they don’t have an environment that’s conducive to what they’re selling, then they’ll still find an uphill battle. Those circumstances are rare, however. Once you learn the proper attitudes, abilities, and actions, you’ll be on your way to sales success.