You may have a low opinion of salespeople. Granted, some are pretty bad. But the most effective ones are not the stereotypical individuals you have in mind. They have three characteristics in common.
Many have a specific image of a salesperson. It is usually not a flattering one.
Manipulative. Dishonest. Shifty. And above all, greedy!
Such is the stereotypical image. It explains why a company like Vroom is busy advertising on TV that buying a car from them never involves a trip to the car dealership. Salespeople are depicted as nothing less than evil clowns.
Yes, there are clowns out there—both in B2C and B2B. But in my experience, the most efficient salespeople are nothing like this.
- They are knowledgeful
- They are passionate
- They are both resilient and diplomatic
Know-Nothing Salespeople Have No Staying Powerperson covering own face Photo by Doğukan Şahin on Unsplash
The best salespeople are inherently passionate. They have a keen interest in what they sell. They are on a mission to improve the world, one sale at a time.
However, I am not naive. I know there are some salespeople that choose not to learn too much about what they sell or their industry. They may be put off by their product's sheer technicality and concerned about misspeaking about its benefits. Others don't want to deal with anything technical and concentrate on being an "expert at selling" - whatever that means.
In my industry, these folks are quickly spotted. Clients know who they are and what they do. And it is not solving their problem. So, not too surprisingly, they prefer to speak with other people in the team—for example, the application or sales engineer, or perhaps the executive, that is sometimes tagging along with the salesperson.
They want to speak with someone who will elevate the discussion to strategize on solutions instead of dishing out bromides on nifty PowerPoint documents.
Some of these colleagues may stick around for a few months or years. But they ultimately move to something else. They just don't have a passion for what they sell. And that eventually leads to fewer sales.
Forget about salespeople being able to sell anything to anyone. The best of us convey excitement about what they are representing. They may not all be engineers or experts about it, but they want to know more about what they sell, about their client, and how both relate.
In Sales, Solutions And Imagination Go Hand-In-Handsmiling boy in sweater Photo by Ümit Yıldırım on Unsplash
Many authors rhapsodized for years about solution selling, and rightly so. No one I know of wants to be "sold to," but everyone has problems they need resolved, and most will appreciate genuine help to do so.
Besides pointing to the need for salespeople to know about their industry and their solutions, it also highlights the importance of one other factor that too often gets ignored: imagination.
Think about it. All of your clients may share similarities, but none of them are totally the same. They all have their quirks, nooks, and crannies. Needs may be similar, but the way to meet them differ, sometimes wildly.
For the Trekkies among us, the client universe is "infinite diversity in infinite combinations."
Granted, this is especially the case of B2B solutions that can (or should) be customized per customer specs. But imagination goes way beyond a purely technical discussion.
Ever had to come up with inventive payment terms that were acceptable to both a client and your organization? Or negotiate internally with your operations manager as to how to ensure timely delivery?
Effective salespeople are plastic and fluid. They think outside the box. If there is a way to attain a win-win deal, they find it, negotiate it, and help implement it.
And they just LOVE the challenge of it all! When they meet, like when I talk to my friend David Carrington, they end up trading "field stories" about inventive ways they created value for their clients and organizations.
They exchange gleefully about experiences fitting square pegs in round holes.
Does it apply to B2C? I am not an expert. But I feel something similar is going on. Perhaps someone can comment.
Effective Salespeople Are Resilient Warriors AND Caring Diplomats
"Sales is easy," said no one. EVER.
It is exciting, but it is often difficult. Besides trying to make a solution fit specific needs, life happens and throws you curveballs. The deal you spent months on goes poof because the client has a change in command, and you need to start again. Projects get delayed.
Without resilience, no one survives in sales very long. It is grueling at times.
Understanding this, some sales leaders conclude they should hire a special breed of salesperson known as the Lone Wolf. In short, greedy people with limited morals willing to do whatever it takes to get to the deal, no matter who gets hurt along the way.
Think Anakin Skywalker channeling the power of the dark side.
But nothing could be further from the truth. The most effective salespeople are not only resilient warriors that enjoy a challenge. They are also very much aware that people like to do business with likable people.
They also know the power of relationships on their quota. The best clients are the ones you first secure and keep on buying from you. That generally doesn't happen when you fleece them or when these clients just don't like you.
Effective salespeople are not naive. They know that clients won't purchase solely based on their likable personality. But they understand the human psyche. They know trust and credibility are their most valuable assets as they engage in business.
They apply these lessons within their own organizations as well. They know that their effectiveness will be multiplied if other salespeople and other employees play ball with them.
Ambitious and resilient, they are. But Lone Wolves they are not.
Need a bit more convincing? I published a series of videos (with a touch of humor) on the topic of Lone Wolves, episode 3 being displayed above. Feel free to watch it and leave your comments.
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