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What makes a good salesperson?

I’m often asked whether a good salesperson is born or bred and I can definitely say 100 per cent that the answer is both. Many are born with that certain charisma that lends itself immediately to generating sales results. On the flip side, there are many great salespeople that don’t necessarily rely on charisma but learn how to channel their behaviours, upgrade their skills to establish a sales technique that works for them, and subsequently become equally great at selling.

Many salespeople are told that they need to sell like someone else to be successful and are unsure about what exactly they should be modeling. It’s easy to be inspired by a successful, great salesperson, but difficult to know what to copy. The truth is you shouldn’t and you can’t… so simply don’t.

I am all for advocating that people can be the best they can be without having to be someone else. We can all become better at whatever we put our minds to and selling is no different.

When assessing your optimal performance to sell better, you need to look at what knowledge you have and what knowledge you need to develop. Also, what skills and processes can you improve on and what behaviours and outlook do you have to work with?

For years, businesses have been of the belief that every salesperson should mimic their star performer. Another mistake often made by businesses is hiring the 600lb sales gorilla or Alpha sales superstar. These sales bullies have been strutting hallways and boardrooms for decades, much to the sales performance detriment of their colleagues.
Often revered for achieving top of the league ladder sales results, yet feared by many for their aggressive, manipulative, ego centric, demanding, intimidating antics, countless CEO’s and sales managers have allowed these sales prima donnas to remain in their sales teams – but at what cost to their sales team and their business?

By allowing these sales bullies to rule the roost, or by expecting your sales people to mimic their more successful colleagues, you are actually setting your salespeople up for failure.

Their outstanding sales results have somehow bought them immunity from behaving in a civil manner. The smell of money they can bring in has condoned behaviour that has often outweighed the need to act ethically and uphold team values and respectful behavior. Their bad behavior has been allowed to manifest without restrictions, ‘Oh let him get away with it.  Look at the results he pulls in’.

What most businesses do not know is that these sales gorillas, for all their so called sales success, actually fall well behind the real sales superstars in terms of achieving high level and sustainable sales results – salespeople who, by contrast, are open minded, curious, collaborative, team oriented, open to learning and who aim for partnerships on every level.

Your values – how you act and what you stand for – are just as important as your technical skills and capabilities in today’s business world. Sales people can be coached and trained.

For coaching to work at its best, the relationship between coach and coachee must be one of partnership with trust, safety and minimal pressure.  The pay cheque, promotion and performance axe have no place in a coaching relationship. Often, sales managers don’t know the difference between managing and coaching and find it hard to change hats when required.

Lack of time is usually the issue.  Finding time to coach is a real issue for these managers. Too many managers find themselves firefighting, unable to devote sufficient time to long term planning, visioning and most importantly coaching and developing their people. The paradox here is that if they coach their staff properly the staff will be capable of shouldering more responsibility, freeing the manager from firefighting and allowing them to be available to manage and coach their people and grow and develop the business.

This firefighting approach by the manager and often the coach means that the sales gorillas remain free to roam the office as other sales staff wonder why management won’t act.

The first step is giving people insight into their own strengths and capabilities, and allowing them to change from the inside out. Sales staff need to see what is possible, and be able to model their capabilities and attributes on top performers whilst retaining their own identity as a person is crucial.

Sue Barrett is an experienced business speaker and adviser, facilitator, sales coach, training provider and entrepreneur, and founder of Barrett Consulting.

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