Of all the questions I field each month, the most perplexing and difficult to answer is "what is the common trait among very successful sales people?"
I believe there isn’t one common thread, but perhaps a grouping of a number of characteristics. Let’s start with the most basic one: gender.
Once upon a time, male sales people were considered to be most successful. In today’s marketplace, women are at least as successful as men. Our industry has seen many women sell their way to the top performance spot, outshining their male counterparts.
Another factor is age. In the “old” days, successful sales people were viewed as being older and more experienced. That’s no longer the case. Many young men and women step out of college and start hitting it out of the park, while an equal number of “seniors” just keep on producing.
What about appearance? While I personally prefer working in a suit and tie with any color of shirt (as long as it’s white) others have been successful in jeans and knit shirts.
Then there is the organization trait. Some sales people are very neat and orderly while others are completely unorganized and both perform at superlative levels. So even this isn’t the common trait.
Is it personality? Some superstars are reserved and quiet mannered while other over achievers are boisterous, loquacious, and borderline pretentious.
Even academic backgrounds vary widely when looking at top-performing sales people.
So what’s the common denominator? The term I‘ve used for years is "Personal Power". There are two major categories of power that people bring to every relationship, "positional and personal."
Positional power is found in the title line of your business card. Many occupations, by design, command positional power, such as policeman, teacher, pilot, and president. It says what we are, while personal power speaks of who we are.
The amount of personal power we carry into each relationship determines whether we’re successful or not. It’s that gut feeling when you pick up the phone to make appointments. It’s confident enthusiasm that’s conveyed over the phone. It’s walking into a prospect’s office and feeling like you have a right to be there rather than feeling that this is just an intrusion.
We need to recognize that, like so many other quality traits, personal power comes naturally for some, while others occassionally need their batteries charged. When a salesperson gets into an extended slump, this is usually at least partially the cause. Rejection becomes harder to deal with and can result in “call reluctance.” The salesperson sits and stares at the phone or a computer screen. This reluctance will result in them finding other “non-sales” things to occupy their time.
The most positive sales people have an abundance of personal power, yet they too stumble occasionally, myself included. When this happens, I treat this condition like a disease. Whether acute or chronic, if not diagnosed early and treated properly, it can result in death (to one’s career).
One way to dig out of this condition is to make joint sales calls with another sales person or even the boss. This forces an action. The sales person should plan their day around sales calls beginning with the easier prospects. This could be with a past customer or a quality assurance call with an existing customer. During a slump, the sales person should limit office time to an absolute minimum and make an effort to be in front of as many new prospects as possible.
Many years ago I had the dubious distinction of managing a real heavy hitter. This guy was an absolute train wreck, breaking every rule in the selling book. He would argue with customers and occasionally get thrown out of their offices. Once I heard him tell a prospect, “if you think I’m high pressuring you, sign it with your own pen.” His selling style was somewhere between intimidating and rude, however he never failed to be 300% of quota by year end and lead the country in sales. Obviously, this is not how we want our sales people to act, but, we can still learn from him. When a salesperson errors, it’s almost always on the side of not pushing hard enough. A fellow salesman friend used to say, “make them say no.”
Everyone involved in the selling process should periodically remind themselves that selling is what makes every business thrive. When calling on a business with a “No Solicitation” sign on the front door, remember this: their own business depends on someone selling something every day.
Others can only intimidate you if you give them permission to do so. Don’t give them permission.
Earl King is the founder of King Productions International, a commercial HVAC contracting sales consulting firm based in Texas. He speaks to associations and HVAC trade groups, and consults with commercial contractors across the country, in addition to writing this column for Contracting Business.com. Email Earl with any questions or comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 515/321-2426.