Seven Skills that Great Sales People Have Mastered
My career has given me a unique 360° view of a sales person. Before becoming the leader of strategic sales organizations, I spent over 15 years in sales, account management and strategic account sales. As a top performing sales person, I was awarded the ability to attend many 100+ Club events where I was able to get to know and learn from the best and the brightest. As a COO, I was responsible for both our internal sales organization as well as many of our partnerships, so I had sales people “calling on me” as a client. Now, at Butler Street, I meet with and train hundreds of sales professionals each year from many companies across the nation.
Here is what I have found. There is no one profile of a perfect sales person, and great sales professionals come in all ages and from all backgrounds. No one is born a sales person (even though there are few people that have honed their skills so well that it feels like it).
There are however, several skills in common that all great sales people practice (and they can all be learned).
Here are the seven skills that are required of great sales people:
- They don’t sell. They solve problems. Great sales people are motivated to make their client’s lives better through their offering. If they are focused on solving their customer’s problems, then they will not have to worry about making their quotas! We have trademarked the philosophy: If we solve our customer’s problems, we solve our own.
- They listen. The only way you can solve your customers’ problems is if you actively listen. Actively listening means you are 100% focused on the words and unspoken clues in the conversation. It means that you are not multi-tasking and you are not half in the conversation. You are listening to understand, not to reply. In the famous words of Steven Covey – “seek to understand before asking to be understood”.
- They ask great questions. They don’t ask questions that sound like “what’s it going to take to put you in this car?”, they ask questions that try to determine if what they sell is a fit for a problem the client might have and how their solution will improve the situation. They want to understand the operating reality of their customer. They really, truly want to make sure that their product or service will make a positive difference and the only way they can know that is if they ask questions that will allow them to understand.
- They show how much they love their company’s mission. Great sales people are so proud of the company they work for and the mission it serves. They talk about their company as though they are an owner. They are passionate about what they do and why they do it. It’s infectious and makes a client want to be a part of it.
- They always have a plan. Great sales people are always prepared. They know who they are targeting, they do their research, they prepare great questions and they don’t take shortcuts. They add value with every single conversation. So much so that the client/prospect looks forward their time together. They realize that making a sale is not a one-time event. It’s the beginning of a lifetime relationship.
- They tell everyone they meet about what they do and who they work for. Networking. Great sales professionals realize that everyone is either a potential client or knows a potential client. They know how to succinctly and passionately tell their company story and they never miss an opportunity to do so.
- They are always learning. Being good is never good enough! As Tom Peters says “being good is a stupid idea. The only thing that counts is that you are getting better at a more rapid rate than your principal competitors. You see, it’s real simple, if you are not getting more, better, faster, than they are getting more, better, faster, then you are getting less better or more worse.”
Butler Street’s Sales Effectiveness training programs are designed to help you and your team build the skills to create strong value-based customer relationships and create habits that reinforce them. From Become the Only Choice consultative selling to Strategic Account Selling and Key Account Management, customer communication and relationship skills are taught and practiced. Learn more.
Mary Ann McLaughlin serves as a Managing Partner at Butler Street, a leading management consulting, training and research firm that focuses on client and talent development. Prior to Butler Street, she served in executive roles for 13 years including chief operating officer, president and managing director. A Six Sigma Champion certified executive, McLaughlin leverages her robust process background with 32 years of sales and operational experience.
A recreational triathlete, McLaughlin has completed three marathons (Chicago 2x, Marine Corps) and numerous triathlons. She holds a B.S. in Marketing from Bradley University.