November 11, 2015 // 8:00 AM
One of the highlights of working at a close-knit company is getting to spend time with a bunch of professionals in very different functions. I’ve had the chance to learn from marketers, bloggers, developers, public relations experts, people operations managers, sales reps, and many more.
And while it’s been a blast to spend time with everyone, I’ve always enjoyed being near the sales reps. It’s a treat to watch and listen to their interactions with warm prospects, and observe how they spend their time.
Being a sales rep requires you to be a different kind of person. Certain traits make successful salespeople unique in their companies — and sometimes even among their fellow team members. Here are the 11 traits that stood out to me after spending time with some great salespeople.
1) They’re Hustlers
I like to consider myself an early bird, but it looks like I’m late to the office every day when I get here. Each morning, around 7 a.m., our office fills up with salespeople.
The most valuable resource any rep has is time, and this is why they get up early. Several studies have shown the benefits of being an early riser, and great sales reps take advantage of early morning hours to prep for their day and get themselves in the right mindset to sell.
These salespeople also show their hustle by taking failure in stride and trying again. In the world of sales, you’re going to get rejected frequently, and a lot of people can get down on themselves when this happens. Reps that hustle get back on their feet and look forward. They keep moving towards their goals.
- Set new goals for yourself every week. If you were required to send 30 warm emails one week ago, next week shoot for 31. The next week, aim for 32, and so on.
- Schedule an extra half hour for work. These 30 extra minutes — they might be in the morning, at lunch, or in the evening — add up to 2.5 extra hours of work every work. It won’t feel like much, but it’ll make all the difference when doing outreach and research.
- Ask a friend to join your effort. If a fellow salesperson joins your hustle, the two of you can hold one another accountable, improving your chances of success.
2) They’re Personable
The importance of creating a connection with a prospect and maintaining it once they become a customer has been stressed by countless sales experts. And to build a relationship, you need to be personable. According to Peter Leighton, being personable is universal among people who do well in sales.
When I worked in the same room as sales reps, I was surprised at the number of people that came up and said “hello” to me — even if they didn’t know me. Great sales reps seek out relationships, and want to learn more about their prospects and the people around them. They focus on being approachable, friendly, and open for a conversation.
- Start one new conversation with a stranger. Start small, and talk to more and more people over time. This is how you’ll learn to be personable with different personality types and develop the ability to keep the conversation going.
3) They’re Curious
Curious sales reps are always looking for better ways to be successful, get more done, or solve a problem. They want to learn about the person they are dealing with, their problem, and how they can help. Being curious means you’re hungry for information, which is a critical attribute for sales reps.
Curious people also do something that’s crucial to success in sales today: They ask a ton of questions. Questions not only help sales reps identify the right solution for a prospect’s problem — they also keep buyers engaged.
- Play the five whys game. This technique can help you get to the bottom of a problem or build the foundation of a strong relationship as your conversational partner reveals more and more about their interests and thought process.
4) They’re Introspective
One of the things I’ve observed about great sales reps is that they hold weekly meetings to reflect on the previous workweek, and determine what went well, what could have gone better, and where they want to focus going forward. And this self-reflection helps them get ahead. In fact, Allen R McConnell references several studies that cite an introspective attitude’s role in self-improvement.
Great salespeople constantly refine their pitch and their skills. After a successful call, they ask themselves, “What went well, and how do I use that going forward?” After a crappy call, they think, “What didn’t go as planned and how do I adjust to avoid that again?” Remember: You have to reflect on how the process is going in order to improve.
- Next time you conduct a product demonstration, record it. A few hours later, listen to yourself and try to determine what you enjoyed about the call and what you thought could have been improved.
- Ask a friend to listen in on your next call. Soliciting feedback from someone with a different perspective can be tremendously insightful.
5) They’re Willing to Experiment
What worked, why did it work, and how do you iterate? Quota-crushing salespeople are constantly asking themselves these questions.
And this means they consistently try new things. They test every little detail in their sales processes: this subject line versus that subject line, this time of day versus that time of day, this question or that question. Great salespeople never settle when they experience a little success. They are always seeking to improve.
- Identify an area of your process to improve. It might be the initial contact, the first call, or your negotiation skills. Develop a simple A/B test with two variables and track the results.
- Schedule time every other Monday morning to develop one experiment to run for two weeks. This way, you’re always iterating and improving.
6) They’re Informed
Being informed goes beyond general knowledge of the product. Customers need to trust their sales rep if they’re going to purchase from them. They need to have confidence that you know their industry and what’s best for their business.
This is why great salespeople are always learning, by reading, taking training, participating in events, or participating in some other activity. They make sure they’re always on top of the ins and outs of their prospects’ industry, and have a legitimate answer to every question a buyer might ask.
- Schedule time with a product expert, and go through a practice demonstration. With their feedback, identify areas that need to be improved, and the parts of the product or service that you could understand better.
7) They’re Persistent
Rejection sucks, but great salespeople don’t let it get them down. The best reps are persistent about offering their help to prospects to guide them through their purchasing decision.
If salespeople don’t hear back from a prospect, they follow up. If they don’t hear back on the follow up? They follow up again. They don’t give up easily, but they also stay mindful of the razor thin line between being persistent and annoying.
- Develop a system of following up, and track it. Whether it’s once a week, once every 10 days, or every single day, determine what cadence works best for you and your situation and keep at it. Stay connected with every prospect.
- Clean up your CRM. With the right tools, you’ll be able to clearly identify where each prospect is in the funnel and how the conversations have been going. This way, you’ll never follow up too often or not enough.
8) They’re Competitive
The one thing that has stood out to me most since moving to a company with rooms of salespeople is the constant satisfaction they’re after. They’re driving hard to hit their quota faster every single month.
The drive to be the best salesperson in the room is palpable, and the competition is stiff. Ken Sundheim writes in Forbes that in order to be successful in sales, you have to adapt to selling in a highly competitive atmosphere. Great salespeople want to win. They want to close deals, develop relationships, create a strong network of customers, and be successful.
Being competitive is a critical part of sales. It’s often the driving force behind hitting quota month after month.
- Develop a goal for yourself. It might be more time spent researching, more warm emails sent, or more blog posts written. Whatever it is, set a number for yourself and then slowly work to achieve it. Each month, set a higher mark. Then a higher one. Competing against yourself is a great way to hone your skills. After time, you’ll be competing against some of the top salespeople in the company.
9) They’re Patient
Buying decisions take time. Customers now do a ton of independent research before they decide whether or not they’re going to buy. As a sales rep, it’s up to you to work with prospects on their timeframe and help guide them through their decision process.
And this is where patience comes in. In case you doubt the importance of patience in sales, Ayelet Fishbach conducted a study and found that people who are patient, and demonstrate an ability to wait, actually get a larger reward than their less patient counterparts.
Great sales reps don’t pester their prospects every 20 minutes asking if they’re going to buy. Instead, they work on ushering buyers through the funnel on their own time. Patience and sales aren’t normally linked, but in the new playbook, they are. Excellent sales reps focus on delivering a positive experience for the customer above all else.
- Try to pick up a new skill. This might be something small like writing with your non-dominant hand, or something big like learning to play guitar. Developing a new skill is the easiest way to practice patience, because nobody is great at something the first time they try it. They have to go through the struggle, develop their process, and work hard for a while to become proficient.
10) They’re Loyal
Loyalty is the most basic part of the sales relationship. In an article on Psychology Today, Frederick Reichheld argues that the ability to build strong bonds of loyalty — not short-term profits — has become the “acid test” of strong leadership.
Great salespeople stand by their customers. They work with them through the thick and thin and help them achieve their goals — no matter what. In turn, their customers are loyal to them. They’ll continue to purchase their service because they love the loyalty and appreciate the relationship.
- Make an effort to reach out to a client once every two weeks. By simply devoting some extra time to each of your clients, and checking in accordingly, you can showcase your loyalty and how much they mean to you. Only checking in when there is a problem might not be the best sign of loyalty.
11) They’re Independent
Finally, excellent sales reps know how to work on their own. They don’t rely on colleagues to do something for them, or their manager to walk them through a process step-by-step. Great sales reps know that they are their own greatest asset.
John Rampton lists being independent as one of the most important characteristics of people who succeed at sales. A sales rep who can prospect, research, set up meetings, give product demonstrations, maintain relationships, and run experiments all on their own are the ones that are going to be successful.
- Make a list of five things you want to achieve on your own and monitor them for a week. Spend time developing the skills necessary to be successful in each of these ventures. Set five new goals every week. If you don’t meet one of your goals one week, let it roll over into the next one.
Being a great salesperson takes time and effort. You have to work at what you want in order to be successful. By doubling down on your strengths and improving your weaknesses, you’ll strengthen your process a little bit each day.