Ten Characteristics of Great Sales People

By Orvel Ray Wilson

It’s a jungle out there. You are not paranoid; they really are out to get you. Doing business in the highly competitive environment of the 90’s requires the boldness and ingenuity of a veteran commercial mercenary.

Today’s winners in business are the renegades, the rebels who break all the rules, who use information and surprise to gain a tactical advantage. There are ten characteristics that set the sales people apart. Study them. Sell by them.

1. Investment: The average business in America invests only 3% of gross sales in marketing. The “Great Sales Person” averages 10%.

Great Sales People believe that the difference between winning and loosing, more often than not, is a very slim margin. So they invest heavily in technology, in people, and in themselves. They are constantly expanding their horizons, constantly training, and constantly on the lookout for anything that will give them a slight advantage.

2. Consistent: Poor selling done consistently will be more effective than great selling done sporadically. In the mind of your customers, consistency is interpreted as credibility, longevity and success. Great Sales People earn this confidence by communicating their identity, not their image. They are very resistant to changing their name, their logo, their color scheme. Be consistent and you will out sell the better armed, better equipped, better organized corporate regulars.

3. Confident: Great Sales People believe in their products, their services, and their people. They count on others in the organization to deliver on every promise, every time, and then some. If you can’t feel that kind of confidence, you’re working for the wrong outfit. When something goes wrong, take personal responsibility for making it right, right away.

4. Patient: A hunter will sit in the trees for days waiting for a clear shot. Less than 4% of sales are made on the first call, over 80% are made after the eighth call. Great Sales People are always on the lookout for the next need cycle and strive to be there when the need arises. So stick with it. Keep mailing out your brochure.

5. Assortment: The old days of Henry Ford, when “you can have it any color you want, as long as it’s black” are long gone. Great Sales People offer a wide variety of goods and services, and adapt their offerings, their terms, even their delivery schedules to meet the customers’ needs. Look for the new, the unusual, the unique, and add it to your offering. Ask customers what they’d like to see. The more flexible you can be, the better. The more options you offer, the more people you can serve, and the more successful your company will be.

6. Subsequent: Great Sales People are in this for the long haul, and getting the order is only the first step. Great Sales People spend 10% of their resources educating the universe, promoting the business to the community at large. They spend 30% of their time marketing to prospective customers. But they spend a whopping 60% of their time, energy and money marketing to people who have already bought. Why? It costs five times as much to sell a new customer as it does to make the same sale to an existing customer. Great Sales People sell and re-sell and re-sell the benefits of their offering.

7. Measurement: Any behavior that is rewarded will tend to be repeated, so Great Sales People reward every customer and client for the opportunity to serve them. It’s the thirteenth doughnut in the baker’s dozen; it’s doing everything you promised, everything the customer expected, and more. And because expectations are constantly changing, Great Sales People are always asking “how are we doing?” and “how can we improve.” Survey your customers. Get out in the field and talk to them. If you do exactly what they tell you, you cannot fail.

8. Convenient: Great Sales People are both receptive and responsive. They know that they have to be “user friendly.” That means easy to reach, east to talk to, and easy to do business with. They return their calls. They give out their numbers at home, at the office, in the car. They keep phones staffed at night and on weekends, even if only by an answering service. They are in touch. Be available. Lend a near to your customers when they have a suggestion, a question, or a problem. And do everything immediately.

9. Excitement: Great Sales People are enthusiastic, and militantly optimistic. They have a good word for everyone, and never complain about the weather, the economy, or the people they work for. Their passion spreads like a wildfire. People love to do business with people who love their business. Spread good news and cheer about your people and your industry to everyone you meet. Start a one-sales person revolution to turn your corner of the economy around. Launch a success conspiracy. Enthusiasm is contagious.

10. Commitment: The Great Sales Person is enlisted in a larger mission that just closing the deal and getting the order. They are deadly serious about adding value and serving the community. When a customer complains, the Great Sales Person tracks down the cause and corrects it, whatever it takes. They have no time for excuses and apologies, and they never argue with results. They treat every customer as if the survival of their business depended on it, because it does.

Get committed to your marketing effort, and if you’re more comfortable hosting receptions or maintaining membership rolls, assign someone to be your full-time designated sales person.

It’s time we launched a revolution in American business. You have no choice. To survive in today’s brutal economic environment, you must become a Great Sales Person.

Orvel Ray Wilson is an author and speaker on sales, marketing and management, and co-author of Guerrilla Selling: Unconventional Weapons and Tactics for Making the Sale. For a free copy of The Guerilla Selling Newsletter, call toll-free 800-247-9145.

[From Connection Magazine, January 1994]

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