Amazon.com currently lists more than 13,000 books that teach people how to be successful in selling. Most of these books are very good, while others are misleading. Unfortunately, some authors and “sales experts” continue to perpetuate age-old myths about selling that need to be dispelled. Three of these biggest myths are:
Myth #1: Anyone can be successful in selling if they work hard enough.
Hard work helps, but it alone will not make you a successful salesperson. There are salespeople out there who work sixty-hour weeks and stay busy as bees, yet they still struggle to find a prospect or make a sale. Selling is a talent. It is the right mix of ability, skills and approach that defines a successful salesperson.
Myth #2: Successful salespeople are born that way.
No one is born knowing how to sell. Selling is an acquired skill that is discovered, developed and honed over time. To some people selling comes more easily, but that’s only because they have married their natural abilities of discipline and drive with a comfort for interacting with others to a professional level.
Myth #3: Success in selling is all about attitude.
There are thousands of starving salespeople who have positive outlooks and pumped-up attitudes. Success isn’t just about attitude, it is also about aptitude. Attitude will get you up and to work every day, but it won’t get you customers. You can only get by so long on a whistle and a smile.
And now … the truth.
If success in selling isn’t about just working harder, having a great attitude or being born a winner, what is it about? Why do some salespeople rise to the top while others sink to the bottom or bob somewhere in between? The truth is this: success isn’t simple. It takes many different ingredients to be highly successful in the profession of selling.
Here are seven common characteristics of successful salespeople. Spend a day or a week with a top-performing salesperson and you’ll see these traits evident. If you’re not as successful as you want to be, work on incorporating them:
1. Top performers are in it for the long run. Unlike other salespeople who are trying the job on for size or using their sales position to fill a gap between careers, top performers are committed to their career in sales for life. This long-term focus and obligation means they will invest more in their profession every day than others are willing to invest. That’s why they succeed at the level that they do.
2. Top performers take risks. They are willing to try new things, experiment, change old habits and go after big targets. Although top performers fail at these endeavors as much as anyone else, they succeed more because they are continually taking risks and trying new things. A risk-taking mindset means you will create opportunities others will never have.
3. Top performers invest in themselves. Top performers buy books and training programs to learn and develop new skills. They pay to attend seminars and subscribe to professional journals and online newsletters. Some top performers invest as much as five to ten percent of their incomes every year on tools and resources to help them grow as sales professionals.
4. Top performers align with top clients. It is hard, if not impossible, to become a success if you don’t work with successful people. That’s why top performers are picky about the customers, clients and partners they associate with. Many salespeople are content to work with just about anybody who will talk to them. In the business of selling, your clients and partners say a lot about who you are.
5. Top performers are stingy with their time. Your time is worth money—a lot of money. Top performing salespeople are particular about what they do with their time and invest the bulk of it in activities and clients that have the highest payoff. They delegate. They stay focused and on task. Many average performers spend too much time pursuing marginal opportunities, doing administrative tasks or hanging around waiting for the phone to ring.
6. Top performers know their field. They have built a knowledge base that allows them to sell from a level of expertise few others have. Clients recognize the value of knowledge and gravitate to working with well-informed salespeople because they trust them to help them find the right solutions to their needs.
7. Top performers like to sell. While many salespeople shy away from various sales activities, top performers actually enjoy selling. They enjoy the client conversations, delivering presentations and meeting new prospects. They don’t like sitting in meetings or spending a lot of time on conference calls. They’d rather be out meeting people, making contacts and signing up new customers.
Many salespeople are making excuses instead of making sales. They have all sorts of reasons why something can’t be done: “I can’t sell that product because the price is too high,” “I can’t get to the meeting on time because of the traffic,” or “I can’t make more sales calls because I have emails to read.”
Top performers, by contrast, are can-do people. It is reflected in their initiative, their approach to problem-solving and their openness to new ideas. This can-do attitude allows them to change, grow, adapt and outperform the competition and their peers month after month and year after year.
Remember, you got into sales for one reason: to be successful. Follow in the path of those top performers who have shown you the way to success.
DOUGLAS SMITH is a nationally recognized speaker
and sales trainer who helps organizations and
sales professionals sell smarter and better. He has
spent more than twenty-five years building a successful
career in sales management, training and leadership
development, and now delivers presentations and
workshops on effective sales and sales leadership practices.