My wife and I just spent a long weekend celebrating outstanding sales performance in the beautiful Colorado mountains with some incredible sales professionals. As the CEO and sales leader at Zunesis, I wanted to take some time away from the office to say “Thank You” in a tangible way and to spend time celebrating the consistent accomplishment of these outstanding sales professionals.
Throughout the weekend, I spent time thinking about why these specific individuals are so successful year after year. Throughout my career, I have had hundreds of people ask me what it takes to be successful in sales. Hundreds of books have been written on the subject of the sales process, sales methodology, sales discipline, prospecting, farming, and networking and yet we know from statistics that very few sales people actually achieve success and stay there.
As we celebrated great sales accomplishments this past weekend, I thought about the individuals I was with and arrived a few distinguishing characteristics that make these individuals great at what they do.
Great salespeople know who is on their team and how to leverage them effectively. They do not operate as a lone wolf, instead they operate as a pack. They consistently want to control deals from start to finish, but they delegate quickly and make the most of the people around them.
In the Information Technology (IT) market that Zunesis operates in, the rate of change and the level of technical complexity demands a team mindset where sales people engage their solution architects, leadership, inside sales, marketing and operational personnel to get the job done.
This Team mindset also extends to our technology partners. Great salespeople leverage their vendors, distributors, and personal contacts to gain that extra edge and to get their customers the best and latest information possible. The very best salespeople also understand that they must drive the process forward from start to finish.
They understand that they own the “proactive juice” to keep everyone moving toward a common set of objectives. Great salespeople operate with a sense of urgency, leverage all of their team resources, and hold each member accountable to get the job done.
Great salespeople sincerely care about the success of their customers. They are advocates for their customers and they will fight hard to get what their customers’ need. Over time, customers figure out which sales people care about their success and which sales people only care about their commissions. This behavior is most recognizable when a customer is in trouble.
In IT, this may mean that a customer has an application or a data center that is down or not operating sufficiently to support the business. In these situations, great salespeople show up and jump in with both feet. They ask questions and attempt to triage what is going on and how their team can help. Great salespeople consistently rise to the occasion when the chips are down.
Great salespeople have unique creativity. Putting deals together requires a flexible mindset, tremendous listening skills, and a willingness to think outside the box. I have watched great salespeople approach objections, budget constraints, and operational challenges with tremendous creativity.
Their creativity comes from a place of “never giving up” and always believing that they can find a way to help customers be successful. They operate with bubbling optimism which is rooted in the reality of the needs of their customers.
Great salespeople convince the rest of us that there is always a way to solve a customer need. What I have learned over the years is that optimism combined with creativity is the winning combination.
Great salespeople take the long-term view of their career and work very hard to tell the truth, follow through on commitments, and always do the right thing. The sales world is littered with broken promises; but great sales people know how important their personal reputation is to their long-term success.
Cutting corners or skipping important steps may provide short term sales success, but the great ones know that long term success demands operating with consistent character. The very best salespeople also know that building trust with customers is the most precious and valuable commodity they can build. Trust takes time and great sales people do what is necessary to build trust with their customers.
Ultimately, great salespeople understand that hard work and discipline are essential to have lasting success. They work very hard and they do the fundamentals even when they don’t feel like it. Great salespeople find ways to keep fighting even after stinging defeats and unfair losses.
Great salespeople are never victims and they look to learn from their disappointments. In fact, learning is a great fuel in their journey. I have never met a great salesperson who didn’t understand the importance of discipline and hard work.
These 5 characteristics of truly exceptional salespeople are not easy. Neither is the demanding profession of sales. If you are fortunate like me to work with exceptional people, you know how lucky you are. Greatness is rare and I am grateful that I get to work around the very best on a daily basis.