In Praise of the Salesperson – and the Five Qualities We Must Respect

Sales gets short shift. Schoolboys are never encouraged to say, “I want to be a salesman” on career day. Until recently, saleswomen were so ignored the term “saleswoman” was a lazy punch line. Salespeople get marginalized even though every brilliant inventor would own a shelf full of useless trinkets without the power of sales. We can’t possibly assess the real value that this job has provided our culture.

Companies struggle to figure out what makes a successful salesperson, often overlooking their skills. Millions of books have been written with the purpose to teach “even YOU” how to sell. You can read every book, sit in every conference, and repeat every personal mantra, but sales will always be a struggle if you don’t know what TRULY makes a great salesperson.

I’ve worked alongside enough great salespeople – and just as many not as great ones – to know the below holds true. The best ones, the ones that make a career, generally are:

1. Motivated by Money

Everyone has different motivations to do what they do. Some are looking for power, some for status, but the best sales people are truly motivated by money. Buyers might draw back in horror at this but believe me, they benefit. If a salesperson is motivated by money, the person won’t waste time pitching a solution that doesn’t address the need. Money-motivated sellers want a long-term sale over a quick kill; they’re smart enough to know the real money is in the sales-marathon and not the sales-sprint. They see the big picture and organize their time by where they will create the most successful long-term partnerships. From a management perspective, these guys are the easiest to manage! They want you to put the finish line in front of them and let them go. They will use their time on only things that make sense and have no problem explaining where their revenue is coming from.

2. Boomerangs – Masters of the Follow Up

Following up is the core of the sale. Anyone can cold call with a script about a life-changing product. But without a timely and well thought out follow up, hours of cold calling are about as effective as scheduling an afternoon meeting on a summer Friday in Los Angeles. A great salesperson will confirm what the follow up should be and when it will happen before he/she leaves. This will be within 24 hours and will not only have action items for the sales side but also next steps for the buyer. Remember you are building a PARTNERSHIP. The follow up is the actual moment where a seller shows their real investment in this relationship and opportunity.

3. Knows What They Don’t Know – and is Comfortable Admitting It

Capabilities and technologies change quickly in the digital business. If you’re dedicating yourself to the sales process, there’s no way you will know it all on the technology front. The secret is, no one expects you to. Know your product, its benefits and drawbacks, the barrier to entry or alternatives. As a salesperson, you don’t sit in the Operations, Product Development, or Engineering department. Your company has hired skilled professionals to take care of those advanced processes.

I had a guy on my team a few years ago who embodied this rule. He knew his job was to open doors and create space for thoughtful conversations between two parties. Then he brought together the technical people when the time was right. He was extremely successful because he knew people and how to bring the right people together to solve a problem.

4. Comfortable Saying, “I’m in Sales”

We use all sorts of titles like Account Executive, New Business Development, VP of Commerce… You are in Sales. Successful salespeople know that there is great skill involved in sales. They know they bring value to their organization and to others’, building relationships that rely on the mutual skills of each side. When I sit down for a meeting, I openly call out what my job is because the people across the table are buyers. We’re a marriage made in economics heaven.

5. Hate the Lecture Pitch

Again, buyers benefit here. These guys can’t stand walking buyers through every slide in a 50-page deck. Typically the best salespeople don’t even want to use a deck. They do it because it has pretty visuals and people expect it. Great salespeople know that sales isn’t just talking about themselves, but rather discussing the core need and coordinating efforts to come up with a viable solution.

Respect the skill of sales when sitting across the table, whether interviewing a prospective employee or as a buyer. If candidates check off the above list, they have the ability to grow your business and provide long-term value in your relationship. For buyers, these same people will value your time as much as their own, they know how to move the needle forward, and they know how to get those inventions off the shelves and into the public’s hands.