In the first half of The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, I cataloged nine attributes (character-traits) one must develop to be exceptionally good at B2B sales, especially the consultative selling necessary now for a modern sales approach. Those attributes are self-discipline, optimism, caring, competitiveness, resourcefulness, initiative, persistence, communication, and accountability. Developing these traits isn’t easy, but doing so will improve your sales results. What follows is a list of additional traits that, if pursued and developed, will also help you with sales success.
High Confidence: Let’s call this a belief in yourself. You need to have an idea that you belong in the room with executive leaders and the B2B buyers who are going to decide what to buy—and from whom. In part, it is being comfortable in your own skin. Your confidence increases when you have the skills and abilities to know how to achieve the outcomes you need. In this case, the abilities necessary for creating and winning new deals. Lacking an understanding of how to sell effectively, or missing the business acumen and situational knowledge will lower your confidence.
High Competence: Some say one improves their confidence when they are competent, and there is a certain truth captured in that idea. But here we are looking at a different form of competence, something more like the ability to get things done, to find a way to generate results, to solve problems. It doesn’t hurt to be smart, but it also has to do with resourcefulness and persistence. High competence is the opposite of learned helplessness; it’s the ability to try, to figure things out, and eventually succeed. The higher your competence, the better your sales results, all else being equal.
Comfortable with Conflict: It’s not that sales is inherently marked by conflict, but that business comes with a fair enough amount of friction to make it necessary that one is comfortable with some tension, some positive and some negative. It starts with your dream client rejecting your request for a meeting and the requirement that you must be creative enough to ask again. There is the additional conflict that comes from dealing with stakeholders who are opposed to the initiative you propose, your solution, and the fact that you are even in their building. And then there is the need to negotiate price, and handling issues when you and your company fail your clients. The more comfortable you are with conflict, the better your results.
Interested in Business: It’s difficult to overstate the value of being interested in business. Yet, most salespeople think about their role in sales being something apart from being a business person, or even an expert in their field. Most salespeople want to be “consultative.” They define it by ideas like asking the right questions and not using a high-pressure approach (both helpful, but neither defining the word consultative. A lack of interest in business is to lack the context necessary to provide your clients with advice. You are better off listening to CNBC in the morning than listening to music or biased political shows that confirm your beliefs. Becoming a better business person while increasing your understanding of business and the business economy will improve your ability to sell.
Coachable: Some people are unwilling to take in new ideas, new strategies, new tactics, and new approaches. Some are unwilling to do anything different than what they have always done, resisting professional development and change long after what they prefer is proven outdated, ineffective, and impotent. The best performers in any endeavor, including sales, are always seeking an edge. They continually look to adjust their approach, finding ways to make incremental improvements, and when necessary, shedding their existing beliefs and adopting new ones—as well as the actions required of them. You cannot improve your results if you are not coachable.
Likable: Being likable is not the same as needing to be liked, the first being a trait that allows you to create fast rapport, the second being detrimental, in part because it prevents you from being comfortable with conflict or spelling truth to power. Being likable is a sort of power where the need to be liked is detrimental. It doesn’t hurt to smile, to have a sense of humor (especially the self-deprecating kind), and to be other-oriented instead of self-oriented. Nor does it hurt to be sincerely interested in other people while also being an excellent listener. When people have to choose between a smart, likable person and one that they aren’t enthusiastic about having to work with, you make it easier to choose you by being likable.
Insatiably Curious: It’s more challenging to be successful in sales if you are not curious. A lack of interest in knowing about your world—and your client’s world—is a negative trait when it comes to sales. The best salespeople ask their clients a lot of questions, not just because they are selling, but because they are trying to deepen their understanding. You would be hard-pressed to identify anyone you believe to be smart that doesn’t read widely, that isn’t insatiably curious. It helps to be possessed by a lust for knowledge and a strong desire to understand. You strengthen your ability to help your clients by being curious.
Committed to Development: The best get better while the rest fall behind. The reason the best get better is that they are committed to personal development. The best understand and act on the idea that the better results they want are unavailable to them until they become the person who could produce those results. In doing so, the best get better at getting better, improving incrementally from day to day, week to week, and quarter to quarter. Better sales results require a better salesperson, the one who is the you that comes after the one you are now.
You must work as hard on the attributes and character traits that lead to success as you do, the skills, strategies, tactics, processes, methodologies, and approaches. You make selling a lot easier by becoming someone worth buying from in the first place.
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