Main Navigation


There's a lot riding on the effectiveness of your sales team. Every employee in your organization, and indeed the organization itself, is dependent on how well the sales team performs. You can be sure you have a top performing team if each of your salespeople has these eight attributes.

1. Achievement Drive
The best salespeople love good competition and thrive on besting themselves and others. They are never complacent or satisfied with the status quo. They celebrate every win, but only briefly; then the desire to experience another win kicks in and they are off on the next quest. When interviewing for sales positions, have applicants provide plenty of examples of setting goals, formulating action plans, overcoming obstacles, executing their plans, and getting what they want. People with great sales potential can readily do that. They are go-getters and generally have plenty of past achievements to point to. If you need someone who can hit the ground running, look for take-charge people who have an abundance of achievement drive and plenty of successful selling experience under their belt. These people don't come cheaply, but if you can afford them, they are worth every dime, provided they have the other attributes listed below as well.

If you can't afford the top guns, you can create your own by finding rookies with the right attributes and molding them into superstars. Real-world experience is a strong predictor of sales success, but that experience need not be direct selling experience. Research consistently shows that anyone with the right attributes can be successful at selling provided they receive good sales training. To ensure that you have the right people, know what attributes you need and have a sure-fire way to determine whether sales candidates possess them.

2. Empathy
Great salespeople are not just driven to achieve, they also genuinely care about people and insist on treating them well. They are good listeners and great problem-solvers who go out of their way to provide knock-your-socks-off service to every customer every time. Customers expect salespeople to be a knowledgeable expert and a caring consultant and salespeople that possess achievement drive well balanced by empathy deliver both. Empathy cannot be faked - most people can spot insincerity in an instant. Sales figures will most definitely reflect the degree to which salespeople possess enough empathy to be consistently considerate of the needs of the company on the one hand and their customers on the other. One caveat here; empathy without a balance of achievement drive can result in poor sales outcomes. A salesperson with too much empathy and not enough achievement drive will back down in the face of objections and frequently fail to close.

3. Self-Confidence
Self-confidence is essential to sales success. It is the factor that allows an individual to keep going in the face of adversity and is the best source of rejection protection. Great salespeople don't take rejection or the loss of a sale personally. They stay confident in their ability to present their product or service effectively and recognize that circumstances beyond their control sometimes influence outcomes.

4. Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is the "I'm worth the effort" factor that keeps great salespeople learning, perfecting and improving upon their skills. The best salespeople settle for nothing less than complete mastery of their profession. They spend a great deal of their free time doing things to improve themselves. They know that, in the world of sales, competence and expertise require constant updating of knowledge and skills and they do the work because they know they are worth the effort it takes to be the best.

5. Enthusiasm
In selling, enthusiasm comes from believing whole-heartedly in the company and what it offers. Not just a little, but completely. Salespeople with integrity will not sell something they don't believe in and without integrity, both you and your customers are in trouble. Your salespeople have got to believe that what you offer is exceptional in some way. If they don't, don't count on having a sales staff with much passion or enthusiasm for what they are selling. Before they will effectively sell for you, you have got to sell them on the value of your products and services, on your mission and vision for the company and on the rewards that will follow their actions. If your mission, vision and unique selling position (USP) is not readily understood, you will need to convey them. Help your salespeople see the connection between what your company provides and why providing it is important. Also convey how your offering is superior and uniquely useful to the customer. It's a mistake to have salespeople on staff who cannot generate and express passion around your offering. Without enthusiasm they are dead in the water and will likely drain the energy and enthusiasm from other people on the sales team.

6. Attentiveness
The most effective salespeople are very good at reading people and gathering important clues from the environment and they are masters at hearing what is not said. They are observant listeners as well as keen observers of non-verbal communications. They are proficient at using non-verbal feedback to know when to change the direction of a conversation, ask a question or attempt a close. They are also able to use the power of non-verbal communications to convey interest and concern, build rapport, test a customer's resistance or readiness to buy, and to connect with prospects and customers on the deepest levels.

7. Likeability
People do business with people they like. It's human nature and there is no getting around it. Of course, not all people like the typically high energy, powerful types that gravitate to selling and the most successful salespeople are aware of this fact. To compensate for it, they have learned to be chameleon-like and to adjust to their customer's style. Likeability, by this definition can be learned and, with the right training, is generally relatively easy to master for those who gravitate toward selling as a profession. Never underestimate the importance of the likeability factor. If you have salespeople on staff that are not willing or able to flex their style to make themselves likeable, either get them the training they need or move them out of the sales arena.

8. Self-Discipline
Top sales performers are very disciplined. They don't need external controls to keep them doing the right things at the right time. In fact, one of the worst things a sales manager can do to high performing salespeople is to manage them too closely. Great, or potentially great, salespeople want and need very little supervision. They are race horses, not plow horses, and managers will get a lot more out of them by giving them clear goals and then giving them their head and letting them run. Those who have the self-discipline to drive their own actions will generally bring in far more revenue when they are given plenty of freedom and flexibility to perform so long as it is well balanced by clear expectations, goals and objectives. If giving your sales staff plenty of freedom and flexibility has not resulted in increased revenue, you either don't have the right people in place or you have not clearly defined expectations, goals and objectives. Make sure you have the right people and that they know what you expect of them. The right people will make your job easy and keep your company profitable.

Selling is both a science and an art. The science comes from technical training. The art requires both natural talents and skills and, where natural talents are concerned, your people either have them or they don't, and few companies can afford to discover which it is the hard way.
The American culture is a fickle one. All through childhood the vast majority of children are herded into the introvert's mold by parental rules and cookie cutter school systems that want to children to sit still, be quiet, behave, fit in, follow the rules, and focus.

Then we get to adulthood and all of a sudden we find ourselves in a world that values extroverts. And we are now expected to get out there, make things happen, climb that ladder, achieve! Is it any wonder so many people reach adulthood lost, confused and not sure what is expected of them?

What, you may be thinking, does all this have to do with top performing teams? The answer is plenty!

People are only effective to the degree that they understand themselves and others. Teams made up of people who lack understanding will not be a top performing teams. In fact, most are dysfunctional to the degree that understanding is lacking.

The best way to build high levels of understanding is to improve self and others awareness, and the best way to do that is to assess the members of your team using a tool such as the CORE Multi-dimensional Awareness Profile (CORE MAP), which has the capacity to get beneath the conditioned layers and discover the truth that is frequently obscured through years of conditioning. But adding awareness by any means is helpful and should be a top priority for any company. The purpose of this article is to add to that body of awareness.

Because introversion and extroversion are aspects of human nature that are relatively easy for most people to determine, this article focuses on these two attitudes. Seeing a reality and knowing what to do about it are entirely different things though. Although most people are able to determine whether an individual is more bold or reserved in their approach to new people and situations, few understand how to address these differences or work effectively around them.

When understanding is lacking, teams fail to communicate well, are not effective at involving or getting the most from the whole team, and fail to gather important input when it comes to planning and problem solving. Here's why:

In the American culture approximately 27% of the population, more than one in four people, is introverted. This is the group that, other than having to deal with the tensions of shyness, moves through childhood relatively easily because they are compliant and obedient. They don't mind following the rules.
They don't mind following the rules as adults either, but once we reach adulthood, remember, the rules change. Now extroversion rules the day and many of those little extroverts who were not allowed to express themselves as children start making up for lost time as adults. Problem is; they never learned how to use those extroverted skills effectively as children so many of them use them in emotionally immature ways. So, in the world of adults, the introverts are frequently overpowered, overlooked and misunderstood and steam-rolled over by that large majority of extroverts.

That quarter of the population that draws their energy more from quiet reflection than from bold action or interaction is often viewed by extroverts as too withdrawn, uncommunicative and even anti-social and, being extroverts, they don't always keep those opinions to themselves.

It's no wonder that introverts sometimes think there must be something wrong with them. It's important for that extroverted majority to understand that introversion is a perfectly normal temperament, not a pathology that needs fixing. A person's tendency to be extroverted; focused on and energized by the outer world, or introverted; internally energized and inner focused is an innate function, hard-wired into the brain. Introversion and extroversion, like other innate traits, are present at birth and will still be present the day we die. But, having them doesn't mean we use them well, nor does is mean that we can't flex and bend to meet one another's needs. The best performing teams have learned to understand and appreciate one another's differences and to flex and bend to meet one another's needs.

Both extroverts and introverts bring particular strengths to a team, but those of the introverts are often not recognized, valued or utilized and, in a team where attention to detail is vital to the outcome, the result can be disastrous. To be sure your team is getting the most from every member here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Examine your environment. In many businesses there is a bias toward bold action and those who believe instant decisions and speedy results are the only way to do things tend to be impatient with those whose natural pace and rhythm are slower-paced. Realize that still waters really do run deep and your patience with the deep thinkers and endlessly patient feeling types can pay huge dividends.
  • In meetings, be careful not to overlook or overpower the introverts. Because extroverts speak up readily, it is easy for them to overpower the introverts in conversations and to fail to get their input. Introverts need time to process questions when asked and, when they hesitate in order to think things through, extroverts assume their hesitation either means they didn't hear the question or don't understand it so they often repeat or rephrase the question. Failure to allow the introvert time to think before speaking can irritate, frustrate and sometimes shut them down. When they aren't allowed to contribute many deep thoughts and valuable insights are lost.
  • Make a point to ask for the opinions and viewpoints of the less verbal and assertive members of your team. You will be amazed at the treasure trove of information and insights they have to share when you are patient enough to listen.
  • Teach the extroverts to purposefully include the introverts in conversations and brain-storming sessions and to hold their tongue when it's the introvert's turn to speak.
  • Provide assertiveness training for your introverted team members. Many blossom in amazing ways when they learn the skills to help them speak up and interact with people more effectively.
  • Understand the strengths and tendencies of each of your teammates and assign work that compliments the natural strengths of each. When each team member is working to his/her strengths as well as in cooperation with one another, the team will be at the top of their game every day.
Sales Professional

As markets become more sophisticated and the techniques for reaching those markets effectively become ever more complicated, we sometimes lose sight of the two most important aspects of the selling process: the real, perfectly human person functioning in the role of Buyer and the real, perfectly human person functioning in the role of Seller.

These two aspects of the selling processare so vital as to make just about every other pale in comparison. Yet it is precisely these two vitally important aspects that all too often get relegated to chance, or to "doing what comes naturally" in the selling arena. Statistics prove this approach to be one with a very high mortality rate, because what comes naturally to most people in buyer/seller relationships often isn't pretty.

The role of Buyerrequires us to be cautious, suspicious, guarded, and to regularly use the skill we developed so well during our "terrible twos", that of exercising our ability to say "NO, NO, NO". The role of Seller, on the other hand, requires us to be assertive, expectant, open, and to attempt to use an entire cache of skills most of us never had the opportunity to learn. Skills such as persuading, negotiating, communicating effectively, noticing and effectively translating the nonverbal cues of others, problem solving, and knowing how to ask for something and get it on a fairly consistent basis, just to name a few. These are not seat-of-the-pants kinds of skills nor (unfortunately) were we born with them. These important interactional skills must be learned and most people have never had the opportunity to do that.

A few people have had the good fortune to be taught good relating and communicating skills in their youth. Others learn them by trial and error, but that's a very slow and sometimes very expensive way to learn. This is especially true for those in the selling professions.

Research consistently shows that the world's top sales professionals excel as a direct result of having acquired and implemented strong interactional human-to-human skills, which they use as primary tools. The technical skills salespeople use are important of course, but they are really secondary to selling success. Unfortunately, most sales training consists primarily of technical skills. Too often sales training follows the lines of "This is what we sell. . .This is what it does. . .This is why the buyer needs it. . .This is how much you will make for each unit you sell. . . These are the objections you are likely to hear. . . Here are some answers to those objections . . . Here’s how you close the sale . . . Go get 'em!" That kind of training is usually a prescription for failure, unless the necessary interactional skills are already well developed in the individual being so trained. But the fact is, the odds of finding individuals who are well trained in interactional skills right off the street or among average salespeople are so rare that I certainly wouldn't want to bet my business on it. Especially when training those who possess the right natural attributes is so much easier and less expensive in the long run.

What constitutes "the right natural attributes" depends on the type of selling an individual will be engaged in. For example, those who are effective at selling technically based products or services have different attributes than those who are effective at selling entertainment or time share vacations. The attributes of those who are effective at keeping customers long term are different than the attributes of those who are effective at bringing in new accounts.

In fact, in most organizations where keeping customers long term is important, and where continually adding to the customer base is also important, a team selling approach would yield far better results. Typically, those who are exceptionally good at bringing in new accounts don’t like maintaining those accounts. They feel that "hand holding" slows their progress and keeps them from making new sales, and generally, its the challenge and novelty of the new sale they most enjoy and at which they excel.

On the other hand, those who are good at maintaining an existing customer base typically dislike having to prospect for new customers and will resist prospecting as much as they can get by with. It isn’t uncommon for salespeople, who are excellent at maintaining accounts to spend inordinate amounts of time with current customers in order to have an excuse for not prospecting much. How can they, they reason, when their current customers are occupying all their time? But, give them more customers that have been established by someone else and they will happily find the time to service them all. By using a team approach, with one "point" person and one "hand holder" making up the team, both the will be happy and highly effective, provided they are also suited to the industry, product and/or service.

In an age and economy where an organization can’t afford to waste time and resources on hiring and training new employees; when the cost of employee turnover is in the thousands of dollars, and is especially high in the selling professions, no company can afford to hire blindly. And yet, hiring decisions are often made based solely on resumes and interviews, and sometimes when a company is desperate for sales people, even on surface presentation alone. It is no wonder the turnover rate is so high or that so many organizations are constantly nursing along a mediocre sales staff.

There are a lot of people out there who, with the right training, would make excellent sales people, but the right training is not just technique. In fact the mix that creates excellent sales people follows the old 80/20 rule. Excellent sales people are 20% technique and 80% good people skills, and that’s exactly how their training should be mixed.

Current statistics show (and most sales managers would concur) that less than 2 percent of those who attempt to enter the selling profession really excel at it and become the superstars. Another 6 percent do well and enjoy exceptional incomes, with an additional 12 percent earning average to slightly above-average incomes That leaves eighty percent that do poorly or don't make the grade at all (there’s that 80/20 rule again). Those sad odds could be greatly improved if the training mix (currently 80% technical and 20% people skills) were reversed.

I have had seasoned sales people who were at the top of their sales team greatly improve their close ratio by learning a few human-to-human interaction skills. I have had seasoned sales people, who have had years of technical training, tell me that learning about themselves as sales people, and about their customers from the perspective of human nature enabled them to fully understand and integrate the selling process, and that it was the most useful thing they ever learned.

People skills are what the superstars have that the wanna-be’s are missing. It is people skills that those top achievers, often referred to as "natural born" salespeople, have to their credit and that ordinary-to-poor salespeople are missing. Yet these "natural born" salespeople often have no idea exactly what it is they say or do that translates into megabucks in selling.

I have made it a point to study these superstar salespeople over the years, and I have asked a great number of them to what they attribute their success. Their general reply is, "I don't really know for sure. All I know is I love what I do and just do what comes naturally."

Their customers describe them as genuine, charismatic, caring, concerned, knowledgeable, helpful, "good people". Watching them in action however, it soon becomes apparent that their edge is their ability to interact with their customers in an easy, effective manner that puts the customer at ease, makes him/her feel important and understood, and gives the distinct impression that this salesperson is a true expert that can be trusted and relied upon.

The truth is, there are no "natural born" sales people. No one is born with selling skills or the people skills necessary for selling success. Admittedly, these skills are more easily developed by some people than by others, and a fortunate few begin developing them in childhood so that by the time they reach adulthood the skills seem natural. But, walking and talking seem pretty natural by the time we reach adulthood too, and certainly those are skills we all had to learn.

Success in selling, as with any other profession, is a matter of learning a set of skills and applying them consistently, sort of like typing. In typing, you either hunt-n-peck all your life or you learn the basic skills. If you learn the basic skills, you either use them only when necessary and plug along at 30 words per minute or you practice and continue to apply those skills until you work your way up to 120 words per minute or more. At the point of proficiency, a typist becomes a valuable commodity. A proficient sales person is invaluable. In fact, highly proficient salespeople can pretty much write their own tickets, because they are the lifeblood of an organization.

So, whether you are a salesperson whose goal is to become indispensable and recession proof, or an organization ready to build a first class sales team, the key is in adding a healthy mix of person-to-person interactional skills to your training agenda. These are skills that salespeople quickly and easily incorporate into their selling styles, if the skills are presented correctly during the training process. Once incorporated, the results are dramatic! Sales improve early on and, as the skills become second nature, the salesperson and the profits just keep getting better!