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  • Duane Cashin

Exceptional Salespeople Share These 10 Attributes



Making hiring mistakes is always an issue to be addressed because it leads to high turnover, and that’s one of the most expensive issues for any sales leader to solve.

Whether high turnover at your company has resulted from failure to use a sales aptitude test to help you hire wisely, troubles with the company culture, or something else, it is a problem that requires your immediate attention.

Prior to this economic downturn, sales turnover hovered at around 35%, and the cost was nearly incalculable (though you can get close to estimating here). Just consider:


  • the substantial sums of money you pay new salespeople as salary, draw on commission, expense accounts, and so on, which are wasted when those salespeople fail to sell;

  • the staggering company costs, in time, money, and energy, of recruiting, selecting, training, and supervising salespeople who inherently do not have the ability to succeed; and

  • the vast costs caused by lost sales, drop-outs, reduced company reputation, poor morale, permanently burned territory, and the like.


Turnover is likely to be higher as salespeople struggle in the next economic cycle.


The loss of revenue due to coronavirus is yet to be calculated but we all sense its enormity. It’s more important than ever to know what makes one person able to sell and another not so that you can make the right hiring decisions and stop wasting money.


A very high proportion of people currently holding sales positions cannot sell. Can you identify the ones in your organization that are true salespeople?

True salespeople are not presenters of services, or even order takers (anyone can do those things). In contrast, a true, consultative salesperson, which we know will be critical to your success in the next phase, is one who can ask difficult, deep questions that change the conversation and win your business. Salespeople who ask these types of questions on every first sales call are true salespeople.

Consultative sellers are “business people” who change the conversation, change the prospect’s perspective, and win more business. They are the “elite” salespeople.

Becoming truly consultative is a skill that only the best salespeople master: The top 5% have it down and the next 15% work at it pretty effectively. The rest? Not yet. And, that’s a huge part of turnover.

Of course, there’s a science to sales force selection, but here is a quick summary of the top 10 requirements -- skills and sales DNA -- that salespeople must possess to become masters at consultative selling:


1. Listening Skills


Good listening skills go beyond hearing and focusing. We're talking about active listening, identifying specific words and phrases that if questioned, take a salesperson wider, deeper and closer to a prospect's compelling reasons to buy.


Dale Carnegie framed it best: to become a great salesperson, you have to remember that people want to do business with people they like and respect. At the end of the day, while you may be selling to a customer, what you're really doing is looking to earn their trust. As Carnegie said, it's about learning how to "win friends and influence people." Listening is key to getting there.


2. Questioning Skills


This isn't about stopping with a list of prepared questions. This is about how a salesperson phrases follow up questions to go wider, deeper and closer to a prospect's compelling reasons to buy because they listened effectively.


3. Tone


Whatever the content of what we say; it’s our tone that matters most. Anyone can ask a question, but a great seller asks in ways that do not offend. True salespeople slow down, get softer, add pauses after each key phrase, smile, and most importantly, speak in a way that doesn’t make everything sound like a criticism. (up talking).


4. Business and Financial Understanding


Behind every problem uncovered in sales, there is usually a financial implication. True salespeople are savvy enough to help prospects make that calculation, including hard and soft costs, amortized over the full term of the problem.


5. No Need to be Liked


There is a difference between being likable and the need to be liked. The first is good, and the second is bad. 58% of all salespeople NEED to be liked which is a problem because it prevents them from being able to ask hard questions and/or get to the decision-maker. When we look at elite salespeople, only 18% of them need to be liked.


6. Control of emotions


It can be tough to detach from personal life, but it’s necessary for sales success. Distraction keeps salespeople from effectively listening and engaging with clients. True, elite salespeople separate themselves from their emotions while 63% of all people in sales roles struggle to.


7. Comfortable talking about money


This is a huge one (see number 4!), as 60% of all salespeople aren't comfortable with the financial discussion. Only 8% of Elite salespeople struggle with this discussion. Your salespeople simply must be comfortable talking about money.


8. They follow an effective sales process.


Consultative Selling is much more difficult than relationship selling which takes forever with no guarantees, or transactional selling which takes no time at all and rarely produces results. Consultative selling requires a formal, staged, milestone-centric sales process.


9. Enthusiasm


Most people in sales forget that it's enthusiasm that carries their message the farthest. Often, people don't buy into the product or service as much as they buy into the person who is selling it to them. That means every salesperson on your team must ooze the same passion the CEO or founder of the company would when talking about the business.


When I was first starting out as a young salesperson, all I really had was my enthusiasm. For the most part, I was largely inexperienced, but it was my energy, my effort that people bought into--and that's the same advice I give to my clients and audiences now.


Where most salespeople go wrong, however, is thinking that enthusiasm alone is enough. Which brings me to the final point...


10. Knowledge


"Winging it" is never an effective option. Ever. Knowledge is power. Truly consultative salespeople acquire as much knowledge as possible about every possible variable before they present their ideas. Knowledge about the prospect, knowledge about their industry, knowledge about their competitors, knowledge about their own product or service. The good ones know it all.


If you ready to identify new salespeople who can sell like this, or you’re interested in scientifically evaluating your current sales force, give us a call. We’ll help you get started on the path to building a world-class salesforce that will be ready to hit the ground running and not look back once these shutdowns are relaxed.

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