• Duane Cashin

How Would You Describe the Nature and Makeup of Salespeople?

Updated: May 20, 2020

We all know that exceptional salespeople exist and that they are essential to driving revenue, so why is it so difficult for sales managers to recruit and retain highly productive, professional salespeople?

Turnover in sales is among the highest of any profession, and 80% of sales are being made by just 20% of salespeople. What gives?

Research tells us that 55% of people engaged in selling are in the wrong profession. Another 20-25% have the essential attributes to sell, but they should be selling something other than what they are currently selling. This last group has the potential to be highly successful in some cases, but they are only marginal performers in their present sales positions.

The key to turning around your organization lies, in part, in understanding the nature and makeup of salespeople.

Successful salespeople possess a unique set of personality attributes that enable them to succeed. Mediocre sales performance cannot be disguised, as a salesperson’s success or failure is revealed immediately by the bottom-line results. It takes a special kind of individual to succeed in sales.

Trying to teach a person how to sell when they do not possess those attributes results in little chance for success.

So, let’s dig deeper into the nature and makeup of salespeople, particularly successful salespeople. We’ll focus on 5 key questions:

1. How do they differ from most other employees? How do they think? What brought them into sales in the first place?

People generally enter sales early in life, sometime in their twenties, often attracted to the profession due to the potential for high earnings while working independently. That partly explains the rapid turnover in sales; it’s just not that easy. The truth is, good salespeople are focused on helping buyers solve their business problems. They approach the sales process from the perspective of giving not getting. By doing so, people naturally want to do business with them. Their passion for the profession and the people they’re serving leads to credibility and trust. And buyers buy from those they trust.

This is immensely different from a “regular employee” who performs tasks for a set amount of money and often doesn’t need to have much passion for the job.

2. How are they motivated?

Motivation is critical to a salesperson’s success, and it has changed dramatically in recent years. According to Objective Management Group (OMG), of which I’m a certified partner:

  • In 2007, 54% of the sales population was extrinsically (money) motivated.

  • By 2011, just 27% were extrinsically motivated.

  • By 2017, the percentage of extrinsically motivated salespeople was down to just 8%!

Where motivation is concerned, it’s not usually a question of whether salespeople are motivated but how they are motivated: intrinsically or extrinsically. You must, therefore, craft incentives that speak to both extrinsically and intrinsically motivated individuals instead of trying to come up with a single, unique, “perfect” thing that the whole team will embrace. With most salespeople now intrinsically motivated, most compensation plans will require some re-work. Companies must get help from sales experts who understand the new trend, understand accounting, and have the ability to help you develop a new plan.

3. Are salespeople lazy and/or prone to taking shortcuts?

Sometimes it’s out of laziness, but often a salesperson takes shortcuts because they’re feeling the pressure to make their numbers and feel “the process” slows them down. Common shortcuts include: scheduling appointments with anyone that will meet with them versus gaining an audience with decision-makers, pitching the features of their products early in the sales process with the hope that they can excite the prospect and motivate them to buy before asking good questions, making exaggerated claims about their products or services, ignoring objections, and attempting to create a false sense of urgency.

Shortcuts backfire because buyers have a natural tendency to be skeptical of salespeople, assuming they’re going to over-promise in order to earn business. Sadly, too many salespeople take this approach to selling.

Good salespeople who build a sustainable career do so by differentiating their products and services, and also themselves, by resisting shortcuts.

4. How do you effectively manage a salesperson?

Strong and effective sales leadership is the most critical piece required to build a high performing sales team. In fact, a study published by Harvard Business Review found that 69% of salespeople who exceeded their annual quota – top performers – rated their sales manager as being “excellent” or “above average.” Thankfully, data reveals to us 5 competencies that elite sales managers share, competencies that increase effectiveness.

There’s a new skill set, too, and that’s how to effectively manage a sales team remotely. We predict that remote work will continue long after the last COVID-19 peak. It’s important that sales managers be up to the task.

5. What percentage of salespeople read and study business to elevate their knowledge and selling success? How do top salespeople differ from average salespeople?

Like good sales managers, exceptional salespeople also share common attributes, and this sets them apart from the rest.

It’s common to hear average salespeople complain about how competitive it is in the marketplace. In reality, it is nowhere as competitive as they perceive. It is “crowded”, and they confuse the two.

Top performing salespeople have transformed themselves from a salesperson who “sells” products and services in return for commission dollars, to a business person who consults and collaborates on solving business challenges and exploring growth opportunities.

Salespeople who are capable of reaching this level of insight and performance are constantly reading and studying business. They love the game of business and are thirsty to learn more and more about how to win.

Selling becomes enjoyable when you are capable of having rich business conversations with decision-makers.

Selling is exciting when you have elevated your level of business acumen to the point where you can call on any business person and capture their attention and earn credibility through your knowledge and business insight.

This level of performance and satisfaction is not reserved for the few, it is available to anyone who is willing to put in the time to learn and grow.

Are you ready to gain further insight into salespeople and what it will take to transform your team? Give us a call.

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