What makes a world-class salesperson?

© Rmarmion | Dreamstime.com

© Rmarmion | Dreamstime.com

There’s no end to the list of qualities that make for a great salesperson.  But when it comes to assessing your sales team, sales managers often focus on features that are secondary or worse:  Who’s a hard worker?  Who do I like the best? 

These may be fine qualities for a mail-order bride, but when it comes to salespeople, likeability and even hard work don’t necessarily add up to closed sales.  Instead, focus on five basic competencies as the backbone of your ongoing assessments:

1.  Selling skills.  All right, wise guy, I heard that.  If assessing salespeople on their selling skills sounds as obvious as assessing beekeepers on their beekeeping skills, why are selling skills so often completely ignored in assessment plans?  Too many sales managers see salespeople on the phone all day and think it MUST somehow add up to sales.  This just in: Even a monkey can hold a phone.  You need to ask yourself whether your salespeople are exhibiting the basic skills that make sales happen.  Do they know how to find and nurture solid prospects to keep the sales funnel full?  Do they know how to ask the right questions?  Do they know the difference between the end of a conversation and the closing of a deal?  These and a dozen other skills add up to genuine sales competency.

2.  Communication skills.  Can your salespeople make complex ideas simple?  Can they get customers talking by asking open-ended needs questions?  Do they move easily among the three perspectives (I—you—they)?  Are they outgoing, energetic, and people-oriented?  Do they really listen as well as speak?

3.  Presentation skills.  Presentation is more than just communication.  We’ve all had the experience of listening for an hour to a smooth and gifted communicator, only to realize we have no idea what was actually said.  Presentation requires an understanding of form—the creation of a psychologically effective whole, with a beginning, middle, and end, that gives the listener not just information but comprehension.  A presenter is constantly assessing his or her presentation through the eyes of the listener and making a human connection that brings mere information to life.

4.  Product knowledge.  All of the above skills add up to candy-coated squat if a salesperson doesn’t have a soup-to-nuts, quick-draw understanding of your products.  Pop quizzes work wonders.

5.  Personal growth.   Show me a salesperson who’s convinced that he’s as good as he can get and I’ll show you a dud on the way to obsolescence.  While he’s busy polishing his trophies, hungrier salespeople who know there’s ALWAYS more growing to do, more techniques to perfect, and more skills to build, will eat his lunch.

Both your sales meetings and your quarterly assessments should focus not just on sales numbers but on whether your staff is on track in these five crucial competencies.

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