Who is a Salesperson, and what drives him/her?
Salesman – that dreaded word / person that everyone loves to shower expletives, scorn at their success and the associated lifestyle, envy the “benefits” that is so impartially showered to them, etc etc etc. The list goes on……. but very rarely have any of us or these enviers put themselves in the shoes of a sales-person to understand (forget relating to) what insecurities and threats that they go through, every minute of their every single working day, like:
- Will I be able to sell this?
- Will I be successful/lucky today?
- Will I meet my quota/budget?
- Will I manage to retain my job?
- Are my peers within the company and in the industry doing better than me?
- Am I able to give time to my family?
- Am I able to keep my family intact?
The insecurities are endless. But what is intriguing/interesting is that these insecurities are associated with a capability that they are expected to deliver every single day, the very virtues for which they have been hired and the responsibilities entrusted. Quite oxymoron-ish, I should say.
But what should help them and has indeed helped them overcome this laundry list of insecurities, is their confidence, go-getting attitude and willingness to fail and to learn. Successful salespeople have these traits common across their DNA and really go with the “if the world throws lemons at you, then make juice out of them” attitude.
So if this is indeed true then can anyone become a salesperson? And can every one of them be successful? And to answer these Million-dollar (or even Billion-dollar as the case may be) questions, we will attempt to answer the below-related question.
Salesperson – Born or made?
The common question that crosses a salesperson mind (and others maybe as well) on a regular basis is, whether Salesperson is born, or made? And I will try to give a perspective into this by flipping the question as, Is Sales an art, which you are born with? Or is Sales a skill that can be acquired? The answer to these long-asked questions lies in the space in between – the space which is a combination of aptitude, attitude, energy, ambition, and hunger.
I have always believed that a difference that divides a good sales person from a bad sales person is the EXECUTION aspect. And I would like to define execution in this context as “the actions by which every aspect of a sales process is performed by a sales person to keep creating favorable outcomes against the stated objectives”. Make no mistake to read this as “a sales person is a magician”. But he or she does can actually make him a magician. Thus my verdict on sales would tend to lean more towards the “skill” aspect which needs to be perfect, than an art which you are expected to be born with.
And how can you perfect this skill – by practice of course. But this necessarily does not mean that an experienced sales person is always better than a novice. While experience has its unique advantages and the value it brings to the table, the attitude aspect of a sales person acts as a catalyst to hasten this skill-refinement process.
The first step to starting this journey is to master the art of “offering a solution, within the products/services one sells, to a prospect’s business problem”. While active listening during exploratory discussions/interviews is the key ingredient / first step to this, a sales person needs to understand and assimilate that 3 types of knowledge is absolutely essential to be learnt/known before we even attempt to get into exploratory interviews with prospects. They are:
1. Customer knowledge – knowing the customer’s business, business issues, trends in their business, their standing in the market, the challenges and opportunities staring them on their face, the competitors etc. A rare sales person who, needless to mention successful, who is able to master this skill actually has won half the battle. This is because he/she has already established that aspect of personal interest and involvement even before a prospect opens up. And one needs to remember that the buyer/customer is also a human being carrying his / her own ego, prejudice, wishes, aspirations and goals. And a human being always would like to be made to feel important. And establishing knowledge of their business and interest in their business is a clear recipe for favorable outcome
2. Product Knowledge – this is quite inevitable and expected. Without knowing fully the features and benefits of what you are selling, one cannot expect to establish any credibility with the prospective buyer. But one needs to be aware that this alone will only make them / their offering a column-filler
3. Market knowledge – this is another crucial dimension to a successful sales opening process and is closely related to point-1 above, which is customer knowledge. But this will be at a Macro-level, where the customer/prospect representative would not only use the sales person as a knowledge source (to put him in the position of a trusted advisor) but also to judge the level of awareness of the salesperson to the market that he or she is selling their products or services.
We will see more into the sales process in my next article. Thank you
Lakshmikanth Sundararajan – Director & Head of Distribution Business, Qlik APAC