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What Makes a Salesperson Successful?

By Bob Parks

In this group conversation, we discuss strategies on how to be successful as a salesperson. Sales is a challenging but rewarding profession. It can become easier over time with the right mindset. Salespeople need the right skills, one of which is to learn that it is not about talking more but more about listening.

Bob Parks: 00:00  So a question that we seem to get all the time is, "What makes a salesperson successful?" And I know we all have thoughts about that. The thing that hits me the most about being successful as a salesperson is the ability to have empathy. It seems to me that if you can't focus and reflect on the customer, you have a real tough time at being really, really successful. Any thoughts about that?

Holly Parks: 00:30  Well, I agree with that. I think another thing that's really important though is making sure that the salespeople are working in the right environment. For example, retail salespeople are reactive. People who sell copy machines have to be more proactive and they're very short sales. Then you've got the guy selling the big huge medical equipment that takes over a year to sell but it's a million dollars. Each one of those requires a different kind of mindset and a different kind of behavior to make them successful. So that's another area that I look at when I'm looking for salespeople.

Joane Ramsey: 01:03  I think it's also important to keep in mind that salespeople have to have optimism. I think that that's also a key component because if you are not optimistic as a salesperson you may potentially give up in the first or second try, and as we all know, it takes a lot more than one or two tries reaching a prospect or contacting someone that we're trying to have a conversation with.

Bruce Michalowski: 01:29  Good point. My first sales manager said to me, "You have to have a couple of things to make this job work, you've got to be resilient and you've got to stick with it", and basically it's saying you're going to get more no's than yes's to start. So you have to have those characteristics to be successful.

Bruce Michalowski: 01:48  Yeah, I think perseverance is critical. The ability, almost stubbornness sometimes, to stay with it and keep doing the work. The kind of the mundane work that you need to do. But once you get in front of a customer, I think the biggest misconception about salespeople is that a salesperson has to be a good talker and I think it's just the opposite. I think a key salesperson, a really successful salesperson, has to be a good listener and the talking is really not the critical skill that everybody thinks it is. What do you think?

Bruce Michalowski: 02:25  I agree completely with that. A salesperson has to guide that dialogue, so you have to be able to ask questions. But if they don't listen to the answers, they're going to miss the information that is there, first of all, and secondly, it's going to be inefficient. Whenever I've been dealing with salespeople or thinking of myself as a sales manager or trainer, I always think about, "Can you make this dialogue as effective as you can?" That means you've got to be a good listener. I think there's research that backs that up too, when you ask sales managers or salespeople themselves, "What makes a great salesperson?" One of the key things they always talk about is their ability to listen, really listen to what the customer's told them.

Holly Parks: 03:02  I think sometimes if a salesperson doesn't listen, they come across as being really pushy and "It's all about me", and the client really disengages in those kinds of conversations.

Bruce Michalowski: 03:15  That's a good point because it defeats the empathy. I mean you come across as focused on yourself versus the customer.

Joane Ramsey: 03:21  And you lose credibility as a result of it.

Bruce Michalowski: 03:23  Yes absolutely.

Bob Parks: 03:30  I think that the whole listening is so strong, so powerful, but your point is well taken. And that is, you have to be able to guide the conversation through questions and then listen. I think many times people think that "If I'm not talking, then I'm not in control of the conversation." I think you can direct the conversation by questioning. So you take that, you take the perseverance, you take the environment that you mentioned and those things wrapped together really make for, I think, a really successful salesperson.

Bruce Michalowski: 03:59  I think another thing you always have to consider too, is they've got to have that knowledge of the business, the customer's business, what their selling, and how it fits.

Best of luck and let us know how we can help you achieve more effective training!

Published: November 20, 2015


Bob Parks

Senior Partner

Bob, one of the founders of Strategic Enhancement Group, has over 40 years of experience in business. Prior to starting Strategic Enhancement Group in 1984, he held sales, sales management, senior management and board of directors’ positions with three international companies. Bob earned his B.S. from the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland and his M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Executive Program. SEG has consistently been one of Wilson Learning’s top performing and award-winning partners for over two decades. Bob has won both the Crystal Wisdom Award and the Summit Award given by Wilson Learning for outstanding contribution to the culture and growth of Wilson Learning’s agency network. He served as President of the Board of Advisors to Wilson Learning as well as on several charitable organization boards.

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