What makes a great salesperson?
What makes a great salesperson? (Part 1)
In a two-part series, leading sales trainer Andy Preston looks at the top five responses he’s had to the question: “What are the top attributes of great salespeople?” In this article, Andy addresses two attributes that are particularly vital for selling to today’s varied NHS customer-base: knowledge and organisation.
Number 1 – Knowledge
This is always an interesting one when it’s mentioned in my sales training seminars, especially when I’m training a new sales team or one with a few people new to a sales role. When I start to talk about knowledge, the response I get from them is usually something like: “I’ve only been in the company a few weeks, how can I be expected to know everything about what they do?”
Let’s deal with this first of all. When you’re new into a company, of course your knowledge of the products or services the company sells (and the company itself) is not going to be as strong as someone who has worked there for years.
“One of their competitors on the day was unable to present properly because they forgot the laptop with the presentation on! How bad is that?”
However, depending on your role and what it entails, initially you may still be able to be effective without in-depth knowledge of every area of the business.
I’ve had salespeople on my cold calling and appointment making workshops that have actually booked a high level of appointments whilst only being at the company for a few days! As long as they can apply themselves on the phone and engage and persuade the decision makers, that’s the crucial thing initially – to be backed up with more knowledge over time of course.
When I talk about knowledge, most people make the mistake of thinking that I only mean the company they work for and their products or services. However, this can throw up an even bigger challenge.
Some of the teams I work with have ‘technical’ people who are sometimes promoted into a sales role. Now I’m not necessarily saying this is a bad idea, but a technical person will be very familiar with the technical aspects of the product. This is fine when they are selling to a technical buyer, but when they are selling to buyers unfamiliar with the technical side (MD, Purchasing Dept, Financial Controller), the tendency is to get too ‘caught up’ in the technical aspects of the product – which often has the affect of boring or confusing the buyer to such an extent that they wish they could get someone to explain it to them in more simple terms!
And when I talk about knowledge, I also mean knowledge of your industry, the business world, your clients, your competitors, your profession – in fact, everything associated with your role. If you want to appear to your clients as a professional, trusted advisor, start acting and talking like you are one. Most salespeople never bother to learn the strengths and weaknesses of their competition, and then complain when they aren’t very successful selling against them. I wonder why…
Number 2 – Organisation
I know, I know, I know! Most salespeople hate organisation, preparation and planning! And I thought long and hard before including this one, but it is an accurate reflection of what my clients say is one of the top attributes of great salespeople and I tend to agree.
There are always exceptions to the rule, but for every ‘great’ salesperson who’s untidy, there are 10 or 20 that aren’t. So why is it that salespeople tend to hate organisation, or any type of planning or preparation? Some salespeople say they’d rather ‘get on with things’ than ‘waste time preparing’. Whilst I can understand their feelings to a degree, and appreciate their enthusiasm and motivation, I also think that organisation can lead to even greater sales success.
“when I talk about knowledge, I also mean knowledge of your industry, the business world, your clients, your competitors, your profession – in fact, everything associated with your role. If you want to appear to your clients as a professional, trusted advisor, start acting and talking like you are one”
Organisation is particularly key when you’re going out on client meetings. How prepared are you for the meeting if you’re running late and struggling to get all your appointments done in one day? – not very I’d guess! A good example of the importance of organisation was when one of my clients was invited to tender for the business of probably the biggest prospect in their sector – a large global organisation. As part of the tender process, they had to go to the UK head office of this company and present to representatives.
We discussed in detail the opportunity, the ‘potential wins’, the pitfalls and found out who would be at the presentation and what purchasing authority they have, the layout of the room, available equipment and who else would be presenting. We then worked on the presentation, who would say what, thought about typical questions and objections (and who would handle them) and prepared thoroughly – rehearsing the presentation, emailing the presentation to a web-based email address, copying it onto the laptop, putting it onto a memory stick etc – just to make sure!
My client received feedback that their presentation was the best and most professional of the day (and they were a small company, up against national and international names) and they won the business! The biggest lesson they took from it was that being organised and prepared had gone a long way towards influencing the decision. One of their competitors on the day was unable to present properly because they forgot the laptop with the presentation on! How bad is that?
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