December 2, 2010 Keenan

3 Most Important Traits in a Sales Person

I’m asked often about what makes a great sales person.    Like most jobs there is a certain set of skills or criteria that makes one person more successful at a job than another.   Sales is no different.

When I hire sales people I take into consideration a lot of different things, some I’ve talked about on this blog before.   When it comes to specific sales traits there are 3 that are critical in my mind; analysis, creativity, and determination.   Notice I didn’t say things like good communicator, ability to close, engaging, personable, ability to listen, etc.  These are all important, but they aren’t at the core to selling.

When I’m asked what is most important, I break things down to their core.   I try to understand what is at the foundation of the effort.   The “most important” phrase suggests that all else will fail or stand little chance of success without them.  In sales that is analysis, creativity and determination.

Analysis:

Analysis is critical because sales is about problem solving.  Problem solving requires the ability to take in lots of information, massage it, assess it, filter it, and craft perspectives, understandings, hypotheses, and assumptions.  Great sales people must be able to assess what is happening in an account, understand the motives of the buyers, identify unseen opportunities, avoid pitfalls, and more.   All of this requires strong analytical skills.   Without good analytical skills sales people are like leaves in the wind.  They will be blown all over the place.

Creative:

Once the analysis is done, solutions have to be created and this is where creativity comes in.   When given the same information most people will come to the same conclusions and offer similar solutions.   The creative sales person offers different solutions.  The creative sales person offers solutions others don’t see.  They fix problems with creative, outside the box, solutions that bring added-value.   Creative sales people differentiate themselves based on their solutions, approaches, and execution.  They bring more benefit and value.   Without creativity fewer doors are opened, less opportunities are found, problems linger longer, the competition is better positioned and selling is harder.   Creative sales people make the selling process much easier.

Determination:

At the end of the day sales is hard.   It’s like climbing a mountain, running a marathon, doing the last rep in a work out.  You’re going to want to quit.   Selling will push you to give up.  It will challenge your confidence, your sense of self, your stamina, and your will.   You will question whether or not you can get it done.  You will want to quit.  You will feel it’s hopeless and that’s where determination kicks in.   The best sales people don’t quit.  They don’t give up.  The don’t let hopelessness settle in.  The best sales people are driven by the challenge, the unconquerable and the thrill of doing things others couldn’t.   In sales there is no success without drive, without the determination to get to the top of the mountain, finishing the marathon, getting the last rep done.

A sales person who is poor at analyzing will miss opportunities.  They will not understand the root of the problems, they will miss diagnose. Sales people with poor analysis skills will have smaller pipelines, take longer to close deals and have a terrible win/loss ratio.

Sales reps who aren’t creative will have a lower win/loss ration, will compete on price, have a smaller pipeline and won’t retain their customers as long.

Sales reps who don’t have determination will lose more deals, turn over more often, and will be less reliable in the end.

Without these 3 traits nothing else matters.  It doesn’t matter how well you listen, if you can’t do anything with what you heard.  It doesn’t matter how engaging you are if you have nothing creative to offer once you’ve engaged the client.  It doesn’t matter how honest and trusting you’re clients see you if you quit because they don’t buy anything in the first 3 months.   It doesn’t matter how well you can communicate if there is no substance to the communication.  It doesn’t matter how well you can focus on “needs” if you focus on the wrong needs because of poor analysis.

There are tons of traits and skills that make sales people good.  For me the most important are analysis, creativity and determination.   They are the foundation.  Get me those traits and everything else is gravy.

What do you think are the 3 most important traits in a sales person?

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Comments (5)

  1. Great points! A good sales person is always thinking in terms of next steps, and manages the sales process in past tense. These two tactical traits demonstrate a balance of prospect oriented thinking and a desire to achieve results. By working the process in past tense “Meeting Set”, the motivated sales person is working proactively to move opportunities along by not waiting until the last minute to take the next action. See Getting Things Done.

  2. I love all of your choices. But for me, the big doggie-daddy of them all is, was, and always will be, self-discipline. The salesperson who cannot keep the commitments that he makes to himself doesn’t utilize all of the other attributes and skills that success in sales requires. Self-discipline is the great enabler of all of the rest.

  3. Great article as always. The one qualifier that has been left out in your list is Natural Ability. I know, I know.. you can teach ANYONE to sell. I can tell you from first hand experience there are some people that simply can not. (i know, i know was a joke)

    Sure they are determined, come in early, work late, make an enormous amount of phone calls/solicitations. And yes they are “super” analytical (usually to the extent this becomes a detriment) and creative.. I can’t say they are “overly” creative but there is usually some creativity buried in there.

    There are a handful of times while training mortgage professionals that I came across this scenario. It is not the easiest to identify before hand. I only make that statement because in my experience some of the best sales people are the ones you would least expect. Some of the worst are the ones you expected the best from. Over the years (and hundreds of sales people) I have personally learned to identify those “shooters” that are most likely to sputter out and those “want-to-be” sales people that have little chances of success.

    I think it is fair to say “natural” sales capability must to be in there somewhere.

    Listing three important sales traits – Natural ability, Determination, Creativity (I bundle analysis with creativity)

  4. There is no doubt natural ability is in there. My question is what does natural ability to sell look like? How do you define it?

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