What makes a great salesperson?

It’s a question I’ve been asked many times during my 30+ year career in sales.

It’s often raised during meetings with customers, particularly when we start discussing business growth targets and what percent of the sales team successfully hit last year’s targets. It’s probably no surprise to hear that targets have usually increased and the customer’s main concern is how they can ensure success in the current year when they struggled to hit target in the previous year.

As the conversation develops, I’m often told that their salespeople ‘just need to improve their selling skills’, but when asked what skills specifically, I usually receive a range of different answers. Everything from ‘their general sales skills’ to specific development areas for each individual such as ‘they don’t listen’ or ‘they focus too much on the product and not the solution’.

It’s during these conversations I’m often asked the question ‘What do our salespeople need to do to become great?’

Of course I have to tell them there is no magic bullet. No one specific thing that makes a good salesperson great, rather a number of skills, actions and behaviours that bring about a positive result.


Below are my key recommendations:


Social selling

Leverage social selling to create a network, build credibility and generate leads. If you really want to improve performance in this area, follow key people like Larry Levine, Jeb Blount, Tony J Hughes and Graham Hawkins. There are many other giants in this industry for sure – these are the ones I am following right now.


Know your customer

Before any sales meeting, whether via the phone or face to face, make sure you undertake some research. Now you do not have to spend hours researching, but you must spend some time learning about the customer, their people, products, services and their customers. If you fail to do this, you’re making it harder for yourself and you won’t fully understand how you can add value with your product or service.


Adapt your style

Understand different personality styles and remember there is no right or wrong style. Once you can recognise someone’s preferred style then you can adapt, helping to improve communication. This isn’t about manipulating or being false, it’s about learning to communicate in a way that can be received and understood in the customer’s preferred way.


Communicate effectively

Learn to communicate effectively. That means, learn how to really listen! Work on your questioning skills. It’s no longer enough to ask open questions and expect to discover the total requirements of a prospective customer. Be consultative, be curious. You know you’re asking great or challenging questions when your customer has to take a moment to think before responding.


Add value

Create value driven solutions that mean something to your customer. What value does your solution add to the individual or the company you are presenting to? Tailor it to their needs and better still, work with your customer to create a solution specific to their need.


Welcome feedback

Welcome objections, comments and critique of your proposal. It is better to remain in dialogue with your prospective customer, working towards a solution, than not hearing from them at all. By communicating effectively and welcoming feedback, you can create the right solution for them. Remember, value is often in the eye of the beholder!


Be confident!

Be confident in moving forward in the sales process. It’s ok to ask for an order or for commitment to the next stage. Let’s face it, if you do not do it then your competitor will – why do all the work only to lose it at the end?

So, what makes a great salesperson? Well, great salespeople tend to do a lot of things right. They know how to take things back to basics and follow a sales process. They understand the science of selling and know how to leverage modern day technologies allowing them to ramp up their sales and achieve what many would view as impossible. They are confident, resilient, believe in ownership, are professional in all aspects of their work and fundamentally want to add value to their customers.


Nick Washington-Jones, Managing Director, TACK UK

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