3 Essential Traits of Superstar Salespeople

3-traits-top-performersWhenever I speak to a group of professionals, I get this one question from sales leaders and salespeople most often: “What is the make-up of a really good salesperson?” I usually give my lawyer response:

It depends.

All sales roles are not the same. So, it makes sense that not all great salespeople would be the same. They would have traits that align with the demands of their respective roles. Since that answer is more logical, it’s not quite satisfying to the inquisitive (and sometimes desperate) sales leaders or sales reps who are looking for a custom answer to their question.

In an attempt to satisfy this ‘universal question,’ here are three traits that I’ve observed time and again with superstar sales reps. Just be careful about how you apply these three, keeping the specific sales role in mind. 

1. Balance of urgency and patience. Top performers typically do not possess equal amounts of these two attributes. However, they have the ability to understand both and manage them appropriately as the situation requires. Urgency is probably the most recognized, but is also one of the most commonly misunderstood. A sense of urgency does not mean pushing the customer into a buying decision. In fact, it has little to do with your customer at all. Rather, it is the drive to accomplish the tasks required to expedite the sales process without over-pressuring the potential buyer. It’s responding quickly to requests, completing your call list, setting and achieving referral goals, and following-up speedily to sales calls. In short, superstar sales reps with a high sense of urgency know that time is extremely precious and squeeze the most from every moment.

The need for patience enters the picture when working with analytical and methodical buyers who take their time making decisions. This can be at times frustrating for the extrovert. However, applying “urgency” only alienates the buyer. Exercising patience while urgently continuing your prospecting efforts to acquire new opportunities is a better option.

2. Balance of self-confidence and resourcefulness. This quality is both a belief and a behavior. A salesperson with strong resourcefulness believes, regardless of the obstacles, that they will find a way to achieve their goals. That doesn’t mean they will make every sale, but they expect to accomplish their greater objectives. This means when a sales rep faces a roadblock, they think through alternatives and create a new path to their destination instead of giving up after their single attempt failed.

A resourceful sales rep can also respectfully challenge a prospect’s ideas about a problem, because they see options that some customers simply don’t see, such as bundling products with services, innovative contract terms, combining solutions with other vendors, etc. Reps with a strong “find a way” mentality also engage in behaviors that reduce or remove potential roadblocks, such as thorough pre-call planning and staying current on industry trends.

3. Utilitarian. Not to be confused with utilitarianism (a theory of ethics), this trait is referring to a source of motivation. A utilitarian drive is an interest in what is useful and a pursuit of the practical activities of business. For example: marketing, sales, production, finance, and the accumulation of tangible wealth are all forms of these practical activities. This type of motivation is quite practical, focusing on steps, processes, and resources that are directly tied to results. Knowledge, advice, or tools that cannot be used to drive more sales are of little or no value to the utilitarian-driven salesperson. To them, either the resource is useful or it’s not.

Beyond that, many successful salespeople recognize that money is not the ultimate prize, but rather a utilitarian means to a greater goal. The money-motivation is the driver because the utility of money creates the opportunity to pursue larger objectives like security, philanthropy, investment, retirement, etc.

Sales roles all share some similarities in that they involve some sort of transaction. When it comes to personnel, however, there’s an enormous behavioral difference between a rep involved in small-ticket sales with a “one call close” model and little or no prospecting (the phone rings, they get some information, they place the order, and they’re done) and a rep who works five years putting together a billion-dollar deal involving regulatory issues and decision-making committees on both sides, not to mention, often, international complexities.

Are there common qualities between those two sales reps? Yes. But you must understand how these qualities apply to each specific role. You want motivated people working in the right positions. That way, they can experience the benefits that come from a fulfilling job… so will you, and most importantly, so will your customers.