My many years of sales experience have taught me that, regardless of the number of happy and loyal clients I've helped along the way, I'm actually a pretty lousy sales guy. OK, maybe I'm being a little hard on myself. But I'm certainly not a 'killer' salesman (no, I'm not going to try to sell ice to Eskimos or sand to Arabs if they don't need it) - and I'm certainly not a great salesman either, as some would like to define greatness.
I recently read an article entitled the 'Key Qualities of a Great Salesperson' which included the following attributes that you'll supposedly find in the 'greatest of the great' sales pros:
DRIVEN - Apparently being 'driven' is the #1 quality that I must possess to succeed in the sales profession. If someone's hiring a salesperson then 'driven' is a word that will inevitably appear in the ad somewhere. But what does it mean to be driven? "It means that you'll do whatever it takes to achieve your targets." Wow. Really? Like, regardless of whether the product / service you're hiring me to sell is the very best solution for the customer, my overarching focus must be meeting quota? No thank you. I'd rather remain a lousy sales guy and continue to look after my customers' best interests, thank you very much.
CONFIDENT - Confidence is the second most coveted quality to be found in a great salesperson. Now, don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with a little confidence. But how do you define confidence, and what does it look like? Confidence can be a quiet determination - it doesn't have to be loud and pushy. Push just a little too far and I can appear arrogant. And arrogance is certainly not attractive - I've met many contemporaries who in their attempt to appear confident only come across as arrogant. Look, you can't create confidence - you either have it, or you don't. My fear is that employers are actually seeking the brash, silver-tongued, bullish confidence that pushes the rep 'to boldly go where no man has gone before' - only for him to arrive there and open his mouth…
ASSERTIVE - "having or showing a confident and forceful personality." Yep. Just below 'confident' in the key qualities chart comes 'assertive'. Apparently, if I'm going to succeed in sales, I've got to be 'forceful'. "We want you to do whatever it takes to close the deal, Darrel. Be assertive (i.e. forceful) with the customer and show them who's the daddy!" Excuse me, but that just sounds like you want me to tame the customer like he / she's a wild horse that needs breaking. Once again, thanks but no thanks - I'm letting the horse stay wild.
I've even heard some of my contemporaries confess to a love of the 'hustle' of sales. But according to Wiki Answers, to hustle means 'to make money doing something slightly shady'. In this morning's news I read an article entitled 'The trial of four salesmen hears allegations of fraudulent sales techniques'. Were these guys acting fraudulently, or were said 'fraudulent sales techniques' actually nothing more than 'hustling' in the eyes of the salespersons concerned? Who knows. But if a great salesperson's also defined by his / her ability to hustle (by Wiki Answer's definition, anyway), I'm a pretty lousy salesman.
So there you have it. After 25 years I'm still a pretty lousy sales guy. And long may I remain so.
If you're a salesperson, what kind of a salesperson are you? Are you 'great' or 'lousy'? Can you be driven, confident, assertive - and can you love the 'hustle' - while still putting the customer first? Please share your thoughts.
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