What traits do top sellers have in common?
To find out, you might ask researchers. Or sales leaders, who hire and manage salespeople. Or ask CFOs, who analyze their numbers.
But perhaps the best judge of top sellers is the customer.
After all, customers research and compare salespeople all the time out of necessity. They select salespeople and choose who to keep. And they decide how much money to spend – ultimately crowning the “Top Sellers.”
When leaders want more sales – won by better skilled, more productive top sellers – focus on what customers say they appreciate most from their salespeople. Then you can hire for those traits, hone the skills, encourage the behaviors and stroke the attitudes top sellers have in common.
Here are the nine standout traits of top sellers – and tips on how to instill them in more of your sales force.
Top sellers listen actively
Customers want to be heard and understood, and that’s never been more evident than through this research: In LinkedIn’s State of Sales Report, customers said the most significant trait in top salespeople is being an active listener.
Customers see their best salespeople as part:
- therapist (“I understand why you would feel that way”)
- problem-solver (“I see the underlying issue”)
- expert (“I’ve successfully dealt with this before”), and
- helper (“I have the solution”).
But salespeople can’t be any of those without listening closely to customers and prospects, asking questions to dig deeper or clarify and eventually understanding customers’ issues and feelings even better than they do.
Build listening skills: One of the best listening practices is to avoid formulating how you’ll respond when customers and prospects speak. Instead, take notes on what they say and the emotions behind it … and what you can ask to learn more.
Top sellers are confident
Customers look for confidence from the salespeople they do business with. Of course, there’s a line – and it’s not a thin line – between confident and cocky.
Top sellers are supremely confident about the solutions they bring to the table and the organization they represent. They have valid reasons for being confident about their abilities to identify customer needs, align those with the right solutions and be a strategic partner: Top salespeople work hard to be the most knowledgeable, practiced, poise salesperson on their team and in their industry. Period.
Build confidence: Read. Study. Ask questions. Never stop learning so you’re the smartest person in the room. Prove it by sharing relevant information and answering questions better than anyone else – not by telling people how much you’ve studied.
Top sellers solve problems dynamically
Not surprisingly, problem-solving is vital trait for top sellers, according to both customers and sales leaders.
But solving problems isn’t just about identifying the issue and throwing money at the solution.
Everyone wants to know and work with the person who can identify the big problem – the issue that, when it’s solved, will fix all the other little problems. It’s not an easy task, and that’s why the top sellers are the best problem-solvers.
Build problem-solving skills: Work at being more resourceful. Whether you’re analyzing a customers’ situation, your new stretch goals or how you’ll possibly complete all the tasks on your week’s list, consider the next most impossible issue. Apply your energy to find all alternative routes and resources to solve the issue at hand and the worst possibilities.
Top sellers build help-based relationships
Top sellers are slight altruists. They build relationships – that’s what customers say they want when choosing and using solutions important to their work and lives – on the premise of helping, not selling.
The most successful salespeople share without exception. They share knowledge from their vast internal library with prospects who may or may not buy and with less tenured colleagues who could potentially use it to propel past them. They approach work thinking there is always someone else they can help.
To build relationships: Focus on helping people with what you have to share (information, experience, expertise), not what you have to gain by helping (sales, revenue, rewards).
Top sellers communicate effectively
Top sellers aren’t necessarily great speakers or proactive communicators. Instead, they’re effective, urgent communicators. They give customers and prospects the right amount of information when they can benefit from it most. The best salespeople respond when asked almost immediately with clear answers – even if the answer is, “I have to find out and will follow up within 24 hours.”
They reach out in the communication channel customers prefer. They speak professionally and write using proper grammar and language in each channel (across the communication board – calls, meetings, blogs, social media, text, etc.)
Build communication skills: Better listening has the strongest correlation to improved communication. When salespeople listen to understand, they respond and react with the right message – a message that adds meaning and value to the relationship. So before responding or proactively communicating with customers, ask yourself: Does the information I will share add value to our exchange and the relationship?
Top sellers offer unrivaled expertise
Top sellers don’t sell. They lead, leaning heavily on experience, observation and learning to put customers and prospects in a better situation.
They don’t claim they’re experts. Instead, they prove it by sharing knowledge and connections instead of bragging about what and who they know.
Build experience: Salespeople don’t need to rely solely on the years behind them or miles under them for experience. Gain experience by pursuing stories, valuable lessons and examples from colleagues and mentors. Ask them about mistakes and what they did to overcome them. Ask what they learned from victories. Also, watch and take notes on others you see bounce back from mistakes and are gracious in wins.
Top sellers are consistent
Perhaps one of the most surprising traits of top sellers isn’t what makes them stand out. Rather, it’s what keeps them ordinary: consistency.
Top sellers are consistent at nearly everything they do. They actively (and consistently) set goals of all sorts – from the tasks they want to accomplish to the sales they plan to win. Then they consistently plan how they’ll achieve those goals and religiously do the tasks necessary to get there. They consistently do the ugly, grunt work less successful salespeople do sporadically.
Build consistency: Sit and write the sales goals you want to achieve and the tasks you must take on consistently to hit the targets. The act of writing it all is often the common step for the most successful salespeople.
Top sellers manage themselves
Salespeople have so much to manage – time, accounts, goals, attitude, the pipeline, products, etc. The elite are those who can keep it all under control. They’re tireless organizers, attention-to-detailers, time-managers and planners.
There’s no way around it: Top salespeople manage their work, time, morale and lives better than those who are lax with attention to detail, or worse, who leave it to happenstance.
Build better self-management: The most effective self-management starts with disciplined time management. Top sellers regularly assess how they spend their time. You want to do the same to eliminate non-essential tasks and low-return work. Analyze the pipeline closely to ensure you pursue strictly high-quality, high-return deals. This translates into something customers value: respect for their time.
Top sellers are abundantly creative
Good salespeople know the book. Great salespeople wrote the book.
Customers need and value creative salespeople who have the answers – and will think of more possibilities that could lead to the breakthrough everyone needs.
Perhaps the most important attribute to their creativity is resourcefulness. Top sellers make the best of what’s available. If a buyer doesn’t have a huge budget, they find ways to make the sale work for that buyer. If space, terms or timing are obstacles, top sellers help customers identify creative alternatives that make the best things possible.
Build creativity: A lot of creativity comes from a tailoring mindset: Every sales approach, meeting deck, conversation, presentation and solution is unique to the customer. Thinking of each buyer as different from any other helps salespeople become more creative. Template solutions are a good start, but salespeople want to look for at least one tweak for each customer to expand their creativity.