The Four Traits of Successful Salesperson Development

How do they do it?

It’s the question on everyone’s minds when they see the successes of those people who always do better in their jobs than all the rest. What factors are driving that success?

Regardless of their industry, product or service, all highly successful salespeople share a few specific core traits that allow them to consistently outperform their peers. So the bigger question that training, learning and development, and sales leaders should be asking is this:

Do our sales training and coaching initiatives take these four traits into account?

Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

  1. Strong Goal Clarity: Goal clarity is having clear, specific written descriptions of what you want to have in your future. And here’s the thing: Very few people have it.

In fact, almost without fail, it’s the dimension that participants in our sales training programs rank themselves the lowest on in their own self-assessments. Whether it’s a personal goal or a professional one, you can’t get there if you aren’t clear on:

  • Where you want to go
  • When you want to arrive
  • How you’re going to get there

What goal is possible for someone to achieve? As the saying goes, anything is possible—as long as the person has the general abilities, training, resources and desire levels of someone who’s achieved similar goals. Because selling is an “inside job,” the salesperson’s inner needs will always drive their goal possibilities, including the size of the goals they set and reach and the size that they don’t think they can reach.

  1. High Achievement Drive: This is a topic we explored in detail in our recent research project with the Sales Management Association. Put simply, Achievement Drive is energy. It’s the energy released from within you when you have goal clarity. The amount of energy released is first determined by:
  • Level of desire for the goal
  • Belief in whether it’s possible for you to achieve it
  • How worthy you feel to enjoy the goal

These factors then influence the effort, commitment and persistence you’ll exhibit in pursuit of the goal.

Salespeople with high Achievement Drive think differently than others. They think in terms of the rewards for reaching sales goals, not just reaching them. They’re motivated to serve customers exceptionally well, earn high respect, enjoy a certain lifestyle and other benefits. They spend time daydreaming about the exciting things that can happen for them in the future.

For more on Achievement Drive and how it acts as a multiplying factor in someone’s success, check out the on-demand webinar Skill or Will: What New Data Reveal About Sales Success.

  1. Healthy Emotional Intelligence: Two other names for Emotional Intelligence are maturity and stability. Essentially, it’s the ability to:
  • Understand your feelings and how they influence your external behaviors.
  • Take control of your emotions and do the difficult things you might not want to do but must do in order to achieve your worthwhile goals.

When salespeople face possible rejection, failure or ego damage, it’s easy to play weak emotional games: call reluctance, ducking responsibility, being unwilling to hang tough when difficult problems come up. The antidote is courage: calling when you’re afraid to, meeting with people you’re afraid to meet, asking the questions you’re afraid to ask.

Both the avoidance behaviors and the acts of courage come from a person’s internal values, which determine how they will act when faced with a difficult situation. Strong, positive values open the door to higher success.

  1. Excellent Social Skills: This is more than the “gift of gab” or engaging in surface-level communication and small talk. It involves:
  • Valuing people
  • Listening to what people say and how they feel
  • Understanding what people say and how they feel
  • Responding appropriately to varied social situations
  • Causing others to feel understood

Even in today’s technology-dominated culture, a salesperson’s ability to relate to other people reigns supreme when it comes to successful sales performance. Plenty of people who are highly competent technically fail at their sales jobs because they can’t get along with people.

Think about your own salespeople and how well they exhibit each of these traits. Do you notice any patterns? Understanding what these four qualities are is an important step in helping salespeople build and sustain their own high achievement.

But knowing about them doesn’t necessary make someone successful, just like reading a book on flying won’t prepare you to pilot an airplane. Training is the first step on the path to growth, which is incremental and comes through application.

How will you develop and nurture these sales success factors in your team?



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