Myths abound about sales and salesperson, just like the above question. And if you have a Sales Manager who uses the said question as a hook to find good sales people, then it can be only said to be sheer act of laziness. Hopefully he will be rewarded with suitable answers – you do not even have to be smart to figure it out. Just run the query on Google and presto you can look smart even if you are not.
Arthur Miller nailed the typical stereotype of a salesman in his play, ‘Death of a Salesman’- unfortunately the myth of people selling ice to Eskimos still persist as people find comfort in believing in fairy tales.
Sales is a demanding and exciting job provided you have the right skills, knowledge and attitude for the job. It is extremely rewarding for the successful salespeople and can finance a great lifestyle without much trouble.
But one just cannot stereotype successful sales people to be have certain personalities like being an extrovert and loving to attract people’s attention. Interpersonal skills are important – as they are in most of the jobs – but they alone do not decide the success of a person.
A few factors that I have noticed to give an edge to skilled salespeople are –
The ability to listen – Again this goes against the popular stereotype wherein the salesperson is supposed to be able to talk you off your feet. Listening to the customer is more useful – he can better understand the unstated wants of the customer. It helps him gather intelligence about what competitors are offering his target customers. It enables him to meaningfully negotiate with his own superiors in sweetening the deal.
The ability to network – This is well understood by even the new rookie. You develop a network of contacts, customers and even competitors. Favours are demanded and given. The value of the network increases with time and your ability to manage its demands. A constant churn is always on to make sure you stay relevant to your audience.
The ability to manage expectations – This is the most important pain area that you need to manage as the expectations of the customer vis-à-vis the ability of the delivery of your organization is locked in a never-ending spiral of improvements. You need to manage all the stakeholders well to deliver steady performance.
The ability to stay stoic – No one gets rejected every day like a salesman on the job. Eventually they learn to develop a coping mechanism if one is in for the long haul. Sales is like running a marathon and not a quick 100 meter sprint. The ability to manage your emotions will pay dividends in the long run. A cardinal rule for any salesperson, ‘Leave for your office in the morning by emptying your ego at home and filling your pockets with tons of patience.’
I hope the job does not sound far too intimidating – for many people hooked on to it, they just cannot do anything else. They see no sense in being cooped up in cubicles and doing a ‘9-to-5’ routine job. Here you get to be out of office and meet new people everyday. It just provides the right zing to your life.