The Number One attribute to look for in your salespeople

When you are hiring new salespeople do you look for people who are:

Confident?
Charming?
Persuasive?
Convincing?
Inspiring?

Stop!

You are looking for the wrong things. The best salesperson won’t immediately convince you of anything or bombard you with good arguments. They won’t charm you with smiles and compliments and a sparkling personality. You won’t be able to immediately identify why you feel like you want to follow their advice. You will feel positive about them and you won’t know why. You will realize afterwards that you ended up talking more about yourself than you ever have before. That person asked you questions, genuinely wanted to know more, and got you talking about yourself. You have been in the presence of today’s successful sales professional.

Sales has traditionally been an extroverts game. We are used to talkative, charming, funny, entertaining salespeople. Yet any interaction with this kind of salesperson frequently leaves us exasperated. Why? Because they haven’t shown any interest whatsoever in us! We feel ignored and rejected in the interaction. We don’t trust the salesperson, even though we may have liked them because they were funny and entertaining. That’s because trust is not earned by talking, or even by being liked. Trust is earned by listening.

The salespeople of today face a lot of challenges…the world is a more competitive place, customers can educate themselves about products and services and have many more to choose from. Yet there are some advantages as well. As we are bombarded with more and more choices, we actually want someone to help us decide what to do or buy. We want someone to save us time and make us feel like all options have been exhausted and we have ended up with the best possible outcome. What we need is an expert who we trust.

Today’s salespeople must be those experts. Becoming an expert in your subject matter is a topic for another discussion, and should be automatic. Here we are talking more about the personal characteristics of the salesperson. Part of what today’s salesperson needs to be able to do is take charge and make us feel like we can let go. As Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson explain in the Harvard Business Review article “Selling is not about Relationships” (September 30, 2011, https://hbr.org/2011/09/selling-is-not-about-relatio) the top salespeople in the world are actually “challengers” – salespeople who have a deep understanding of the client’s business and use that knowledge to take control of the conversation. They are assertive and confident, and they are able to explain to their client that they should change their behavior and why. These people are trusted, not only because they are experts in the material, but also because there are perceived to understand the client’s position and be concerned about the client’s welfare.

So how did they get to that point with the client?  By non-stop jabbering away? By endless funny storytelling? No. They got there by asking questions and then listening to the answers and thinking about the answers and asking more questions, in order to form a detailed knowledge of who we (the clients) are, and what makes us tick.

So when you are hiring your salespeople, instead of evaluating them based on what they say, why don’t you start paying attention to what happens when they stop talking?

Oh, and what’s that number one characteristic?

CURIOSITY.

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