While you might not always know you’re speaking with a great salesperson, the bad ones are relatively easy to spot. They tell you things you know aren’t true and make promises they can’t keep. They pressure you to buy before they do anything to gain your trust—and they don’t seem to hear anything you say.
Short-Term Gains Vs. Long-Term Success
This isn’t to say that bad salespeople don’t make sales from time to time—they do, but those occasional wins are more than offset by the multitudes of leads they turn off, and by the fact that the consumers who do buy their products and services rarely make subsequent purchases. Great salespeople know how to listen to prospective customers, how to give them the facts they need to make informed decisions, and how to gains customers’ trust and loyalty for long-term relationships and sales.
Great Salespeople Are the Exception—Not the Rule
According to data from Hubspot, most sales professionals are not especially successful. Consider, for example, these revealing metrics:
- More than 2/3 of salespeople almost never make their quotas
- More than 50% of salespeople can’t close 40% of their sales opportunities
- Almost half of salespeople admit they don’t know what “customer pain” is
- About 50% of all salespeople don’t follow a sales playbook
So, What Makes a Great Salesperson?
Great salespeople—the ones who regularly buck these trends—make an effort to connect with prospects, to understand their pain, respond to their questions and concerns and help them solve their problems. Although every salesperson is different, and what they need to do to close sales varies from one industry to another, the best invoke strategies proven to make those connections, including the following 5:
- They strike when the iron is hot: great salespeople seem to know the optimal time to start talking sales, and that’s no coincidence. The best sellers know that trust is a prerequisite to making sales, and they work hard to establish that trust by providing prospects with valuable, relevant content they can use to make good buying decisions. They also analyze key data which enables them to prioritize their leads based on key demographic and behavioral data. Knowing which leads are the most sales-ready increases the number of sales they successfully close.
- They offer prospects things they want: those same analytical data tell the best salespeople which products and services prospective customers are interested in. For example, if a prospect has made multiple visits to product pages highlighting refrigerator options, it stands to reason they’re thinking about buying a refrigerator. If leads download content about inexpensive fitness equipment, great salespeople start the conversation on those grounds. Knowing what your customers want is the first step to selling them products need.
- They know people buy from people they trust: consumers, bombarded with TV and internet ads and hounded by annoying telemarketers, are more skeptical than they used to be. The best salespeople understand this and work hard to build trust before they talk sales. That trust begins by respecting a prospect’s time (as in, “Do you have a few minutes to talk?”), being straightforward in answering their questions and transparently addressing their concerns. People buy products and services from people they trust, and the best salespeople use this to boost their sales.
- They don’t make promises they can’t keep: when a salesperson begins a conversation with “absolutely free,” a giant red flag goes up for a lot of prospective buyers. After all, if you’re offering your products for free, how is your company making money? If a salesperson says, “I’m going to make you an offer I’ve never made before,” most consumers will think, “Why? You don’t even know me?” It might seem like a smart strategy to extend hyperbolic promises or shade the truth—it might even work on occasion, but over the long haul, it’s a strategy that hurts your company’s reputation and its brand.
- They listen more than they talk: a great sales pitch always focuses on the customer—never on the salesperson or the product. Great salespeople understand that every customer has real concerns and raises real objections, and that they need to listen carefully and respond meaningfully to those questions and concerns. They listen more than they talk, and rather than pushing back against those concerns, they thoughtfully acknowledge and address them.
The goal of a great salesperson isn’t to sell one product to one customer—it’s to establish protracted relationships with consumers who come back, again and again, to buy more products and services. As Entrepreneur notes (in what’s come to be known as the “80/20” rule), about 80% of sales on average come from about 20% of a business’s customer base. By being honest, establishing trust, knowing when it’s time to talk sales and addressing customer concerns, the best salespeople are able to build those long-term relationships and, in the process, enable the companies for which they work to thrive.