What Qualities Make an Amazing Salesperson?
If you’re a salesperson that came up in the last 30 years, there’s a good chance you’ve heard that old Glengarry Glen Ross scene quoted at least once, whether by colleagues, bosses or even friends in other industries. “Always be closing” is the mantra of the motivational salesman (played with intense bravado by a young Alec Baldwin), as he lectures the other salesmen on what it takes to make it in the industry – the tenacity, the cutthroat ambition. But are these qualities really what make an amazing salesperson in the 21st Century? Is “always be closing” really an applicable sales mantra anymore?
Well, the short answer is no. The longer answer is that times have changed, with a greater shift toward customer empowerment (a good thing), and salespeople need to display a wider range of positive qualities in order to attract and maintain valuable customers. You don’t need a salesperson who is simply bullish enough to close a few sales; you need someone who is also emotionally attuned to customer needs, curious about the industry, hardworking, and with enough relevant knowledge of what they’re selling to be an expert. Let’s look at those qualities a little closer.
When hiring a salesperson, aim for someone with a relevant background, someone who intimately understands the goods and/or services being sold and who has some experience selling them. You might think this is near impossible, but if you work with a sales recruitment agency (check out Salestalentagency.com for a great example in Canada) it’s a viable demand. Since a sales recruitment agency will pull candidates from a large database, and choose them according to a matrix of various relevant skills, they can match you with a relevant, motivated salesperson.
As mentioned, “bullish” is no longer a great look for a salesperson. You want someone, instead, that is affable with customers, someone who listens to the customer’s needs and is able to empathize accordingly. With the amount of competition you have out there, your salespeople need to set themselves apart – at least in part – with their personality and emotional intelligence.
This is a quality that is important to most industries and positions. It’s also one that’s famously difficult to interview for. When hiring a salesperson, always follow up with their references to determine their work ethic. Once hired, keep a close eye on their productivity and performance.
A salesperson who is content doing the bare minimum to make a sale will, given time, fail to make sales. There needs to be a baseline of curiosity there, a willingness to dig deeper on customers, finding out what pleases them, what frustrates them, and where there is room for improvement in the sales relationship. Instead of “always be closing”, perhaps a more apt “ABCs” would be “always be curious”.
Sales as an industry has changed in the last 30 years, as have the qualities that make a great salesperson. Whether you’re looking to hire an amazing salesperson, or mentor an existing one, look to these qualities as exemplary of what the modern sales department needs.