I run into an interesting blog entry by Steve W. Martin where he lists seven personality traits of top salespeople. Martin has also published a book about sales psychology with a good empirical study of thousands of sales professionals so we can assume that he knows something about this topic.
As an entrepreneur I have concluded that one of the most important decisions and selections that one can make are the salespeople for your organization. Engineer led organizations have the temptation to focus on engineering talent while sales-driven organizations understand that with a good product, the growth will come with an effective sales team. Let view some of the characteristics that Martin has identified. 1. Modesty – a salesperson that can adjust his/her skills with target has a higher chance to be successful. This means that the sales person needs to be both modes and humble and not let the customer/prospect to feel inferior. Just think about this. Would you like to feel stupid when buying something? I wouldn’t. 2. Conscientiousness – eighty-five percent of top sales people had high levels of conscientiousness, whereby they had some sense of duty and being responsible. The ole saying “close the deal and leave the customer in the dust” does not work well if you want to be a good salesperson and achieve results. In this case I want you to think what this means. You put your career on the line when buying something and you expect the acquisition/purchase to work so you do not put yourself in a position where you have to explain yourself.
3. Achievement Orientation – Eighty-four percent of the top performers score high in the achievement orientation. They want to achieve goals and measure their performance. These people also take political orientation into consideration when selling by understanding the dynamics in the purchasing process. These people understand that performance is rewarded.
4. Curiosity –a top performer is curious and hungry for information and knowledge. Eighty-two percent of top performers scored high in curiosity levels. This also leads to these salespeople to be very close to the sales process and ask the right questions, even the difficult ones. In technology field, salespeople need to be continuously educated to be able to help the prospects to do the right selection. Salespeople should be seen as trusted advisors and this will create a long-term relationship with the customer with ample opportunities to upsell and cross sell other solutions. 5. Lack of Gregariousness – this was a surprising finding in the study where top performers averaged 30 percent lower in gregariousness. This means that top performers do not become too close to the client or become too friendly. In the software business we have always known that if a salesperson starts living the life of the prospect and defending the claims of the prospect, the deal will not be what it should be.
6. Lack of Discouragement – Less than 10 percent of top salespeople were experiencing sadness and high levels of discouragement. According to the studies, a high percentage of the top performers had some type of active participation in high school sports and are competitive. 7. Lack of Self-Consciousness – this is a measure of how easily a salesperson is embarrassed and with top sales performers this is very low. According to Martin, the byproduct of high level of self-consciousness is bashfulness and inhibition.
If you look at the list of characteristics that Martin has identified when analyzing top performers in sales and reflect this to your organization’s best salespeople: do you agree with Martin’s findings?
If you are in the process of building a cloud business, you might also want to make sure that you hire people that fit into the high pace sales cycle that are part of a SaaS sales business. Joel York explains well different SaaS sales models in his excellent blog Chaotic Flow.