During or after coaching or consulting engagements, my clients often ask, “Do you think she (or he) can sell for us?”
Similarly, friends, colleagues, or former SalesReformSchool students often ask me whether they (or lately, their kids) should pursue a particular sales position.
When I think about it, I tend to use the same four criteria for both answers.
- Requisite Intelligence
Let’s take these one at a time and, please permit me to paraphrase the dictionary and thesaurus.
A strong and barely controllable emotion; a state or outburst of strong emotion; an intense desire or enthusiasm for something; a thing arousing enthusiasm.
When she talks about your offerings or how your offerings help your customers, does she exude a high amount of emotion or enthusiasm? If you are not sure, ask her to explain why a prospect should buy your stuff. Is she almost insulted that you would even ask? Can you feel any excitement in her explanation?
Without passion, actions suffer. Without enthusiasm, I would not expect success.
The word “Intelligence” originates from the Latin word intelligere – to understand. For our purposes, though, I would not require a sky-high IQ or a broad understanding of diverse subject matter for every sales position. Rather, I want to be convinced that the seller is intelligent enough to understand the offerings at hand and that he can explain how customers use them to improve. Do they have enough intellectual firepower to learn it and teach it to others? If your offerings are not that complex, then you don’t need a rocket scientist. If you are actually selling rocketry, then you may need a genius. Figure that out. If you are at all unsure, consider an assessment.
This is what goes through the minds of all successful sellers:
“Personally and professionally, LOSING SUCKS! I hate it, especially if I feel I (we) should have won. Everyone who knows me, knows I feel this way. I get over it, but when a loss hits, I feel it in my stomach and my head. Avoiding this feeling is what drives me to prepare for sales calls, to make sure I write good conversation recaps on time, overcome objections, and at the appropriate moment ask for the business to close a deal. I totally enjoy the self-satisfaction and fruits of winning. I’ve always sought out variable compensation, because I want to win and be compensated for it.”
So, with the potential seller… Can you tell to what degree they are competitive? If you are not sure, where in their resume or personal life have they shown a willingness to put in the hard work to ratchet up the probability of success and avoid defeat?
Merriam-Webster lists the following words (among others) related to fearlessness:
grit, gumption, mettle, pluck, spunk, determination, perseverance, resolution, tenacity, audacity, boldness, cojones [slang]
And then lists near antonyms of fearlessness:
cold feet, faintheartedness, fearfulness, mousiness, timidity, timorousness, feebleness, softness, weakness, impotence, ineffectualness, hesitation, indecision, indecisiveness, irresolution
Does more of the former or latter list come to mind when describing the potential seller? How have they exhibited fearlessness personally or professionally? Buyers can be brusque or rude. How will he or she handle it? All sellers face rejection at some point. Will she shrink away afraid to move on to the next prospect? Will he or she lose confidence when rejected? Or like Scarlett O’Hara will tomorrow be another day?
Certainly, a lot more goes into being successful at sales than just these four traits. I firmly believe, however, that everything else can be taught. What can’t be taught? Passion, Intelligence, Competitiveness, and Fearlessness.
SalesReformSchool: Food for Thought
My friend and colleague David Taylor-Klaus introduced me to a wonderful little book:
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz. This easily digestible and somewhat spiritual book sets out a code for living an unburdened and joyful life. I can quibble around the edges, but I agree that if you strive to live by the four agreements you’ll get closer to being the best and happiest you.
Be impeccable with your word.
Don’t take anything personally.
Don’t make assumptions.
Always do your best.
I’ve thought about applying the four agreements to sales. Maybe, a future blog post?
Have you seen the “In the Elevator with” videos by Joanna Stern, WSJ Personal Technology columnist? A bit whimsical, a bit educational and a lot of fun. Here, I googled them for you. Enjoy!