"Is greatness born -- or is it made?" It's an age-old question, but in my view, greatness can be made -- especially in sales. While sales skills can be taught, the learning curve is shorter for candidates with two key character traits: empathy and drive.
The best salespeople believe they are fulfilling need; they aren't just pushing a product. They have an uncanny ability to identify a prospect's needs by asking probing questions, connecting emotionally with the prospect while they explain how their products or services can uniquely solve the prospect's problem.
Sales professionals that ask strong questions, and then listen intently to the answers, have mastered the art of empathy. An empathetic sales professional shows customers that he cares and understands, connecting with the prospect emotionally by the end of a call.
The drive to succeed is equally important. Driven sales professionals have no fear of rejection, they won't hesitate to ask for the business, and they are persistent at overcoming a prospect's hesitancy to buy. They are self-motivated to attain financial targets.
Without empathy, though, having sales professionals that are too driven can result in lost customers and prospects that walk away feeling pushed toward a product that may not have actually solved their problems.
While drive and empathy are more difficult to learn, most of the other important sales skills are easy to teach. If you can find a candidate, however, who has already mastered these five essential, yet trainable, sales skills, you should be sure to catch that talent while you can.
Rapport Building -- The ability to quickly connect with strangers is an undeniable asset. While many salespeople do it naturally, others can be trained on building rapport.
Organization and Follow-Through -- Great sales professionals have exceptional organizational and follow-through skills that let them manage a territory efficiently.
Preparation -- Great sales people avoid "winging it." Instead, they prepare before making each sales call, familiarizing themselves with their prospect ahead of time. Preparation allows them to map out their game plan in advance.
Effective Communication -- Don't be surprised if your best sales professionals seem quiet when they're conducting sales calls. Instead of talking a mile a minute, they concentrate on what the prospect is saying, catching important buying cues and uncovering a need they can solve. They ask thoughtful follow-up questions, and they are respectful of other opinions. They are also likely to communicate well in writing.
Discipline -- The best sales professionals approach selling with discipline, setting a schedule that they can commit to every day. Despite the freedom that comes with a sales job, they have figured out how to stay focused so they can maximize their results.
If your sales team could stand to strengthen these skills, make sure that you provide the training and one-on-one coaching they need. Don't look at it as an extra cost; consider it a smart investment -- one that opens up the opportunity of a limitless return.
Lori Turner-Wilson can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.