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Some Assembly Required

You don't get the perfect salesperson by throwing together whatever's handy. Lean in close, and we'll give you a peek at the manual.

Look! It's a man! It's a woman! No, it's Supersalesperson-that individual who leaps sales quotas with a single bound, stops customer complaints faster than a speeding bullet and is more powerful than 10 salespeople put together. Of Messianic stature, Supersalesperson is the deliverer of the capitalist's promised land and the paradigm against whom all are judged.

Alas, this superhero is but a fancy. Yet at rare moments we see a glimmer of Supersalesperson inside those who, by luck and pluck, possess a generous portion of the qualities we attribute to the fantastically great. They may flow, as does the sales pitch. We see them radiate from an employee's open eyes and in the head tilted toward us, listening ever so closely. But when all is said and done, the power of greatness comes not from sight, speech or attentiveness. Rather, it emanates from the mind and heart, giving the salesperson an insatiable appetite to learn. And it's this appetite that feeds the remaining characteristics, ultimately shaping success.

Mind Over Matter
Sales superiority starts in the mind. "The supersalesperson possesses a propensity for personal growth," says Rick Sapio, founder and CEO of Mutuals.com Inc., a New York City holdings company that sells mutual funds to investors. Sales superheroes hunger for knowledge about themselves, their customers and their products-as well as the products and services of competitors, adds Sapio, a former broker.

"They're achievement-oriented," agrees Sean Magennis, founder and CEO of Thomas International USA Inc., a sales and marketing consulting company in Dallas. Every sale has a learning objective-determining what was done well or poorly." Failure becomes an opportunity to learn. Instead of blocking failure, supersalespeople examine it objectively, thereby inhibiting the spiral of self-doubt that many salespeople fall into. And, says Magennis, "A supersalesperson reads, takes courses, keeps a journal, writes down professional goals and listens to tapes of sales calls. He or she mimics top performers and develops a relationship with a mentor."

Supersalespeople are competitive, and competitive people yearn to better themselves to improve the quality of their work. Their knowledge of the process exceeds that of any sales consultant, adds Tim Riley, founder and CEO of Door to Door Storage Inc., who launched his Seattle-based storage business by selling storage space to businesses and individuals throughout the West Coast.

"They understand the business, its products and the business's potential products," agrees Daniel Turner, founder and president of Turner Consulting Group Inc., a sales and marketing consulting firm in Washington, DC. "The right [creative] side of the brain helps the salesperson figure out how to describe the business so the client understands it. The left [analytical] side helps the salesperson pitch the business so the sale makes sense monetarily."

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This article was originally published in the August 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Some Assembly Required.

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