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Be All You Can Be

What can you learn from the world's best salespeople?
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the August 2008 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Ted Williams, one of baseball's greatest hitters, once said, "Show me 10 great hitters, and I'll show you 10 different styles." I say show me 10 great salespeople, and I'll show you 10 different styles.

What makes someone great is that he or she stays true to his or her unique and natural style, whether it's baseball or selling. But underneath are fundamental and common traits that separate average performers from great ones. Here are some areas in which they differ from the rest:

. Building relationships : Average salespeople never get a chance to ask important questions and find out a customer's pain points. They're too busy pitching and presenting, either too much or to the wrong people. Average performers think there's a trick to being a great salesperson and that they have to become someone they're not to impress people. They might have good qualities, such as high energy or enthusiasm, but they never really connect with prospects.

Top performers, meanwhile, know how to walk in a customer's shoes by asking questions, listening and building trust. They have a skill for making each customer feel important and are seen as sincere because they love what they do. Top sellers genuinely care for their customers and understand that people buy from those they like, trust and respect. Top sellers know that if you're comfortable in your own skin, customers will like you for who you are. If you try to be a salesperson, you'll fail.

. Dealing with objections, obstacles and change: Average salespeople think they can use special techniques to manipulate the prospect and deal with any objections or obstacles. They're afraid of change and see it as a problem that creates stress.

Top sales achievers, meanwhile, welcome change; to them, it's exciting, refreshing and stimulating. They're focused and tenacious when it comes to problems and challenges. In fact, they see any problem as simply an opportunity to uncover solutions. They also know when to let go and move on. Sometimes walking away from certain people is what contributes to your success the most. Or maybe getting burned by one prospect gives you lessons for a lifetime and helps you move through other sales cycles much smoother. Average sales reps don't pick up on this and spend too much time with unqualified prospects. This actually increases their chances of problems, objections and obstacles.

. Attitude: The average salesperson has a good attitude, but it's always based on how things are going. When they sell well, their attitude is great, but when things go wrong, so does their attitude. I'm not saying top performers always smile--but they do realize that their attitude is the single most important factor that brought them success in the first place. They have a core belief about their business and keep their confidence strong by controlling the environment they live in. Learning constantly and surrounding yourself with mentors will keep you sharp and focused.

Top performers invest in themselves and their profession. The great ones have libraries valued at thousands of dollars. They also know that in the profession of selling, you're going to hear a lot of nos. While the average salesperson will quit after one or two nos, the top reps are motivated by them. Their attitude about the situation doesn't allow them to hear the word no. They just think the prospect is asking for more reasons to say yes. In many situations, no makes me go--and if your attitude isn't strong and your belief isn't there, you're sunk before you've even started.

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