Lead a Winning Sales Team With Counterintuitive Thinking Don't overlook the quiet confidence of introverts.

By Brendan Walsh

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There is no shortage of sales tips -- what to sell, when to sell, what to say, what not to say. However, like almost every other aspect of business, sales is constantly transforming as a result of new technology, and many "fail-proof" sales assumptions aren't necessarily valid.

As the way that we build and maintain relationships evolves, so should our approach to sales. This notion has motivated us at American Express to consistently evaluate our approach and run with solutions that may be counterintuitive to some. To unlock the true potential power of your sales team, I encourage you to also challenge traditional thinking. Following are a few areas to consider.

Related: 7 Ways Brilliant Entrepreneurs Stop Doubting Their Genius

Rethink the salesperson profile.

Age-old wisdom tells us that to succeed in sales, you must be outgoing and thrive in social situations. However, studies over the years have shown that the link between extroversion and sales performance is not as strong as we may think. For leaders, this requires us to rethink what qualities we look for in potential candidates and consider how diverse personalities may strengthen our overall sales approach.

For instance, introverts possess a number of qualities that can bring a great deal of value to a sales team. Their strong listening skills and preference for building long-lasting relationships can help build a foundation of trust with prospects and enhance existing customer relationships. Additionally, introverts are often deep, critical thinkers who tend to consider all possibilities in order to deliver on the best possible solution. So while the natural instinct may be to gravitate toward candidates with high energy and charisma, don't overlook the quiet confidence of introverts who can be a powerful force in the sales world.

Rethink growth avenues.

There are countless statistics that demonstrate the high cost of acquiring a new customer versus retaining an existing account. And yet, a recent study found that salespeople spend only 8 percent of their work time on current accounts -- less than 3.5 hours of a 40 hour work week.

Related: How, Even As an Introvert, I Still Learned to Close Sales

It's no secret that building personal relationships with customers is key to retention, but salespeople may underestimate just how far that can go. Accenture found that purchasing decisions are greatly impacted by personalization factors, and customers who are recognized and offered relevant recommendations are 75 percent more likely to buy from a company again. When salespeople and client managers truly get to know their customer's industry, business and their day-to-day needs, opportunities often abound to capture incremental revenue from existing customers by solving not only the most pressing challenges, but those that are boiling under the surface. Leaders should ensure they are considering all avenues for growth by striking the right balance between pursuing new leads and fostering ongoing relationships.

Rethink "no."

Salespeople hear the word "no" a lot. "No, we're not interested," or "No, that's not in our budget." It's a powerful statement that's most often spoken by prospects or customers, and on the sales side, our instinct is to do whatever is needed to turn it into a "yes."

Sometimes, however, it makes sense for salespeople to reclaim "no" and be selective about opportunities that come along. Not every prospect may be a fit, and not every price is worth negotiating if it undervalues the products and services being offered. Time is a precious resource, so spending time working with someone who is unlikely to do business could be better spent pursuing promising opportunities. There is no shame in turning someone away so long as you provide a fair rationale for why it's in their best interest. It's important for salespeople to remember it's not simply about closing a deal -- it's closing the right deal.

Related: Jason Hall on Why Every Client Will Doubt You (and What to Do About It)

At the end of the day, the key to leading a winning sales team is to be adaptable. Remember what works today may not necessarily work tomorrow, and customers' needs and preferences are subject to change at any moment. Commit to challenging your own assumptions, and those of your team, and you may surprise yourself with the results.

Wavy Line
Brendan Walsh

EVP and GM of Global Commercial Services at American Express

Brendan Walsh is EVP and GM of U.S. sales and account development for American Express’ Global Commercial Services (GCS) division. He is responsible for acquisition, growth and retention of small, middle market and large market companies in the U.S.

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