This is a guest post by Mike Monroe.
Ask anyone what makes a great salesperson, and you’ll probably hear about extroversion, charm, attention-seeking behavior, and other clichés. But if you ask someone who’s studied the subject, you might be amazed by the response.
Forget those worn-out stereotypes, and consider the following four qualities of great salespeople. Contrary to popular opinion, they can actually be learned:
The most common misconception is that extroverts who can talk about anything to anyone naturally make the best salespeople. The opposite assumption is made about introverts who don’t find small talk as easy. When Wharton School professor Adam Grant tested the theory, his findings, published in Psychological Science, proved that the best in sales are actually those in the middle.
Known as ambiverts, they’re a balance of extroverted and introverted personalities. All salespeople are taught to identify someone’s personality right away and adapt to it. If you’ve ever people-watched two chatty individuals or witnessed a conversation dominated by silence, then you’ll get why being chameleonlike gives ambiverts an advantage.
Optimism isn’t about being in a good mood all the time. It’s about trusting that things will turn out in your favor, even when you have no reason to believe it. It’s like a conspiracy theory for your own success—one proven to be a self-fulfilling prophecy for many of today’s most successful salespeople.
One of the most famous studies on optimism in sales was conducted by Martin Seligman on MetLife’s sales force and discussed in a post to HubSpot’s sales blog. Despite spending $30,000 on training for each salesperson, MetLife’s turnover rate was more than 80% after four years. After Seligman’s assessment revealed that optimistic salespeople sold 33% more insurance, the company started hiring for optimism. Turnover decreased dramatically, and the sales force is still thriving.
No matter how versatile and optimistic you are, sales still involves a lot of grinding and rejection. Having a strong short-term memory means remembering those rejections and staying optimistic despite them. That’s why, according to a Forbes article by psychiatrist Dale Archer, athletes and people with ADHD make great salespeople and entrepreneurs; they know how to celebrate or recover quickly and keep going.
Additionally, lifelong entrepreneur Robert Clay says in a Marketing Donut article that up to 80% of nonroutine sales don’t occur until after the first four rejections. However, 92% of salespeople give up or forget to follow up with prospects before asking a fifth time. That means the most tenacious 8% of the sales force closes 80% of the most lucrative sales.
The above qualities don’t mean much if you don’t have the grit to keep pushing. As I mentioned, you have to keep rejections in mind while maintaining the optimism that everything will work out. Sales is one of the most lucrative prfessions because the most successful salespeople simply don’t give up. Whether it’s passion or stubbornness, grit is one of the most important keys to success.
The fact that most prospects take multiple touches to close is why one study, discussed in a CNET article, suggests robots could be better at sales than people. Robotics company Conversica performed the study by contacting 548 companies in nine industries and asking for a human salesperson. The majority either never replied or gave up after one or two tries. But robotic sales systems kept pushing toward the sale.
The best thing about these four qualities is that you don’t have to master all four to be a stellar salesperson. Just lean into your strengths and focus on the combination of qualities that suit you best—and you’ll be on your way to closing more sales in no time.
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