Succeeding in Sales

11 Core Competencies for Sales People

Not everyone is cut out for a career, or even an assignment in sales.

Additionally, it is often difficult for people to make the switch from “Customer Service Officer,” a role with an emphasis on serving the customer, to that of “Customer Sales Representative” and a need to be a professional sales person.

However, in today’s world, where customers have numerous choices of service and product providers, an organization without a sales culture featuring a core of well-trained, highly motivated sales professionals, is not going to be as successful as it would with these two ingredients.

Selling is a people business. So what does it take to be successful in selling?

A partial, and admittedly by no means complete, list of personal criteria for succeeding in selling includes:

Customer Focus and Concern ─ a successful sales person will build relationships based on trust, honesty, integrity, and concern for his customers. They have to be able to understand, from your customer’s perspective, the needs, wants, and desires of each individual customer. What are your customers’ key needs, wants, and desires and how can your organization satisfy these cost efficiently, or through adding value, or both?

Loyalty to the Needs of the Customer ─ having the ability to be an internal advocate and fighter for the customer, and being able to lead (directly or indirectly) internal teams and processes toward the absolute satisfaction of your customers.

Accepting and Learning from Rejection ─ everyone in sales experiences rejection. A sales person cannot take rejection personally, but must use each instance as a learning experience. Those who allow sales rejections to upset them personally and emotionally are likely to carry these emotions into their personal lives. An unhappy or emotionally distraught person is unlikely to find success in a sales career.

Understanding the Value of Selling ─ customers today cannot be expected to know all there is about your products. When they need more information, they turn to your sales forces to help educate them. This is why consultative selling approaches, rather than the old fashioned hard sell approaches, are working best in so many industries. Selling is a value-added process, when it is done right. Each sales person needs to be a critical component in this value adding job function.

Being a Constant Student ─ successful sales people are not born, they are well trained and tend to be constant learners. A desire to constantly upgrade one’s skills is a key criteria for success, resulting in a self-propelled drive to read, listen to audio recordings, or watch DVDs, from successful sales people and others about factors that impact their selling skills and personal self motivation.

Believing in themselves, your products and your services ─ customers can easily tell when a sales person does not fully believe in the products and services they are selling. Success requires a complete belief in what you are selling, including full confidence and belief in one’s own consultative selling ability.

Commitment ─ at a minimum, a three-level commitment is required:

a) A commitment to continuing trying, no matter what the odds or what one’s recent experiences have been.

b) A commitment to focus on the needs of the customer, not only on the needs of one’s own organization.

c) A commitment to one’s self to constantly upgrade skills and to constantly monitor one’s own motivation requirements.

Goal Setter ─ the old adage that “what gets measured gets accomplished” is very true in sales. A successful sales person will set his/her own stretch goals, ones that focus on the selling process (number of attempts/calls, hours spent upgrading skills, etc.) as well as on outcomes (sales, success ratios, etc.).

Honesty and Trustworthiness ─ one cannot build a long-term career in sales without being fully honest and trusted. As in point number one above, client relationships must be built on honesty, integrity, trust, and a true concern for one’s customers. After all, customers prefer to purchase from those they can trust.

Keeping Outgoing Personality Under Control ─ many people think they will be good at selling because they have an outgoing personality and they enjoy interacting with people. While it is true that an extrovert has many tendencies and qualities of a good sales person, it is also important to remember that one of the most critical selling skills is that of listening. An outgoing personality that asks interesting questions is far more likely to be successful in sales than a person who only likes to talk about themselves and/or their products and services.

Enthusiasm ─ last, but certainly not least, is to have positive enthusiasm for one’s job, products, company, and even life in general. Positive and enthusiastic people are so much more pleasant to deal with that we all find ourselves buying from them just because the sales/buying experience has been so enjoyable.

There are many more personal criteria required for being successful in sales, but this list is a good start. And without these 11 criteria as one’s core personal competencies, all other personal attributes will not lead to the kind of success one is capable of achieving.


KEY POINT: successful sales people are well trained and are constantly learning how to upgrade their skills.

TAKING ACTION:  what can you do on a regular basis to upgrade your selling skills?

Are you setting sales goals strictly on final outcomes (i.e. sales targets) or do you also set goals for each step of the sales process?

Do you have a regular process for reviewing rejection, so that each sales rejection becomes a learning experience?

Where can the selling process (which is the buying process from the customer’s perspective) add value to the customer? Are you placing enough emphasis and resources in this area?

This article is excerpted from the book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.


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