The next 8 qualities of a great sales professional.

Last month in Part 1, we explored the first eight qualities of being a sales superstar: commitment; a results orientation; flexibility; passion;; goals; monitoring progress; and "empowering"yourself.

Here are eight more:

9. Breakthrough thinking. Marcel Proust once said, "The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands, but in seeing with new eyes." Therefore, you have to begin to explore markets, products and people not only for what they are but for what they can become. You know there are no parameters, no rules, and no boundaries on your success -- unless you place them there. You also know that when pushing past your own boundaries, it's not trespassing!

Joel Becker, chairman and CEO of Torrington Supply (Waterbury, Conn.), believes that what customers value most from sales achievers is "their understanding of the customer's business and ability to turn problems into opportunities."

Tim Arenberg, president of Columbia Pipe & Supply (Chicago) adds, "Company leaders shouldn't reward and compensate the status quo."

10. Integrity. Integrity is based upon truth. Oscar Wilde said, "Truth is never pure, and rarely simple." Truth indeed may not be simple, but the complexities of deceit and situational ethics are monumental. Remember, the advantage of truth is that it doesn't require a good memory!

Without integrity in the business-development process, there's no need to even market, sell, negotiate or serve. Your word represents your credibility, reputation and character. Integrity must be built into everything you do. Its impact is powerful. When you are an integrity-based individual, you possess a special power, an aura of influence.

As an ethical sales professional, you may be perceived as unique. Your integrity base gives you a profound advantage over your competition. Your unwavering and unqualified commitment to integrity has a dramatic impact on your bottom line. You are no longer thought of as a commodity salesperson but instead as a value-driven pro. Your prospects and customers believe in you. They trust you. And they buy from you, again and again.

Earle Cohen, president and CEO of Kelly Pipe (Santa Fe Springs, Calif.) says: "Integrity creates customer comfort. Honesty is paramount."

11. Persistence. A buyer who is manipulated is likely not to buy; to buy and later reject your product; or, under either circumstance, tell countless others about the conniving salesperson he dealt with.

Buyers are turned off by hard-sell tactics. However, they seldom mind a polite and positive approach to persuasion and persistence. You must acknowledge that "no" may simply mean "not yet." A client of mine once exclaimed, "The only time that I want my salespeople to stop being persistent with a prospect or a customer is when one of 'em dies!"

Persistence requires focus and attention. Ernie Coutermarsh, vice president/industrial sales for F.W. Webb, says: "It's easy to get victimized if you're not paying attention. And if you stumble, you must make a heroic recovery."

12. Relationship power. To truly maximize your relationships, two key elements of "relationship power" must exist: your "little r" and your "Big R." The little r focuses on your ability to get along. It's your inherent nature to be warm, caring and compassionate. In Yiddish, the word for little r is mensch. And a mensch is simply a good person!

People like to do business with people they like. However, little r alone is not enough to peak your profits. You also need to optimize your Big R, which focuses on your ability to deliver results! One without the other only assures short-term success.

13. Listening. To be a top sales achiever, great listening skills are required. You must:

  • Hold your judgments until the speaker is done;
  • Look for the benefits of good listening (what can you learn?);
  • Identify the objective(s) of the conversation;
  • Use more you, your and yours than I, me and my;
  • Use summaries for confirmation or modification;
  • Focus on all aspects of the communication such as body language, word choice and intonation;
  • Don't interrupt or argue; and
  • Pretend it's your responsibility to repeat the speaker's message tomorrow at a national press conference.

Gary Cartright, president of Piping & Equipment (Houston) says: "Listening lets you understand what a customer says, but most important, what they mean. You leave your world and enter the customer's world."

14. Born or trained. "What a smooth talker!" "She's got the gift of gab!" Or, "He's a born salesman!" How many times have you heard remarks such as these? But to the best of my knowledge, salespeople are never born! I have several friends who are obstetricians, and they assure me they have never hoisted a newborn high into the air and announced to the parents, "Congratulations, you've just given birth ... to a salesperson!"

Successful salespeople are nurtured, developed and trained. As a winning sales pro, you must listen well, trust your gut instincts, act decisively and have a thirst for new knowledge.

You know that your training or education is not a quick injection of "information absorption." Instead, it's an evolutionary process of "behavior modification." You must be immersed in your personal and professional development. Read books. Watch videos. Listen to tapes. Attend seminars. Every industry leader whom I spoke with acknowledges the significance and value of continuing education and lifelong learning. They know that class is always in session!

15. Ask great questions. All too often, salespeople assume that their success is dependent upon their ability to master their pitch, spiel or presentation. It's not! Of course, that's a major part of the business-development process, but in the long run, your probing skills help you rise to new levels of success and profitability.

Questions enable you to discover what problems your customer or prospect has to solve, what needs he'd like to fill and what dreams he'd like to realize. This strategy gives you tremendous insight into customer preferences, sense of commitment, budget, expectations and objectives.

You should create a list of potential probing or need-development questions. And, you can even organize them by key categories: business history or trends, marketing and sales, competition, operations, technology, physical facilities, management, or personal dreams and goals.

To best familiarize yourself with your probing questions, I strongly suggest that you write them down! Pale ink is better than a faded memory! You may even want to record your questions on cassette, so when you drive to appointments, run errands or work out, you are continually programming yourself for success.

16. Fun. As a successful sales pro, you'll experience incredible highs. You'll be at the top of your ride. Building momentum. Gaining speed. Soaring toward an infinite sky.

Enjoy the journey. Have fun!

Brave new world

Selling has somehow lost the simplicity that Arthur Miller conveys in his play, "Death of a Salesman." The simplicity lies in Willy Loman's perception that a lead, a sales call and a slap on the back lands new business.

Today, a salesperson can no longer simply show up, work his territory and depend upon friends for an order.

Selling has evolved into an art as well as a science. It's a new world that Willy Loman would never recognize.