This chapter helps you identify your selling style and discover your Me Brand. It also helps you identify the positive selling habits and the bad habits you need to work on. Finally, it teaches you the best psychological frame of mind you need to be in to sell successfully.
Six Selling Styles—Which Is Yours?
As easy as it looks, there is more to selling than you think. It is very important to know the -type of salesperson you are. Unfortunately, this will not become apparent for several years into your sales career. If you sell outside your primary selling style regularly, you are in danger of becoming unsuccessful. Once you know your style, you’re likely to seek out sales positions that take advantage of your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. Different personalities will have different selling styles. In what follows, I have outlined what I believe are the five common selling styles.
- Aggressive selling: This is one of those styles where the sales rep stays highly focused and the only intention is to sell and walk out with the order. The salesperson with such a sales method indulges in a hard-driving selling style; he or she does not believe in the so-called “sales cycle process” but tries to get the job done in one shot. A clear example of this style is car sales.
- Relationship builder: The relationship-building selling style is widely regarded as the most successful of all selling styles globally. However, this is in contrast to some overseas research. The sales person here indulges in a type of method where they adjust well to any kind of selling situation (chameleon personality). It does not matter to them whether the prospect is in line to become a buyer or not.
- Need-oriented selling and challenger style: This is the kind of selling style where you need to think quickly and adapt. The salesperson needs to be highly tactful and at the same time be able to ask questions aimed at finding out what the customer needs. In simple terms, this selling style is about learning more about the client’s existing needs rather than about creating new ones.
- Product-oriented selling: With product-oriented selling style, the sales rep is more inclined toward explaining fully the features and benefits of the product to the prospect. This style includes a lot of product demo until the prospect is fully convinced of the benefits. But there is a danger of overloading the prospect with information.
- Competition-oriented and persistent selling: The competition-oriented salesperson is very persistent in trying to persuade a potential customer. Overcoming objections by never taking a no for an answer or not knowing when to back off (as with No 1), they will do everything possible to close a deal, resulting in direct and interpersonal influence.
- Be a chameleon seller: The best salespeople vary their selling style according to the customer and the situation. Although questioning and listening, asking for the order, and product knowledge are all important, what is more important is knowing when to use each of these skills and techniques. That is what I mean by selling style flexibility. This style takes a little of each of six styles and uses it according to the circumstances.
In summary, there’s no single best sales approach. Your personality and background ethnicity will determine the type of sales technique that is most effective for you. Even if you have a methodology that works well, it’s a good idea to try a different approach now and then. Trying new methods keeps you out of a rut, and you may be surprised how well a new sales approach works for you. In fact, many salespeople do best by using a combination of approaches.
If you are still confused about your selling style, then try this simple test:
- Are you a confident or outgoing personality, type A or type B?
- Are you driven or laidback?
- Do you believe in your product or service or not that interested?
- What is your style out of the six listed above, or are some morphed together?
- Are you driven to see as many new prospects or not?
- Are you afraid of prospecting; does this scare you too much?
- Do you constantly call on your favorite customers and avoid difficult clients?
- Do your see your customers as friends or opportunities for sales?
- When doing cold calls or planned sales calls, do you get excited?
- Can you identify each style in your sales team?
- Are you willing to try different styles, and what are they?
- Can you flip between several sales styles?
If you are unable to answer many of the foregoing questions about your sales style, you need assistance. In this case, ask your mentor or sales manager you work with in the field to tell you how close you are to the six styles and to identify how they can assist you in style improvement. However, if you are confused and unable to select a specific style, ask another seller that knows you.
My “Me Brand”
Over your career, you will get to be known by many customers, and you, as a seller, will develop a Me Brand, which is independent of your company and products. This Me Brand follows you from job to job, given that you stay in the one-industry domain.
Are Selling Styles Different in Varying Industries?
Yes; however, I fully believe the industry you sell in tends to shape a particular style. An example of a particular style is selling neonatal products to neonatal nursing staff. It requires a quiet, understanding, and specific sales style. Selling power tools to shops, on the other hand, may require a very different style.
Subsections of these six personality styles are shown further:
- The instant buddy: People feel better about buying from someone they like. Salespeople who use the buddy approach are warm and friendly, ask questions, and show interest in their prospects. They try to connect on an emotional level with each prospective customer, in a manner that somewhat resembles the relationship style.
- The guru and ultimate expert: Salespeople who prefer a more logical and less emotional approach set themselves the task of becoming experts in anything and everything related to their specific industry. They position themselves as problem-solvers, able to answer any question and tackle any issue that the prospect lays before them.
- The consultant: This approach combines the “guru” and “buddy” approaches. The salesperson who elects to use the consultant approach presents themselves as an expert who has the customer’s best interests in mind. They know all about the company’s products, and by asking a prospect a few questions, they can match them with the best product for their needs.
- The networker: Networking can be a big help for any salesperson. The dedicated networker takes it to the next level, setting up and maintaining a web of friends, coworkers, salespeople from other companies, customers, and former customers, and anyone else he/she meets. A strong enough network will create an ongoing flow of warm leads that can provide most or even all of the salesperson’s needs. It also supports your Me Brand awareness. The networker approach is practiced by realtor professionals as a primary business driver. An example of this is Real-estate sales.
- The hard-dogged seller: Best described as “scare the prospect into buying,” the hard sell approach is what gives salespeople a bad reputation. Hard selling involves getting someone to buy a product even though he or she doesn’t want or need it. Relying on methods ranging from bullying (“Buy this now, or you’ll feel stupid tomorrow”) to manipulation (“If you don’t buy from me, I’ll lose my job”) to outright deception, this substyle appears to be a sad story if one has to operate as such.
- Pushing the bruise: Sadly, there are still salespeople who use this type of sales strategy, even though it results in a customer who never buys again and, sooner or later, a bad reputation for the company as a whole. A selling example that is taught by several registered training organizations (RTOs) and is part of the selling “probing stage” and uses the term pushing the bruise so the customer visualizes what the future would be if they don’t buy. In all seriousness, customers know what will be if they don’t buy.
After finding out the customer’s needs, the needs payoff question is posed:
So, if you are not able to purchase this new plastic molding machine by next month, what implications will show up; will you have to cut back on new projects?
In other words, drawing out concern, fear, and other emotions to move the customer faster to purchase. I have used this technique but only in selective situations. Used in the wrong situation, the customer becomes suspicious of the salesperson’s motive. We call this type of selling “needs payoff sales,” and it is used by a global education company as a cornerstone probing technique. I have no objection to using this technique, but if it goes wrong, you are set back tremendously.1
Seven Other Ways to Look at Selling Styles
There is more to selling than you think. These interesting styles are more product- and customer-related styles.
- Competition-oriented selling: The competition-oriented salesperson tends to be pushy and is continually referring and comparing his or product with an immediate competitor’s, without being prompted. It shows the salesperson is acutely aware of the competition and not confident about selling his or her own product confidently. Do not follow this style at all; it is prompted when a competitor has the upper hand in the market and the seller is worried about their competition getting ahead.
- Image-oriented selling: These kinds of professionals ooze credibility and stand out from the crowd. The salesperson sells himself or herself first and the product last. It is a twisted style that does not demonstrate product knowledge and what the needs of the customer are. Personal image becomes paramount to the sale; again, I do not recommend this style.
- Need-oriented selling: This salesperson is highly tactful and quick to ask relevant questions to discover and understand the customer’s needs. It makes a good start provided it begins with background planning to reduce the incessant pressure of questioning on the customer. Probing is part of the seven steps of the sale, but keep it short as the customer will become aggravated if you practice this technique too much. Customers will only answer so many probing questions then they will turn off.
- Product-oriented selling: The sales person knows all the features and benefits of a product or service. Again, this style is OK, but some salespeople overload the customer with their incredible knowledge of everything. Customer overload can lead to rejection of you and your company. Make it reflective of the customer needs only. The sales person wants to impress their customer with the ever-ending knowledge, again boring.
- Rapport-oriented selling: Building and developing long-term relationships is the key characteristic of this type of sales person. We call this third-party selling as it involves saying, “My last customer also uses product X and is happy.” If you use rapport selling, make sure you have permission and that the customer you are referring to is a happy customer; try to see the situation from the customer’s perspective.
- Service-oriented selling: Explains the terms of the contract and leaves this as the feature and benefit all up. This technique disregards customer needs and wants. It should be part of the sales offering, not the whole selling pitch.
- Pain-in-the-Butt seller: This type of seller is more common than you think and adopts many of the preceding traits, mixing them together to become the most annoying person you have met. Customer’s reaction to such persons is not to see them again.
Companies usually use selling style profile analysis tools for career development on an individual basis, for development of sales teams, or for an understanding of sales manager preferences in relation to their role in the company. Whatever your style, remember some of your natural selling styles you’re born with; build on those, but don’t change your natural personality as this is your first and most important style.
If I Don’t Have a Selling Style, How Come I Am Selling Well?
First, if you are selling well, you should be able to assess your personal sales style. Most good salespeople say that if they are selling well, they don’t need to change anything—just steady as she goes.
Do some homework and come up with a style you are comfortable with. Every sales person has a style or combination of styles. It is important to identify which style is yours. Once you identify a style or a combination of several, try to analyze these, and ask your coach or mentor to discuss them with you one-on-one. If you are doing well in sales, this is fantastic; look at change only for the better and take it bit by bit. There is always room for personal improvement, so embrace this concept.
Why Do I Need a Specific Sales Style?
First, the sales style you have is influenced by your upbringing, interpersonal skills, schooling and education, and your ability to understand how we behave in all situations. Other key influences are the amount of study you put into how customers behave and why. This basic understanding is imperative to formulate your style. Some salespeople just “let it happen.” Some others have to work hard on this skill. Either way, you must understand why you do things the way you do them.
A customer can easily tell an unskilled sales person by his or her lack of ability to answer key product questions or understand their needs, habit of not responding to tasks replies, and tendency to avoid the customer when things get too intense.
My Own Style
I have a consultative style. However, I have developed several other skills. Without thinking about this too much, I am always keen to know customer needs first. Once I have the customer’s attention, I demonstrate my degree of knowledge to assist them. In sum, I go in as a consultant and, to a degree, as a networker, finishing up with the ability to come back again and be welcomed. Determination and perseverance, I am told, is my best quality.
Importance of Determination in Sales
I cannot emphasize this enough: Determination is probably the most important quality for all salespeople to acquire. I am specifically talking about your inner determination. When you are new and learning the craft, one major quality that will carry you through is the sheer determination to succeed. If, however, you are not this determined person, realizing this shortcoming will help you understand why perhaps you are not getting all the sales you could.
What Psychological Frame of Mind Should I Have for Professional Sales?
It is no secret that sales managers want to see their sales team “on song,” “at it hard,” “willing to go the extra mile,” “bring home the bacon,” and “get the business” and many other phrases they like to throw at you.2
Psychologists have many answers for not being “on song” and offer many strategies and treatments for low-performing behavior, even to the point of prescribing pills. If you find your job is uninteresting, lacks challenge, or does not fulfill any of your professional sales needs and interests, perhaps you are in the wrong position. However, if you are the opposite and love your job but have lost the enthusiasm, it is time to refresh and get back into sales mode.
To assess your frame of mind, answer the following questions.
Frame-of-Mind Personal Test
1. Do you look forward to going to work to sell?
2. Do you enjoy meeting your customer base?
3. Do you enjoy prospecting new customers?
4. Do you enjoy good sales results?
5. Do you have a good relationship with your yes no sales manager?
6. Does your company provide you with product and yes no sales training?
7. Are you tired every day and every morning?
8. Are you taking sick leave regularly?
9. Do you enjoy the company of your colleagues?
10. Do you enjoy sales meetings?
11. Do you believe in your product or products?
12. Do you feel you are in burnout mode?
If you answer no to questions 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 11, you need to review your job position. If you answer yes to questions 7 and 12, then you need to seek help.3
If you said yes to question 12 (you feel you are burnt out), note that burnout syndrome is a treatable condition and should be managed by a professional such as a medical doctor or psychologist. If you answered no to question one (you don’t look forward to going to work to sell), not responding to work and sales is a position and job dislodgement. Not looking forward to working is a pointer to many psychological issues, including depression and an aversion to the job in general.
If you answered yes to question eight (taking additional sick leave), it means you have either a psychological or a medical issue or you are using the sick leave because of job disenchantment.
We could examine all these issues and more for many paragraphs, but if you are generally unhappy at work/sales, perhaps looking at another profession instead would be advisable. Even in some circumstances, changing sales companies can do the trick. If you are treading water or spinning the wheels but not gaining traction, it is time to consider whether you want to continue with unhappiness or move on. A word of warning: If you are unhappy, talk to an independent mentor first.
So, in the end, what frame of mind do you need to sell successfully? Have a look at the following list.
- You need to enjoy selling to strangers and new prospects as well as to look forward to the challenge of meeting targets and budgets; having fun with your customers; building up a loyal customer base; and using every selling situation to gain valuable sales experience.
- You need to enjoy working in a tight sales team and being trained for product and sales skills while showing your inner enthusiasm at work; take pride in being friendly and helpful to your customer base, but constantly look for better opportunities to improve your sales skills.
- You need to balance your health and fitness and keep a clear mind and perspective, while avoiding being caught up in intracompany politics.
- You should not get caught up and depressed with sales losses and not be affected by losing a big sale, but should be able to bounce back the next new day.
- You should see the good in your job and avoid the negatives while enjoying building your Me Brand.
What Is Professional Selling, and Why Do We Distinguish This Term?
What Is the Meaning of Professionalism?
A professional seller, in comparison with an amateur salesperson, is one who is being paid for his or her services and is engaged in representing a company that sells reputable products or services.
Alternatively, are we saying that a real estate salesperson is not a professional seller? In general, estate agents are paid on a full commission basis and in some cases are provided with a minimal weekly allowance, which is deducted out of a commissionable sale.
One could say yes, they are professional salespeople, but, on the other hand, they are paid only when they make a sale.
When asked in a friendly group setting, “What do you do for a living?” do you cringe or answer with pride, “I am in sales” and then watch for the reaction?
Why Are We Watching for the Reaction?
Probably because we are not sure how other people or professionals view us in sales? Do they take us to be car salespersons, or are we possibly embarrassed we are not as good as they are? I am not sure about you, but I have felt this at some time of my life, despite having been at the highest possible level of medical and surgical sales.
I believe the term “professional selling” has very little value because its use is highly subjective and context driven. To distinguish the sales value of a person selling tools from that of one selling health equipment can be seen as elitism, but, fundamentally, there is a product and knowledge-level difference. So are we saying you must be more intelligent and have better skills to sell higher-end products?
In my case, I might associate “professional” with “responsible for selling the product.” In another conversation and context, I might associate “professional” with “qualified” or “knowledgeable.” In yet another, I might comment on a person’s lack of professionalism because he/she failed to meet the company standards for salesmanship or behavior, as, for example, not listening to what the buyer was saying.
The person buying trade tools requires the right advice just as much as a person buying fertilizer for farming. The wrong advice in this scenario could be costly. Are we distinguishing between the level of understanding a customer needs and the need for sales knowledge?
I have always thought the term “sales professional” was often used for compensatory reasons. I don’t call myself a sales professional, but I am a professional who sells. Yes, I am a sales professional and proud of it.
What Are Bad Selling Habits?
Falling into bad habits generally occurs early in your sales career. During the first 2 to 3 years without field coaching, bad habits form unconsciously, and unless picked up by a good coach, some bad habits are very difficult to turn around and require a personal willingness to alter behavior.
What Are Some Selling Bad Habits to Look Out for?
To break bad habits in sales, begin by defining the behavior you want to change and, with the help of a coach, identifying what triggers that behavior. Then create a concrete plan to change the behavior, and ask someone to hold you accountable.
Work habits are regular patterns of behavior you unconsciously exhibit in your job or place of employment. These habits become part of your routine behavior and are generally an unconscious part your day-to-day sales processes; you may not even be aware of them. This can be a concern as the habit is so ingrained that your awareness becomes completely closed.
So ingrained are the bad habits that you perform the sales process and do not even notice that the customer is taking note! A customer may react to a bad habit by showing surprise or shutting down with their attention or even listening to you but thinking, “This person will never get through my door again.”
My challenge to you? Fight like hell against those sneaky bad habits, and keep them from eroding your hard work. The longer you ignore bad habits, the harder they are to alter. Again, this is a strong argument for field coaching on a regular basis.
Fifteen bad work habits we should avoid in professional sales. Consider whether you do any of the following bad habits, jot them down, and start working on them. Think about whether you display any of the following bad habits; jot them down for reference.
- Beating yourself up: This causes self-doubt and is close to rejection.
- Acting like a know-it-all: You’ll alienate your coworkers, and you might even provide misinformation to your customers. Know-all’s are eventually disliked.
- Hoarding good ideas: Refusing to offer assistance when your coworkers need advice, for example, sharing customer intelligence or helping another colleague.
- Avoiding prospecting: The number one bad habit to fall into is not blocking off time for prospecting every week. I’ve been selling for many years, and I still set aside several hours each week for prospecting.
- Presenting too quickly: One bad habit that will alienate your customer very fast is speaking or presenting too quickly.
- Skimping on research: Planning and customer research is imperative prior to the first sales call; always show due diligence.
- Selling to everyone: It is tempting to latch onto any lead that comes your way. But the time you spend on bad opportunities takes away from your capacity to pursue good ones. Only work leads that have a capacity of win-win.
- Lacking purpose: Set goals for each day, week, month, and year you embark on, and be steadfast in meeting them. If you lack purpose, then the job is not for you.
- Whining and complaining: Being a downer doesn’t help your career, or anyone around you. When things feel bleak and every sales pitch is a loss leader, it’s tempting to wallow in your sorrows. Before you know it, negativity becomes a bad habit. Approach your day and its challenges with positivity, and learn something from the positive sales pros in your sales team. Be aware that whining salespeople do not last long.
- Watching “friends”: It’s also important to network with other sales professionals in your city and sales team. Check LinkedIn or Meetup to find professional groups. Being a lone wolf is closing your mind to greater opportunities.
- Not walking the walk: Roll up your sleeves and jump into your next call—no pretalk is necessary; just get on with the business of selling.
- Sitting all day: This says to the sales manager you are not out there selling, simple.
- Writing too many e-mails: Seeing your name published on the company blog will be good for your deals and for your career; look at the number of e-mails versus the number of sales calls you do.
- Not preparing enough: I recommend that every salesperson prepare for his or her week on Sunday night (sorry to break up your weekend fun). It gives you an immediate plan of attack when you walk onto the sales floor on Monday morning. Please refer to the sales planning section for further advice.
- Giving up too soon: This is my pet hate. People who give up because it gets too hard, shows a lack of determination. Never give up on a sale.
The bad habits list can go on forever in the personal, work-related, and sales domains. I have concentrated on the more prominent items to work on; next are the more annoying habits that customers find annoying too.4
Some of the minor bad habits to watch out for:
- Speaking too quickly, not articulating well.
- Be careful how you sit.
- Don’t fidget or play with your hair.
- Avoid clothing that may distract the customer’s attention.
- Check your clothing outfit before going in for a sales call.
- Avoid carrying in too much hardware to make yourself look important.
- Speak clearly and watch for the customer reaction to your sentence.
- Do not speak over the customer when they are talking.
- Do not disagree with the customer under any circumstances.
- Agree with the customer when appropriate.
- Be very respectful to the customer.
- Do not overcompliment the customer.
- Do not boast about yourself; avoid showing family pictures unless asked for.
- Do not talk about yourself unless asked to, and make this brief.
- Do not go all out to make a friend out of your customer.
- Avoid talking about other competitors at all cost.
- Arrive at the sales site 10 minutes prior to the call to review strategy.
- Be on time always.
- If running late, call the customer, and do not text customer at all.
- If carrying sales information, present it in a professional manner; be well prepared.
- Avoid third-party references that are not qualified.
- Keep your phone technique short and to the point.
- Put your phone on silent mode when with the customer.
- Do not procrastinate; carry out all requested tasks.
Again, this list can go on for ages like the previous one, but the idea here is to highlight concepts you may be overlooking in your normal customer day.
How to Correct Small Bad Habits
The easiest and most effective way to correct the smaller and annoying bad habits is to ask a coach to ride with you for a day. I know this may seem ridiculous, but if you suspect you are annoying some customers, there is only one way to fix this: to have somebody work with you for a day and list all the small bad habits you make for correction. The second idea is to privately present a product on video and play it back; soon, you will recognize the habits in need of attention.
Is Procrastination the Number One Bad Habit?
If you need to change and want to change bad habits, you need to stop procrastinating now!
I would go so far as to say that most of us procrastinate in some way each week. “I will get around to it tomorrow or next week” or “it can wait.” You are on the brink of making a critical personal change, and you find yourself delaying. The following shows how to apply the five phases of change to make priority changes.
But you know you are procrastinating and not getting the planning, research, and prospecting done. You are doing the day-to-day job of sales but procrastinating. To overcome procrastination and rectify this bad habit, please take note of the following.
Identify Why Procrastination Is a Problem
Question yourself. Is it fear of selling to new customers you are unfamiliar with, or are you just lazy? Are you unwell or just lacking in enthusiasm for the job? What is causing the lack of planning effort.
How to Plan and Schedule Your Week and to Prevent Procrastination from Proliferating
Here are some simple tasks to do – are you doing any of these?
- Sunday night, set weekly and monthly tasks to achieve. Put them down on paper.
- Put these tasks in the Outlook task menu so it reminds you each day.
- Set aside a half-day per week to make prospecting sales call appointments.
- Slide in sales calls on this appointing day only if they are urgent.
- Prospecting appointments can be scheduled into each week.
- Set aside how many prospecting sales calls per week you want to achieve.
- Set aside time for regional sales trips and time for appointing customers.
- Identify a product sales cycle for the prospecting sales call that will get you in.
- Make sure your sales manager knows you spend time at home or work appointing new business or, if the boss is sensitive about your being home, working from home; make a list of new customers, and do it during the day in the car.
- Stop looking at social media during the day.
- Avoid personal calls during the day.
- Have separate mobile phones for your private and professional needs.
This planning is not rocket science, and it doesn’t take much to be organized. You will find this method refreshing and will be surprised how well you are organized. Just one warning: Don’t get too comfortable at home; keep the job at hand organized and efficient. Stick to your plan and stay centered.
So, in a final review of how to make these simple but effective changes, try the following change program. What we are avoiding isn’t the task but rather the stress that we are associating with the task.
Your Five-Phase Change Program to Consider
- Awareness: Understand where it’s coming from. A lot of people think that procrastination is just another word for laziness, but this isn’t really true. It happens for all kinds of reasons, from perfectionism to stress and anxiety to unconscious thoughts that can leave you sabotaging yourself without even realizing what’s happening. So if there’s something that you keep putting off, ask yourself, “Where is this really coming from?” When you know what’s at the root of the problem, then you can fix it. Avoiding awareness about you not being in the right zone means avoiding reality.
- Action: Fix any negative associations and procrastination—Having negative associations with actions is one of the subtlest but most common reasons for procrastination. For instance, if you have a negative association with making sales calls, then guess what? When it is time to make a sales call, you’re suddenly going to find loads of other things that you “need” to do before you make the call. It is as if you go into a deep freeze and can’t move on. I call this Sales Freeze.
The good news is that you can absolutely change your associations, even the really entrenched ones. You just need to create a new association with the action. Let’s take the example of putting off your prospecting sales calls because you freeze up. Maybe you’ve been rejected on sales calls before, so you’ve begun to associate making prospecting sales with rejection. And then, working on that assumption, you’ve been timid and anxious on other sales calls, which has led to more rejection. This just reinforces the belief that making sales calls leads to rejection. See how it works?5
- Accommodation: works through strategic planning (in other words, writing down a simple plan of attack as the one just laid out) and setting specific goals for the week, month, and year. Your boss will build these into sales KPIs, but sometimes these are related to sales achievements and training. It’s about fitting in tasks that you can accommodate easily and that you can follow through without rejecting for practical and sensible reasons. Management of your tasks can be documented in Outlook easily.
- Acceptance and setting of a positive task outcome goal mindset: The answer is to simply give this new process time to come together. Give the process at least 6 months as the prospecting sales calls will not show results for at least this long. This is accounting for the length of the product sales cycle of about 18 months.
- Actualization: Setting weekly or monthly planning goals and getting over the customer appointing hump could just give you some sense of fulfillment, and you may appreciate you have some talent for this process. Once you have mastered this process and can show to your sales manager that you are on top of prospecting rather than procrastinating, you are well on the way to sales success. Making appointments by phone takes practice. Prepare a patter sheet and revise it accordingly. Have an experienced person sit with you, observing your success rate and voice modulation.
The realization or fulfilment of one’s talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyone
—Maslow’s hierarchy of needs6
What Are Good Selling Habits?
The following good habits are just a few that successful salespeople do without thinking. Although they may not possess all these good habits, they generally show many of the following.
Good salespeople know how to make the product fit the customer’s needs and take the lead to offer the right product for the need. They wait for the customer’s real attention before starting the sale discussion and ask the right question to understand the customer’s needs while engaging the prospect respectfully. They are not afraid of asking for the next appointment while on the first visit.
During sales calls, they take notes and then allow the customer to see that they are effective. They pass along opportunities when it’s appropriate and have the ability to work closely with their sales team and sales manager. They take the initiative to assist their sales manager when requested within reason and are always happy to engage in further training and personal improvement. Show your boss that you may be keen to ascend the ladder.
This sounds easy, but after many of years selling, we should always be working on learning and including many more good habits in our daily work practice.
This heading conveys the notion of mental toughness as having both reactive and proactive qualities. Mentally tough sales people can use mental toughness attributes to help endure and perform well during adverse sales situations, but they can also employ other attributes of mental toughness when the job is going well.
Mentally tough people make a habit of getting up after they have fallen down or pushing on after a sale has fallen through. Instead of getting upset, feeling hopeless, and giving up in the face of obstacles, they take the opportunity to put on their thinking caps and come up with a creative solution to the problem at hand. They are not discouraged when a sale does not go ahead but say, “Well, I will get the next one.”
Losing a big sale is disappointing but understanding that this is part of the sales job helps balance out the wins and losses. Salespeople who lose a big or even a small sale and go to ground for a week would perhaps be better off finding another profession.
Some positive habits of mentally strong salespeople:
- They set real goals regularly: Weaker salespeople don’t think having their own personal goals will help them perform their jobs better. They are willing to let their companies set their goals for them in the form of strategic objectives and sales targets.
- They practice self-awareness: They can tell when they are starting to get overexcited about an opportunity and make themselves relax and take it slow. Overexcited salespeople appear not to be in control and not to see the reality of their situation.
- They nurture a positive attitude: When the selling process does not go their way, they do not give in to self-pity or seek solace from another colleague. Nurturing that positive attitude is the business driver that gets a strong salesperson back into the driver’s seat in the face of setbacks, rejection, and obstacles. Again, the word determination creeps into the discussion.
- They commit themselves to constantly upgrading their business and sales customer education: Disciplined learning strengthens the mind, so strong salespersons read blogs, listen to podcasts, attend workshops, and get coaching from credible experts on things that relate both to the sales profession and to their industry. They have an innate attitude of continuous learning and do not block out criticisms that are valid. They learn from their mistakes and endeavor to fix these in an ongoing fashion.
In summary, having as many right habits as possible epitomizes the complete salesperson. We all know we are not perfect and carry with us habits that we are working on or seeking to work on. Stress less about this conundrum and just take each bad habit one by one, because this is a continual life process.
When Should I Seek Out a Mentor?
What Is a Sales Mentor as Opposed to a Sales Coach?
A coach is an expert on people and personal development, typically, a skilled sales specialist in competency or industry. A sales coach’s role is to provide structure, foundation, and support so people can begin to self-generate the sales results they want on their own. Coaching is a process of inquiry, relying on the use of well-crafted questions, rather than continually sharing the answer, to get people to sharpen their own sales skills. Learning and growth are achieved by both parties involved in the coaching process.
The coaching relationship is built on trust and belief in the coaching method. It is always important for the coach to have industry experience first and have a TAE4101 coaching qualification in competency standards.7
Mentors—Professional and Nonprofessional
A mentor, on the other hand, can be internal for a salesperson, but I believe, as previously stated, the mentor should be independent and outside the industry. Usually, this is done on a professional level to advance the mentored person’s career or by an older friend experienced with coaching and mentoring salespeople.
Often, mentors have their own approach already in mind and use the system that has worked for them in the past, without taking into consideration the style, values, integrity, or strengths of the people they mentor. As such, the mentor offers more solutions and answers to their mentee rather than questions that challenge people to change their thinking and behavior, thus making this more of a one-way, training-driven, rather than collaborative (coaching), relationship.
In the case of the procrastinator situation, who would be the better to consult, the coach or the mentor? Ideally, the coach, because he or she is more business-centric and has a handle on local and sales processes. The mentor, on the other hand, may certainly provide advice on a more global personal basis but not through a hands-on learning process.
As you can see, mentoring, in comparison with coaching, is a very different process, where one is active and the other consultative or passive.
How Do I Find a Mentor?
Once you are clear about the reason, identify who might help. For example, if you want advice on how to get to the next stage and access new networks and channels, join an industry association or network or try the following suggestions:
- The older sales colleague: As with anything in life, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. And you’d be surprised at the number of people who’d be flattered to be considered “mentor material.” Here, we are talking about another sales colleague that you get along with and have similar values that you respect; just ask as you have nothing to lose; if they say no, then go to the next one.
- Connection: If you have a mutual connection, ask him or her to introduce you. And when you ask, make it clear exactly why you feel they’d be a good mentor for you and what kind of commitment you are seeking from them (a monthly coffee catch-up, the ability to run things past them via e-mail, or quick catch-ups via social media). This is what you would call a loose arrangement but a semiformal request.
- Mentor programs: Many industries have formal mentoring programs you can join. There are also wider mentoring programs on offer for “women in sales” or “small business” … and there are many online mentoring programs out there too. You only have to seek and “ye shall find.”
- Mentor partnerships: Look at ways to find a mentor outside of your sales field; someone of the opposite sex or an individual who has a different background than the one you have. Mentoring partnerships should not be limited to people who are similar to ourselves—there is a lot we can learn from people who are different than we are. This is particularly relevant if you are looking for advice on how to improve your sales skill set to suit a new industry.
- Online mentor: Finally, you can ask for more formal mentors online and attend professional skill selling programs that include mentoring advice. Be aware that this costs money; also be aware of the upfront costs and consider whether it is for you. Remember, you get what you pay for.
My advice is to seek out an independent sales specialist mentor you can meet up with, say, every 2 weeks, for a coffee. Come prepared with any issues you need to discuss and follow their advice, simple and effective. Remember, you may have to pay for the service, but try it and assess the results after 6 months, it should be also tax deductable.
What Sales Courses Should I Take to Be a Better Salesperson?
This is a big subject to discuss and a great deal of information is available on the Net to look at and consider. This subject falls into three categories. First, does your current company provide sales courses, and does it have a field coach? Secondly, if you are not receiving sales coaching at work, what type of sales course should I target? Finally, at what level of sales experience are you now?
Try the Following Simple Test to Establish Your Current Experience in Sales
Selling Skills Assessment is a validated tool used to measure knowledge and ability in selling skills that have performance improvement potential. Complete the following five questions and cross the adjacent box.
Honest answers are imperative. Be Honest Please!
Buyer/Seller Relationships: How do you rate your buyer/selling relationship?
- Not good
- Very good
Sales Call Planning: Rate your sales call planning and opportunity funnel health.
- Not good
- Very good
Questioning/Listening: Do you actively practice customer probing for needs and listening.
- Not well
- Very good
- Very good
Gaining Commitment: What is your closing percentage now, and are you getting regular orders?
- Very good
If your answers are poor or below, the situation is “serious to critical” and demands an answer to the question “do you enjoy sales, are you struggling with the selling concept, or have you not received any formal sales coaching?”
If your answers border on good or below, then it is time for a coach to help you to identify weaknesses in your personal skills. List these and try to understand where you need corrective tuition. Start with a list and work your way through it with your sales coach. Please give yourself a time limit of 3 months, no longer.
If you are in the very good range, then it is time to step up and improve along with further coaching, take specific courses that will improve your skills; keep at it, and don’t give up.
If you have answered in the excellent range, you have either been self-deceptive or need to go back and retake the test “honestly.” Alternatively, you may be in the excellent range and only need a tweak here or there; well done, but keep the improvement range high.
How Do I Find the Right Sales Course to Take?
First and foremost, don’t take the first advertised sales course you see on the Net. Be guided by your style and what you personally want to start with.
- Presentation skills in public
- Territory planning
- Efficiently use of time
These are just a few examples to consider. You will have, I guess, many more on your list, or you may not know what list to record in view of your lack of sales experience. If this is the case, ask a mentor or sales colleague to help you with a preliminary list. From this stage, short-list a group of RTOs that promote in-house basic sales training courses such as the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) or the main sales RTO’s in the US and UK.
Speak to their course directors or promotion department and check them off against your needs list if they cover the subjects you need. You will find most basic sales courses are very similar, but the main question to ask is “is the course a competency-based sales course or partial sales product.” What I am saying here is, are the course teachers qualified, and do they follow a logical sales program encompassing how the customer behaves?
I myself have personally completed many courses with AIM, in Australia, and many other sales and management courses worldwide. Start simple and work your way upward with the advice and support of your coach or mentor. As for the cost, try to have your company pick up the tab. If you show interest in improving your sales skills, your company should support you all the way unless your company is planning sales training themselves.
By the way, most accredited training courses are fully tax deductible in the majority of countries. Please remember that RTOs do not offer post-sales work in the field for individual students. This field training should be carried out by your sales manager or sales coach; however, if you have no access to a coach, then practice the following critique skills in the sales technique section of the next few chapters.8
1 Five types of Selling Styles – Which One is Yours? /A good paper to study about the various selling styles we see worldwide.
2 Selling Styles for Successful Salespeople - Posted on 06/20/2008 in Selling Skills/Again, this posting discusses why we need a sales selling style and its importance for customers.
3 How to Adopt a Sales Mindset - Thirteen simple rules to become your own sales superstar. This paper puts forward a specific mindset we need for professional selling—a good paper to review.
4 Nine Bad Sales Habits Every Rep Should Avoid - James Meincke - January 3, 2019/I encourage all readers to study this important subject as we all inherit the bad selling habits.
5 Procrastinating: how to stop it so you can sell more - By Anis 2018—Another paper worth reading as we all procrastinate in sales and wonder how to prevent this bad habit.
6 Maslow’s hierarchy of needs/Although very old as a reference, Maslow did publish an insight into the salesperson’s hierarchy of needs.
7 The benefits of mentoring new sales associates by ray Taylor on April 29, 2016—I like this reference as it underscores the need for a mentor position.
8 Sales Courses/Find your right fit online first. When looking for the right sales course, go online first and then ask your colleagues which courses they attended.