How To Become a Great Salesperson

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My first serious job out of school was as a salesperson for a payroll company in midtown Manhattan.  The mission: to convince payroll managers of small to medium-sized companies to switch services from their current provider (usually ADP) to mine. 

Believe it or not, I actually craved this type of job. Why?  Because I am a big believer that if you have the ability to sell things, that you will never be without work

Although my duties were quite painful—code calling, knocking on doors—and I was rejected more than I care remember, my initial assumptions were correct and I am still a proponent that the skills required to be a great salesperson can be beneficial to almost anyone!

In this article, I will cover what I believe to be the 2 most important realizations about the mindset of a great salesperson and also 3 critical tools for putting these skills into action.

The way I see it, selling is a way of being, an approach to life, and an art form.  When you really start mastering these skills, you can affect the thought patterns of the most important client of all—you!

So as you start implementing the following 5 realizations and tools, do not solely focus on how these skills will benefit your external life.  Try and think how the “internal you” can benefit as well:   

Realization #1You Are ALWAYS Selling

No matter if you think of yourself as a “salesperson” or not, I can assure you that you are constantly in sales mode.  Sometimes you are outwardly promoting yourself, like when negotiating a pay raise with your boss.  Other times you are selling your position on daily activities, like where to go to dinner with your spouse. 

Right now, I am selling you this blog, and my writing skills.  If you forward this article on to a friend, you are selling her on reading it.  “Sales” is all around you, all the time.  Listening, communicating, making decisions and taking action are things we ALL do on a daily basis and are also the skills a great salesperson purposefully develops to his/her advantage. 

Realization #2The One Thing You Are ALWAYS Selling is Yourself

The greatest salespeople acquire success through the spread of genuine enthusiasm about the product, service or concept they are selling, and it all starts with effective communication.  The product, service or concept becomes secondary once the passion and motivating language take charge of the situation. 

Great salespeople can be successful promoting seemingly useless items because their language is such that inspires other people to act.  They truly believe in that item, and you can feel it.  And its not just the words that come out of their mouth, it’s the body language and the confidence they portray.  They sense of trust and confidence they instill in us becomes the very thing we “buy” from them. 

Here are 3 of the most important tools for successful selling:

1. Cultivate Ability to Listen

Successful selling is NOT accomplished through jamming your viewpoint down the other person’s throat.  This approach may work sometimes, but to truly be a great salesperson it is necessary to listen to the needs of those you are selling. 

By asking relevant questions you get to the root cause of their problems and start to really hear the other party’s concerns.  Any great salesperson will tell you that developing the skill of listening is their primary component to success.  But do not be fooled—this is a very hard skill to habituate and you must actively practice the art of listening. 

Once you get this skill down, you can begin to understand how your service, product or concept can address the other person’s root problems.  THIS is how you really start to sell someone. 

2. Have Unyielding Belief in What You Are Doing

The next step to becoming a great seller is to have firm belief in the product, service or concept you are selling.  If your job is to sell vacuum cleaners, but you do not believe your product is the best one out there, switch jobs.  OR, if this is not a possibility, focus your sales pitch in an area where you are certain your product is the best. 

The point is: uncertainty and doubt have a way of coming across in your communication with others without you realizing it.  Remember, no matter what product or service you are promoting, the item you are really selling is yourself.  If you do not have unyielding belief in your product, then you will have difficulty generating the motivating language necessary to be successful. 

3. Formulate Solutions By Taking Yourself Out of the Equation

The last step to

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effective selling is to create solutions for others without thinking about your own personal goals!  Most of us think of salespeople as being highly personally motivated; we think of them as aggressive, money hungry creatures that are only out to make some money for themselves. 

The truth is, what sets the greatest salespeople apart is a willingness to create solutions for clients without thinking of themselves at all.  Through active listening, the best salespeople acquire a sense for the true needs of those they are selling and then provide the most relevant solutions without taking into account their own ambitions. 

The amazing thing (and one of the true secrets to successful selling), is that when you adopt this mindset the sales start to roll in, and all the personal goals you have happen anyway!

Sales as a Personal Development Tool

I hinted at the beginning of this article that cultivating sales skills can also serve as an effective self-improvement tool.  This premise is certainly worthy of its own article (and I might just do that), but I really want to make the point that the skills described above can be valuable to you outside the realm of your job and profession. 

Developing the skills of active listening, unyielding belief, and not thinking of yourself has limitless possibilities in many areas of your life.  Start looking at it this way, and take the time to make yourself an expert salesperson!

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42 Responses to “How To Become a Great Salesperson”

  1. How about an article on not getting hooked by a great salesman! Lol.

    When you say “you’re always selling,” you’re not kidding.

    Every time I turn around someone is selling something to me. Perhaps some tips on not getting hooked by the good ones for stuff I don’t need would be nice?

  2. Todd says:

    LOL Kevin, good idea…and I’ll think about it :(

  3. Jason says:

    I think passion is truly the key… any area that I’m passionate about, I can sell ice to Eskimos. If I’m not passionate about it, though, my heart isn’t in it, and it shows very quickly.

    I have an easy time getting people to like me, though, because I actually LIKE to listen, and I also like to help when I can… which seems to especially be the case for relationships, for some reason.

  4. ZHereford says:

    Todd, this is a fabulous article!

    I find I’m a little week in the sales department but you’ve put this in such a great context it makes me feel good about selling.

  5. People communicate by telling stories, and that’s what selling is. You are telling the story about why someone should read your blog, about what your product can do for them, how they can improve their life etc.

    I think that #1 above is important, if you listen to what the person is saying (and how they are saying it), you can tell them the story that is relevant to them (not lie, just make it relevant).

  6. Todd says:

    Thanks for the comment Kate, and I think you are right: sales really is telling a story. Often its a story with a very specific purpose in mind!
    Todd

  7. Shama Hyder says:

    I will add one more here…

    4- Only Sell to those Who Can Use Your Services. Otherwise its spam-selling or spamelling. New word? = )

  8. a says:

    To Shama Hyder:

    I don’t really agree. You just have to convince your “prospect” that your service IS of use to them. Remember to sell through emotions, and not through needs.

    Great article Todd, I agree with all your points.

    Alex

  9. Peter says:

    Totally agree! I can be quite introverted so selling, in particular selling myself, does not normally come naturally for me. But I’m getting better, and I am definitely noticing the difference (eg landing a great job recently).

  10. Todd says:

    Thanks for the nice comments Peter, Alex and Shama– and in the Alex/Shama argument…I must admit I side wirh alex! Thanks again,
    Todd

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  12. Lola Fayemi says:

    Hi Todd

    Cool post! There is so much bad feeling against sales in general which makes people dread it. I love sales too and believe it’s a simple attitude shift people need to make about it as the benefits are huge. I agree with you that there are great development opportunities in developing great sales skills. They’ll take you far in all areas of your life.

    In love, light and abundance x x x

  13. CG Walters says:

    Listening, Belief, and Service…a great combination, Todd.
    Many blessings,
    CG

  14. Todd says:

    Lola and CG– thanks so much for the inspirational comments. Much appreciated!
    Todd

  15. Nick says:

    Hello Todd,

    Great article. I mostly agree with tool #3 because I believe the other person has to see that you are not spending his time for your own interest (only) but for making his life easier. Hope we can read something else from you soon.

    Take care,

    Nick

  16. Todd says:

    THanks Nick…I am glad you got something out of it!!
    Todd

  17. Jose says:

    Hey Todd,

    Great article, i couldn’t agree more. I just have one problem and the problem is, that at the initial meeting, i get nervous i dont know why because im not a shy person at all. Maybe you can help me out with this.

  18. Todd says:

    Jose– great question. Nerves are a telling sign that you either a) are unsure of yourself on some way or b) are worried you are offending, or not saying the right things, to the other person.

    Before I put myself in a “sales” situation, I always tell myself that I have absolutely nothing to lose…and that I will just try my best to convey the information at hand. I purposefully generate the sense that all I am doing is trying to relate to another person (or people) and just give it my all.

    When you do these things, the nerves go away…for you start seeing that there is really nothing to be nervous about. Making a habit of this mindset is WORK, but it will stop you from ever being scared again! Hope this helps…

    Todd

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  20. Megan says:

    Great Article on How To Become a Great Sales Person. Mindset is absolutely one of the top strategies to overcome when attempting to earn money online. work on the mindset and see yourself as the best sales person.

    Great Blog

    Megan
    http://www.PassportMentors.com

  21. Ivan says:

    Wow, you know what. I am into something big right now. I am joining the DBS bank in Indonesia, and actually I am not so fit in sales job, that is what people telling about. But, somehow I know that there is someone that believe in me.

    I really like when you write that the great sales person put other people first instead of themselves.

    I like it. It is like my burden has been taken from my shoulder. Yeah, if I become so selfish. I will become like shellfish. ^^

  22. [...] Goldfarb presents How To Become a Great Salesperson posted at We The [...]

  23. JT says:

    Man im in sales and make alot of money selling cars because im honest and very truthfull. When u go to mom and pop car dealerships they dont care who u r and if u have good credit or not because they finance anybody. If you come to a good dealership and with people who care what you have to say then you have nothing to worry about.

  24. Adam says:

    Hi Todd
    I recently met a guy, with your name in Berlin. He runs this small, but well visited shop.
    With his help I came to realize some of the things you mention here.
    Today I went to an interview and I have the job if I want it, however hearing all, made me think that
    1. Maybe I cannot do this successfully enough
    2. Maybe this is really not my thing
    I used to in IT, and given it all, I made really high, because most likely I’m in those cases following rules above, to some extent.
    But this is a new field for me, pure sales, and in this case I don’t relate to the product at all.
    It’s telemarketing, selling cable TV over the phone to warm clients, but I just don’t know if I can do that.
    I believe that products are great for most customers, but how to convince someone that they should watch more TV by buying it from me?

  25. Todd says:

    Thanks Adam, the MOST important thing in sales, in ANY sales, is that you must believe in the product. If you do not, you will most likely not be successful. You are always really selling one thing: yourself. If you are genuine, and authentic in your belief about a product or service you can always be successful. Ask yourself how you feel, and don’t be afraid of the answers!
    Thanks!
    Todd

  26. Christine says:

    Hi, Todd,

    Your blog is great. I am interviewing for a sales and marketing position this week. It’s a stretch from my current Executive Assistant position but I feel strongly that I can fill the needs of the new prospective company. Any tips for the interview which will encourage them to hire me and allow me to escape the mold of a “secretary”?

  27. Todd says:

    Christine: be passionate, be real, and if you do not know the answer to a question, don’t make one up. Say you “don’t know” and as soon as you can get back to them with the answer.

    Be aggressive, but not overly assertive. Close out the interview, just as you might close out a sale. Remember you are selling YOURSELF. Anyone can sell, forget about the secretary mold, its all about YOU.

    Godd luck!
    Todd

  28. Paul Evans says:

    You did mean “Cold Calling, not Code Calling right Todd?

  29. Naimat says:

    hi
    this is naimatullah muradi one of the resident of maimana city of the afghanistan.i really like this site so much.be cause i think i can learn something from this site.
    thank you.
    naimat

  30. Jack Lam says:

    Hi Todd. This article was great. i love it. i reckon to be a great salesperson; your relationship must be huge. i mean; how wider your relationship is, the more sales you are willing to make. i used to work for a shipper. what i did was selling the import/export service to the customer. and that job was really tough. i couldnt make any sale in the first 2 months. because i had such a narrow relationship. based on your deep relationship with your clients. for the similar price; or even higher; they are willing to buy it from you but not the others.

    At the moment; i am working for a company who provides the home phone line and broadband line to the nation. and what i do is similar to what you did; knocking the door and try to convice people to switch their current provider to mine. thanks to your article; i feel more confident for my job :) thanks Todd

  31. john v says:

    I really enjoyed your article ive been a salesman for 5 yrs and I have done just about everything. I am working for filter queen right now and love it. I thought finally here is a real genuine product to sell. I mean it practicly sells itself. But your right, if you do not believe in the product niether will the customer no matter how good or bad the product really is. And yes, listening is key. I always tell the customer, ( all things set aside, in the end im here for you, what can I do help you.) or something to that effect. Alot of salesmen really need to understand that if you act greedy, and really do not care what the customer has to say and give them that glassy eyed look and try to push the sale, people can see that and you will never get the sale. Sales are not only just about selling ourself but also the very most important thing is to keep the customer happy at all times. Let them know that you will go to the ends of the earth to keep them happy. After all if it wasnt for the customer there would be no salesman.

  32. ants says:

    Only a true salesperson can write something like this

  33. As a 25 year veteran sales professional and a full-time sales trainer, I enjoyed your article. You hit it on the head with the importance of “beliefs” to success in sales. At our Sandler Training Center in Seattle, WA we teach the Success Triangle – Attitude, Behavior and Techniques necessary for success in sales. Your readers may want to check out our recent blog post “What Makes a Great Salesperson” here http://seattlesalescafe.com/2011/05/23/what-makes-a-great-salesperson/

  34. Rwakinanga Ezrah Trevor says:

    Thanks TODD,
    I need to be a top salesman for my own company which is a research Consultancy firm.
    Please suggest for me some ways of selling research services because it looks to me that your advice works well on goods and not services.
    Please clarify, otherwise, this is a great article.
    Kind regards from Kampala – Uganda

  35. Valentina Barbosa says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading your article very much. I’ve always had a technical focus on my work but now I want to turn it to a sales approach which I find exciting.
    I’ve always thought there was another way of becoming a good salesperson other than being aggressive. Perhaps a longer-term process where you show the customer you can be trusted to provide the best possible solution for him. That’s how I have performed my technical activities.
    I thought I might not have what it takes to be a great salesperson, but after reading your article I am convinced that my personal approach is actually far more important than being aggressive and I can do it.

  36. Great article with some fantastic points. I will definitely try to utilize these tips when selling my services. I think the most important thing in the actual belief in your product or in my case services. If you believe your service or product is great then it is much easier to make others believe it is great as well.

  37. Drew says:

    Todd, thanks for the great article. I am 28, owned my own construction and roofing firm, and now have decided to get into sales of insurance and annuities, fixed, right now, and variable later. What advice would you have for me, specifically tailored for my profession. I’m very outgoing and confident and have never met a stranger, even when I was very young. I never went thru the shy stage. But, I do have a tendency to be aggressive, tenacious, and confident, perhaps, too much so. I do not want to intimidate prospects. Thanks for any help you or others could provide. My email is mao6584@gmail.com

  38. Y. C. says:

    Very good article. People look for genuine people to work with and its time a perception of sales people changes from pushy to those who truly care. I found learning about dreams and whats important to my clients is essential and so is investing in their dreams. Building relationships instead of treating people as tools to make money is a key. Thank you.

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