What it Takes to be a Successful Sales Rep


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Whether inside or in the field, the same principles apply to becoming a successful sales representative.

We all have our own vision of what a successful sales rep looks and acts like. You can probably think of someone that you know almost instantly. Being successful takes hard work, determination, and an inner drive.

Some are blessed with existing customers and territories. Others are forced to create their own customer lists and territories. The interesting aspect is that it doesn’t matter if you inherited a top territory or if you are building a new one from scratch. It also doesn’t matter if you are in the office on the phone, or if you are in the field, face to face with customers. The same principles apply to becoming a successful sales representative.

Simplifying the process

There are about as many books and articles on sales techniques as there are salespeople. It can be very confusing determining which advice to believe and which techniques to adhere to. Let me make it simple: it always boils down to people dealing with people. Our industry has some of the most compassionate professionals that you will find in any industry.  Relationships are the key to success. Forging relationships and maintaining them is a full-time responsibility, and the day you take them for granted is the day that they start to go the wrong direction.

I have been certified in a few different training methods over the years and have trained many sales teams within our industry. Throughout this, I’ve found that most sales training methodologies can be distilled into a few basic principles. There’s no real need for new buzz words or different ways to package the latest and greatest training techniques. If you focus on human nature, you’ll be able to manage your relationships and grow your business within your customer base. Let’s review a few of the foundational principles that can make you a successful rep and a better human being.

Psychological reciprocity sounds like a lofty concept, but it really isn’t. The basis is this: if I give you something, you will probably feel indebted to me and want to give me something in response. The greatest thing you can give your customers (new or old) is attention. A great rep gives 100% attention to their customer when they interact. Many folks pretend to be attentive, but in reality, they are waiting for a lull in the conversation so that they can inject the ideas or topics that they came to deliver. The most successful reps not only pay 100% attention to their clients when interacting, but they prove that they’re paying attention by acknowledging the customer and their topics throughout the conversation.

By proving that you’re completely in tune with what your customer is conveying to you, you show respect, and respect starts to instill a level of trust. Use your listening skills to hear what the customer is trying to tell you and acknowledge, or even reiterate, some of that information throughout the conversation.  Proving this level of attention to their message typically triggers the psychological reciprocity response. You no longer have to wait for the break in the conversation to get your message across. Once you listen to the customer and prove that you’re paying attention, they will often give you the same courtesy. You will often end up with more time to deliver your message, and they will be a more receptive audience. It fosters mutual respect.

Your ability to listen is paramount. A good salesperson will satisfy a client’s needs by first understanding the need. Engage in conversation, clarify the need, and then take the appropriate action. Handling a need or request with empathy shows that you care about the customer and not just the sale. A good salesperson knows how to feel what their customers feel. Being genuine and conscientiousness through this process is an absolute must.

Don’t fake your way through the details! A customer can smell a cover-up from a mile away. If you don’t have an answer or solution for the customer, the best answer is that you’ll work with them to resolve whatever the issue may be. Your level of business acumen, industry knowledge, and knowledge of the customer’s business are extremely important. Ask questions and learn every day to build your knowledge base. It is almost like going to the gym, only you’re exercising and growing your brain and your knowledge base.

Be curious! Curiosity can be described as a person’s hunger for knowledge and information. According to a survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review, 82 percent of top salespeople scored extremely high curiosity levels. Top salespeople are naturally more curious than their lesser performing counterparts.  A high level of inquisitiveness correlates to an active presence during sales calls. An active presence can drive a salesperson to ask customers difficult and uncomfortable questions in order to close gaps in information. Top salespeople want to know if they can service the business, and they want to know the truth as soon as possible.

When tested, most of the top performers tested also scored very high in achievement orientation. They’re fixated on achieving goals and continuously measure their performance in comparison to their goals. Sharing your goals with your customer can often be liberating and continues to foster trust and respect in the relationship. This may not be the case in all situations, but it’s a tactic that can be employed with your strongest customer relationships. Sharing this level of detail takes confidence or a lack of self-consciousness. Self-consciousness is the measurement of how easily someone is embarrassed. The byproduct of a high level of self-consciousness is bashfulness and inhibition. Top salespeople exude confidence without being pushy or arrogant. Being confident with the customer’s agenda as your focus allows for a greater percentage of success.  A hint of modesty is very impactful when combined with confidence. The combination is endearing to anyone, in any situation. People that possess the right combination of confidence and modesty are often revered by people that they interact with.

I recently conducted a survey involving many practice owners and practicing veterinarians. There was very little variance from practice to practice as they defined their best sales reps. Knowing the customer’s business and showing the interest to make their success your mission while exercising the elements listed above will propel you to success. This process will not only get you to success but will give you the skills to be successful for many years to come.

Successful sales rep attributes

Attributes of a successful sales rep portray a combination of:

  • Hunger
  • Attention
  • Being Genuine
  • Confidence
  • Modesty
  • Respect
  • Enthusiasm
  • Resiliency
  • Modesty
  • Execution