Having managed sales people for many years while being a peddler myself, I have observed how sales people behave, both good and not so good. Sales people that are truly excellent behave the same way, more or less. Said another way, successful sales people tend to exhibit some common behavioral characteristics.

Here are a few things that I have observed about truly excellent sales people:

– Always prepared, successful sales reps spend a lot time preparing for sales calls; they gather information about their customers so they can better understand the key issues and needs.
– This “pre-flight” planning keeps them from wasting the customer’s time at the meeting. This preparation gives the rep confidence along with an air of professionalism.
– Sales professionals become the industry experts or, as I like to call them, “knowledge brokers”. They read trade journals and often attend networking/industry trade shows to learn even more. They set themselves apart by the knowledge they are able to bring to the customer that is over and above what any of their competitors can offer.
– They have only face to face meetings with qualified customers. Their time is valuable so they don’t waste it on unqualified prospects. They ask the tough questions before the face to face meeting.
– Great sales people show up early for meetings. This punctuality demonstrates their commitment and helps build trust.
– If the customer wants small talk at the beginning of the meeting, great reps comply. If the customer just wants to get down to business and avoid small talk, great reps sense this and get down to business.
– They are never loud or overly talkative, instead they tend to be pleasant and sincere and maybe even a little reserved. Great sales people allow the customer to set the tone of the meeting.
– They are comfortable with silence in the meeting and will allow the customer time to think.
– Excellent sales people check their egos at the door. The focus of the meeting is on the customer and not on the solution.
– Successful sales people respond to objections before they happen. Their preparation allows them to anticipate objections ahead of time and allows them to minimize customer concerns.
– Objections are welcomed in the meeting and great reps make it easy for the customer to say “no”. Objections help the great rep understand the customer’s concerns and help the rep get to “yes”.
– They are relaxed and attentive in the call. They never interrupt the buyer.
– If they have action items, great reps always follow up. You can always count on them to perform.
– Truly great reps seldom are hard closers. Instead, their skillful handing of the objections encourages the customer to close the deal themselves.
– They always tell the truth. No deal is worth compromising their ethics.
– They always say thank you; certainly verbally and often with a written note.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.

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  1. Shane,


    Maybe there should be a follow up piece called “Common Characteristics of Lousy Sales People”.

    Got any thoughts on this one?


  2. Hm, Lousy Sales People:

    – Late & full of excuses
    – Always seem to be in a rush (this one is really annoying)
    – Tell half-truths to close a sale
    – Ego Maniacs (puts people off)
    – Know-it-all’s
    – Talk too much

    Some things I learned early on are:

    – Do not interrupt your customer questions with answers.
    – Do not argue a point (obivously, but it still happens more than you’d think)
    – Do not “bad talk” the competition

  3. Andrew,

    Pretty good list. I guess we all know a bad one when we see one.


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