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Contrary to the old adage, great salespeople are made, not born. The “making” of a great salesperson involves more than just having the right training or the right coaches. It also requires developing the attitudes, attributes and inner discipline that allow you to maximize what you’ve learned all along the way. Below is a list of what I consider to be four of the top attributes of high-performing sales professionals.

Mental toughness. This is skill is one of the most important for all salespeople, yet typically it hovers under the radar of most conventional sales trainers and recruiters. The top five percent of sales professionals succeed at a higher level than fifty percent of the rest. Some might attribute these results to superior closing, probing, or territory management skills. In reality, they are a result of mental toughness: the inner ability to know what to do, coupled with the mechanical ability to execute it particularly when faced with rejection & indecision.  Winston Churchill once said “success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Profound communication skills. Effective communication involves more than just matching and mirroring prospects. Profound communication skills enable you to create an environment of trust in which prospects become willing to share and reveal the truth about their problems. Ninety percent of sales processes are based on misinformation & gamesmanship. In order to get prospects to open up and reveal their problems, you must understand how to communicate in a way that elicits truth. Then, and only then, will you be working on the right problems.  Undoubtedly, the most important communication skill in a salesperson’s repertoire is the ability to LISTEN!


Knowledge of value. Some would say this is not a skill. But if not, what is it? If you don’t understand the core tenets of your value proposition, how can you expect to articulate them effectively to the marketplace? In fact, most salespeople have a weak understanding of what a value proposition is, which is why they typically convey only a small percentage of the value their company really offers. Communicating real value requires study, practice, and shedding preconceived notions about what selling really is.

The ability to deal with humans. Those pesky humans! Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to deal with all their insecurities and pains? But then, who would write the checks and approve the deals? When you accepted salesmanship, you accepted the challenge of relationships. This applies to relationships with your superiors, clients, prospects, vendors and anyone else you come in contact with. It is absolutely true that people do business with people they like & trust and won’t do business with people they don’t! Make no mistake. Your product or service must have value & fulfill a need but if you can’t make a ‘connection’, you will find it extremely difficult. Now, more than ever, it is critical to know yourself and be able to not only identify your clients generationally but also the distinct personalities you are dealing with (dominant, expressive, amiable, analytical) and react/present accordingly.

Do you know why most prospects lie about their true motives when a salesperson shows up? Do you know why some prospects simply cannot pull the trigger to buy? People who study this stuff get real good, real quick. They make a great deal of money because they are dialed into their profession at an entirely different level than their competitors. The better you are at having a relationship with yourself, the better you will be at external relationships.

Success is an inside job. By focusing on developing these four attributes, not only will you acquire a positive attitude and the mental discipline necessary to be a consistently high-performing salesperson, you’ll also accomplish more than you thought humanly possible.


While economic trends, reorganization and layoffs may continue, the sellers & marketers who survive this market and even grow during a recovery will be the ones who assume nothing & question everything. There are always solid opportunities out there!

“Will there be a budget to buy my products and services? How many of my customers will still be in business? Is what I’m selling seen as critical or even relevant in today’s discretionary market?”

Good questions that can position salespeople for success in a tough market. Some salespeople don’t ask themselves enough questions because they make assumptions based on history or perceived strength of customer relationships.

I could sell ice to Eskimos&, the truth is, I’ve always thought I could…..but should I?  One day….won’t that Eskimo wake up and say “Yikes! What was I thinking and what the hell am I gonna do with all this ice???”

"So you need the extra ice to support the windmill turbine that you should build!"

Here are some unfortunate even disastrous sales assumptions.

  1. “I know how to sell. I’ve been a top-performing salesperson for many years.” Your salespeople should ask themselves: “How many of my deals did I really sell by uncovering my client’s needs, developing them and clearly aligning those needs to capabilities and outcomes? In a market where prospects are in “denial of needs” or “we’ll make do with what we have,” how confident are you in your ability to do business with a budget-constrained buyer?
  2. “I may not have had to prospect much in recent years, but I still know how.” Salespeople no longer have the luxury of waiting for business to come to them. The prospecting they used to do years ago may not work in the current business climate. Prospecting in uncertain times isn’t just a matter of good research &   messaging. You have to hit prospects between the eyes and make them wonder whether they can survive without your products or services & what sets you apart from your competitors.
  3. “At least I can rely on my current customers.” Your existing customers may have been predictable in their buying patterns. That may no longer be true, for a lot of reasons. It’s a good idea to go through your customer list and question every aspect of it. Is you decision maker still the ultimate decision maker? Are the drivers for purchasing your products or services still critical to the customer?
  4. “I know my customers and prospects pretty well.” That may have been true in the past, but not only is the market landscape moving at warp speed, the ‘space’ around it is moving even faster. You can’t be sure how good or up-to-date your information is, even with your best customers. Some prospects are being bought and others possibly downsized. There is no such thing as too much information in this environment. Stay completely current with your clients so you’re aware of any possible changes and opportunities ahead of your competition.
  5. I have presentations that work.”

    Have you simplified your presentations to make sure they’re tailored to prospects with exceptionally busy schedules and who struggle with fewer resources? Prospects need something tangible that will deliver fast return and demonstrate

    why spending money with you is critical at a time when they’re trying not to spend money

    with anyone.  Have you identified not only your prospect’s personality (analytical, expressive, amiable, dominant) but also your own & tailored your presentations accordingly?

    Expressive: See picture of Lou (pizza anyone?)

These are just some of the important assumptions that you, your staff, or anyone in the sales & marketing process must continually refine to not only stay relevant but position themselves at the head of the pack as peak performers in our profession.


What Are Our Clients Saying?  

We have all heard someone say, “I’d like to be a fly on the wall”, in relation to some conversation or another.  As business development and sales people, what type of conversations would we want to over hear?  I cannot speak for most, but if I had the opportunity, I would love to be in on conversations that my clients and competitors are having about me and my company. 

It seems obvious that we would want to know what our clients are saying about us.  This would be a great way to know how they perceive the work we do for them, the fees  we charge them and generally do they feel they are getting what the expect from us.  Okay, so wire tapping is illegal, immoral and downright unethical.  So what do we do to find out what they are saying?  There are a couple of things that we can do to get this information.

We can watch what is being said by our clients and others about us in the social media.  It used to be when people had really good things or bad things to say about us they would do so by telling friends and they probably still do this.  However, customers can now be counted on to use the newest tools in social media and that can spread like wildfire.

We can ask others what they are hearing out of our clients about us.  It is possible that we might get some good feed back here, but it is going to be tainted by those who are reporting it to us.  A bigger problem here is that most negative conversations that others would hear about us would happen in confidence.  Those who hear the information have their filters, and they may not want to divulge the information for ethical reasons.  It is also akin to ‘the telephone game’ once second & third hand information is diseminated…… and how factually reliable is it?

The best way to get information about how our client’s view us is to ask.   We absolutely should be doing this in every case. We all know we are supposed to be doing some type of survey as a follow up to services with our client.  This brings to mind a couple of really good questions.  Are we really doing this on each and every project or with every sale?  More importantly, when we are looking at a project/program with a fairly long duration, should we be waiting until it is over to find out how our client feels about the service they are getting?  The answer to the first question is likely; NO we are not doing this as often as we should.   And no, we should not wait until a project is over to ask about our client’s satisfaction.  By waiting till the end, we miss the opportunity to make adjustments and save a client relationship in some cases.   By asking we also create another fabulous opportunity – The Testimonial!

So if we are working on a long project, when should we ask?  The answer to that question is dependent on the type of project.  To set an arbitrary time-table not only may have us asking at the wrong time but we will also create a false sense of accomplishing an important goal.  It is best to look at the individual project, find turning points and ask for feedback.  What could we do better or different.   This just takes a little planning and willingness to break the project in dependent stages for review purposes. This will help us know where we might have fallen short on the last completed stage and make adjustments which will have our clients coming back for more.

So……How are we doing???