In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin described an interesting experiment he performed in order to improve himself. He listed the top virtues that he aspired to exhibit in his own character. He then tracked his daily progress in each virtue. He was very critical of himself.
The following are the main virtues of top salespeople:
- The top 1% of sales people care about helping people, even more than they care about making a sale. In fact, if their offering is not a good fit for a potential client they will move on, even if they may be able to make the sale. They are focused on creating long term value that results in customers and ideally, friends for life.
- Top salespeople are focused on solving problems. They think around corners and come up with solutions that make customers happy. They take obstacles as a challenge and pride themselves in their ability to overcome.
- Sales is hard work. It is a blue collar job done from an office. Top sales people put in the time it takes to succeed and ignore all the noise of people searching for miracle shortcuts in order to work less while earning more. Top salespeople also work long grueling hours when necessary.
- Humble is not a word most people would associate with salespeople. It flies in the face of much of the world’s perception of the back slapping, life of the party type A personality. But, more often than not top salespeople are at heart, humble.
- The top salespeople are fiercely competitive. They want to win. I believe it is why so many top salespeople were also athletes in high school and in college. Competition and the will to win is in their DNA, and it shows up in their work. They compete with companies selling against them and their peers. But, more importantly, they compete against themselves and their own best.
- High performers are dedicated to learning. Many of them are avid readers, and all of them are trying to understand everything they can about their products and services. It is not unusual for a senior sales representative to know as much or even more than their sales engineer, or answer questions like a technical expert. It comes from long hours spent studying and learning everything they can about their trade.
- Resiliency is a requirement of sales at every level. It is one of the only professions in the world where rejection happens multiple times a day. Much of the job can be stressful and uncomfortable. Salespeople endure long periods of back to back travel, hotels, and time away from family, all the while losing more deals than they win. It takes real resiliency in the face of adversity to keep going. Many of them learned to take rejection as a positive sign that they are getting closer to their next deal which can actually help push them forward when times get tough.
- Top sales representatives are fit. They exercise and take care of themselves because it helps them meet the demands of the job. It also contributes to their self esteem, focus, and ability to continue to work hard. Interestingly enough, of all the virtues, this is the one with very rare exceptions. I have never met a really high performing sales person who was morbidly obese.
- Top performers are strategists. They plan multiple strategies that can help them meet their goals and then create detailed plans of the tactics they will follow. They carefully watch what is working and refine as the go along.
- The top performers are entrepreneurial. They work as if they are running their own business. Their income is not fixed. They plan their finances on a cash basis, live below their means, and keep enough cash on hand to tide themselves through the inevitable dips in the market. Money is not the primary reason they do their job, but it is how they keep score, and savings is a priority.