Before reviewing the six characteristics of successful salespeople, we need to talk about sales in general. Selling is an acquired skill, not a God-given talent. Salespeople are communicators, not manipulators. For many people, their only sales experience has been with a pushy car or insurance salesperson. Such prejudices are commonplace and totally wrong. Just like some consumers may see all contractors as “tin men” and “Bubbas” who take a customer’s money, it is unfair to assume salespeople are all pushy jerks. Just like contracting, a few bad apples give the industry a bad name.
For contractors, I define selling as your ability to communicate your trade to solve customers’ problems and fulfill their needs. Have you ever bid a job you did not get? Sure. Have you ever bid a job you did not get and the customer ended up buying an inferior product or something totally different? It is not your customer’s responsibility to determine the difference between your estimate and the competition’s quotes. It is your responsibility to communicate the difference.
Sales strategies and personalities may vary, but top-notch salespeople share common skills and practices. Here are six common characteristics of successful salespeople:
1. Selling is a skill that requires listening, not talking. Many people think they cannot succeed at sales because they don’t have the gift of gab. In reality, excessive talkers rarely make high-performing salespeople. I would much rather train an introvert how to ask questions and gather information than try to teach a motormouth how to shut up.
2. Successful salespeople follow up consistently and consider sales an ongoing relationship rather than a one-shot deal. Follow-up shows desire and lets the customer know you are organized and not a flash-in-the-pan type of person. Professional salespeople realize the easiest sales are built around referrals and repeat customers. First-time sales always require more effort and energy. Building a clientele of happy customers is like having an annuity that pays dividends year after year.
3. Questioning is the foundation upon which all professional sales transactions are built. Asking open-ended questions to explore customer issues allows you to build trust and solve customer problems.
Imagine you went to an artist to have your portrait painted. After several sittings, the artist shows you the portrait and it is a picture of him. How would you feel? Too many contractors paint their own portrait and not the customers. They have done hundreds of jobs, and it is all too easy for them to simply judge what they feel the customer needs.
Your goal is to ask questions and identify the customer’s needs. Once those needs are identified, you present a technical solution based on your expertise. Yes, you are the expert, but not everyone wants the same thing and sometimes people don’t understand their own needs. Even if the customer did have the needs you identify, it does not mean they will see the value in what you offer. By gaining their buy-in and support, you will find that people are much more receptive to your solutions.
4. Consistently and clearly communicate a unique company story and position in the marketplace. Take a moment and try to communicate who your company is in three or four sentences or less. You will be amazed at how hard this is. The more unique and different the story, the harder it is for your customers to compare you to the competition. “We do good work and have good people” is something any contractor can say. Saying you do work with your own employees who are drug tested and background checked is not something everyone can say and implies you have good employees.
5. Consider customer objections an opportunity to solve a problem and clarify the situation rather than an obstacle to the sale. The most common customer objections are:
• Schedule or timing.
• Input from a third party, such as a wife or supervisor, is needed.
• A need to get more estimates.
• The customer is unsure and needs to think about it.
Since these are objections you hear over and over from customers, it only makes sense to practice what to say when such issues arise. In our PROSULT networking sales academies, it is amazing to ask the question and people act as if they have never heard it before.
6. Always ask for the order as a natural part of the customer relationship but only after all issues and needs are probed. It is astounding that many contractors consider asking for the order to be pushy. This is like walking into a restaurant, receiving a menu and when you ask for a meal, the waiter or waitress seems shocked. You would never hear them say, “You came into a restaurant to order food - I can’t believe that.” How absurd is this? Well, how absurd is it for the customer to call you for an estimate and not expect you to ask whether you are going to perform the job. Don’t wimp out. Simply ask for the order and shut up.