As one of the few lucky sales guys who actually have the respect of the people I sell and the people I sell to, I often get asked what makes a sales person successful. Everyone has had the used car-salesperson experience – whether it actually is while buying a used car, buying a home, or any number of smaller items. Quite frankly, there are a lot of really crappy sales people out there. For the entire sales profession, please accept my apology on behalf of all of us. Now, with that out of the way, let me tell you why we’re not ALL like that.
Sales is a very hard gig. Think about it. You have to talk with people you don’t know and explain to them why what you have to offer is better than anyone else’s things they have to offer. You can’t just tell people that. First, you have to overcome the trust hurdle. You have to display market intelligence – and I don’t mean why they should buy your stuff – I mean that you understand their industry, their role in their organization, their organization’s role in their competitive landscape, the benefit to them personally and professionally for bestowing hard-earned trust in you, and then if you’re lucky, they’ll listen to you for 10 minutes. In those 10 minutes, you have to blow them away. You have to be their long lost son or daughter. You have to identify with them and just happen to have the ideal solution to every woe they’ve ever faced and especially their currently most pressing problem. Doing this every day, every week, every month is not exactly what you’d call stress-free. I once read a statistic that claimed 50% of sales people quit within the first 3 months. 33% quit within the first year. Only 33% hang in for the pay-off for longer than a year. Can you think of any other industry that is as self-destructive? I certainly can’t and I think that’s part of the big attraction of it to me.
So what makes an outstanding sales person? What differentiates the average (which in sales means those in another industry within a few months) from the truly outstanding?
The finest definition of sales I’ve heard is “the transfer of enthusiasm from the selling party to the buying party.” Those are very few words to describe the process, but most everything I’ve ever read about sales (and that would fill most any library) really boils down to that single sentence. Think about all the variables. This is particularly true when you’re selling something which in my opinion is the highest value, yet most intangible product/service in the world; custom software development. Think about all the personalities, all the corporate objectives, all the personal objectives, all the problems businesses want to solve, all the differing skills sets, differing budgets, differing pre-conceived notions, differing levels of understanding in software companies, technologies, processes, methodologies, etc. There is nothing more challenging or more stimulating in the world. That is again, of course, just my opinion. I can’t imagine anything more challenging or exciting to do in life professionally.
So, now let’s come back full-circle to the original point of this post now. How do you become a sales ninja?
While, I can’t speak for my friend OptionsScalper, who first defined me as a Sales Ninja (thanks btw!), I would define “sales ninja” as follows:
Sales Ninja, n. Term used to define one who is completely focused on illuminating success in sales activities. A sales ninja understands his/her market, his/her products/services, his/her business, his/her customers and focuses full-throttle on serving the interests of those constituencies fully. A sales ninja has charisma that is contagious to those around them. They typify a positive, optimistic experience in all those they encounter, particularly those who are in a buying position for their goods and/or services. They have a genuine love and interest for all types of people, all personalities, and the pursuit of maximum enjoyment and optimization of life for themselves and those they interact with.
That’s the best I could come up with right now. I think it delivers the point, even if it is less than perfect. Those are the primary attributes of a highly successful sales person – even a sales ninja.
Some have these characteristics and beliefs by default. Call it genetically encoded or behaviorally learned. It makes no difference in the end sum. In the sales profession, those who naturally possess these characteristics are usually referred to as “Eagles” and those who do not, but aspire to the same excellence are called “Journeymen”. A great book that highlights the process that Eagles use to help in their career of sales is “9 Block Vision Processing Model” by Keith Eades & Jeff Fisher. I had some training a few years ago where this was the model taught. Apparently this has already been updated. As I went to search for the link to the book’s site for this post, they’ve changed it. I haven’t read this new “Solution Selling” book, but I assure you it is based on the exact same principles as the book I mentioned. A forewarning to all however, is that no book(s) will ever capture the spirit and process of sales because it is so dynamic and so intuitive to the champions of it. That’s not to say others can’t learn and improve through them, just that it is always changing. That is half the fun.
Sales is the oldest profession and it will be the longest standing profession. (yes Casey, what you were just thinking there IS a form of sales!)