… not what immediately comes to mind, I’m afraid. Prosperous sales reps of the old times were polished marionettes of “always perfect”, “everything you wish for”, “only the best”, “yes, of course yes” types of professionals. Contemporary winning sales people do not adopt any of those hollow attitudes. They prefer integrity and honesty in their approach. They contact customers with justified argumentation and real caring. In other words, they behave professionally. Which sometimes means they might disagree with or dissatisfy a (non-ideal) customer. This is still part of a healthy sales game. And often, it is the only way to build a solid long-term relationship with a customer based on mutual respect.

Some “awkward” times of mine, I feel like screaming in the middle of a full conference room “we’re in the era of authentic communication; have you not realized that yet?” This takes place, especially, when I come across people who oversell themselves and their offerings, people who have been so deeply sunken in their out-of-date sales myths that they have become unable to distinguish between reality and untruthfulness. It’s a pity for them! It is irritating for the rest of us!

Needless to say that lies and silly jokes do not sell anymore. Needless to prove that such sales people are losing one serious project* after the other. Are the “overselling” sales people losing all their proposals? No, unfortunately not (yet). There are still some old-fashioned customers around. They are the ones who love being applauded for no obvious reason and the ones who would buy whatever makes them feel “superior” without even being able to understand whether their feeling is objectively reasonable. They are the ones who are regularly loved in front and consistently fooled behind their backs.

A lot of questions normally arise: Is the authentic sales approach proposed above a winning one, is it the most effective one? Is this sales attitude the appropriate one? Does it ensure sales at the end of the day? Instead of quoting the already said and written thousands of times up until today, I would mention only one thing: Do not over-sell! Do not over-promise! Give only the promises you can keep. Customers are not jerks. Customers know and remember. They won’t forgive you. They won’t trust you again.

If you want to be (or become) a respected and thriving sales person, you should seriously consider below set of 10 simple “attitudes”:

  • Believe what you say! (you are the first one to buy)
  • Listen to customers and try to understand their pains (with ears open and mouth closed)
  • Study what you propose (customers are very knowledgeable nowadays)
  • Offer what is appropriate for their particular needs
  • Propose a solution to their problem not a product (of your portfolio)
  • Promise only what can be delivered
  • Do not promise what cannot be delivered
  • For things you don’t know, say “I’ll check and come back later” and do so!
  • Admit your mistakes
  • Do not unkindly attack the competition; respect of competition in combination with your offering’s advantages is a much more powerful weapon in your sales hands

The mere truth is that you cannot make a sales person just out of seminars, trainings, and on-the-job assignments. They’ll be/become good, but never good enough. Good enough sales people have scored high in a wide range of areas in their lives, where courage and adaptability, generosity and braveness, smartness and humility have been the necessary attitudes in order to proceed. Successful sales people have run kilometers of real life without cheating, and also having left behind any superiority complex.

By the way, IF we realize that each one of us is “selling” something every day and every minute, it will become more than obvious that these skills are not only useful for sales people, but also for those whose business cards do not contain the word “Sales”.

Consequently, my conclusion is that the most crucial characteristic of a successful sales person … lies on her or his PERSONAL MATURITY. That’s why they are THE BEST! Search for them and forget about the rest. Buy from them, they deserve it!

* Serious project: initiated by serious people, for serious reasons, run by a serious company, evaluated by serious professionals based on serious assumptions.