Don’t Write Off That Lucrative Sales Job So Quickly!

While sales positions aren’t for everybody, the negative notions about what makes a good salesperson are as widespread as they are inaccurate. Marketers who use underhanded, aggressive tactics ruin the industry’s image but tend to be less, not more, successful. Becoming a top-level salesperson requires earning a customer’s trust, repeat business, and referrals over time. A proper seller thinks of the long term, building a reputation as for a being helpful and honest partner. This patience is rewarded, as a growing stream of business flows in with less and less effort required. 

On the other hand, the stereotypical loud and pushy seller turns people off in the pursuit of instant commissions. While these “pushers” may close deals, over time, their names get ruined. As people start avoiding their annoying sales pitches, the boorish salesperson flames out and disappears. It’s a pity to forgoes a massive financial opportunity based on erroneous information. 

Selling as Solving

The common misunderstanding about what makes a great salesperson stems from a general error about sales. Good selling isn’t about convincing people to buy what they don’t want or need. Top sellers understand innately that they are helpers, offering a valuable resolutions but only to those who can benefit from them. The “helpers” don’t think, “How can I convince someone to buy my stuff?” but, “How can my stuff solve the customer’s problems?”

The helper’s sales process is about finding the customers who are candidates, tailoring solutions to fit the specifics, and explaining clearly to the customer how the proposed solution is in their best interests. A helper-type oriented salesperson honestly doesn’t want to sell their service or product if it isn’t the best way to help the customer. If one does sales right, he’s not a nebach begging disinterested people to buy his junk, but a problem solver bringing a valuable solution to grateful customers. And great salespeople are often the highest, not lowest, paid people in their companies! 

Call at Any Time!

This perspective may sound far-fetched, but even seasoned and jaded business people develop deep relationships with helper-type salespeople they work with. Think a top real estate investor dreads getting calls from his favorite property and mortgage brokers? On the contrary, agents who consistently add value by keeping on top of market trends and bringing forward appropriate opportunities are always welcomed eagerly!

One commercial broker I’ve worked with has a goal to always to be more knowledgeable about every large property in his market and niche than anyone of his clients—and he is! It’s not surprising then, that he is hugely respected in the field. His reward is repeat business from appreciative clients who happily take his calls and pay him six and seven-figure fees. Gaining that deep level of knowledge and trust isn’t easy at all, but the skills required to do so don’t involve nudging and annoying clients. 

Choose your Sales Position Carefully

Even the most talented salespeople need extensive support and training when they start out. Any way you slice it, entering the sales field is very hard. It takes a tremendous amount of determination to gain the skills and knowledge to serve clients while ignoring the rejection and push-back that all salespeople face. And while commission-based pay contains the possibility of massive upsides, it’s also accompanied by much financial pressure until you build up a steady stream of clients.

Some companies hire salespeople and throw them into the proverbial waters…sink or swim. The “casualty” rate in these firms is understandably much higher versus those that will invest in promising candidates. Ongoing training, mentor-ship, and a reasonable salary draw (forgivable loans, basically) help ensure that as many newbies as possible develop into assets. Only invest in a company that will invest in you.

Traits of Sales Success

Research confirms that being loud and arrogant are negatives, not positives, for reaching top levels of sales success. Steve Martin, a professor and author on the sales process, found in his research on the traits of top salespeople that 91% had above-average levels of modesty and humility, and “Ostentatious people who are full of bravado alienate far more customers than they win over!”

In the context of selling people what they don’t want, arrogance and aggression may be helpful, but as a “helper”- the real source of trust-based selling, it’s a detriment. Other traits that helped these out-performers excel included curiosity, confidence, determination, and focus. Top sellers are eager to listen, rather than talk, and then use the information gathered to tailor solutions and add value to their customers. This “empathetic” selling isn’t for everyone either, but there is certainly nothing negative about it.  

Seller-Helpers: Most Born, Some Made

Martin also found that most top-level salespeople are born, not made, with 70% having natural instincts that drove their success. He estimates that of 100 people who enter sales without inherent sale traits, 40% will fail or quit, 40%  percent will perform at an average level, and only 20% will become outstanding. This breakdown may vary by industry, and clearly, sales isn’t an easy route for many. But whether natural or inborn, the required traits are far from stereotypical. If you are a determined problem solver looking beyond titles and cliches, you may be a great candidate for the vast potential of a career in sales. 

I’m grateful to Chayale Kaufman, Founder of the Jewish Content Network , and Israel Schubert, Managing Director at Meridian Capital Group, for the significant insight each provided for this article.


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