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The Five Critical Attributes to Sales Success

by Doug Davidoff | Jun 26, 2013 4:43:00 AM

After 25 years, working with more than 1,500 companies, nearly 10,000 salespeople and witnessing almost 100,000 sales calls and interactions, I’m finally able to answer the most important question about successful salespeople (what can I tell you, I’m a little slow).  That question is:

What are the most important attributes that must be present to ensure the success of a salesperson?

Up until now, I’ve been like most people in the sales training and teaching field.  I’ve hedged by talking about the lack of predictability, the mix of science and art, as well as make the statement that there is no such thing as the naturally born salesperson.  While I maintain these thoughts, I can now unequivocally state that there are clearly five attributes that must be present to ensure the success of a new business salesperson.

They are:

  1. They hate to lose.  It’s often said that salespeople are competitive.  While that’s true, it doesn’t quite nail the key to success.  This attribute is slightly different from merely being competitive.  Good salespeople hate to lose more than they enjoy winning.  This absolute distaste for losing motivates them to do what others are unwilling to do.
  2. They are comfortable with uncertainty.  I’ve often likened new business development to investigative journalism.  What they both have in common is that, early on, you don’t know what to expect.  As a matter of fact, the only information that’s valuable is information you didn’t expect.  A lot of people struggle with ambiguity or lack of certainty.  Good salespeople need to be comfortable being uncomfortable or they won’t push and provoke their prospect like they need to.
  3. They are curious.  Good salespeople are insatiably curious.  They’re always asking questions, digging deeper and trying to find the issue behind the issue.
  4. They have command.  Good salespeople focus on being valued over being liked.  They realize that sometimes they need to make the other party uncomfortable to get the job done.  Gallup’s amazing Strengthsfinder profile defines command as:  Command leads you to take charge. Unlike some people, you feel no discomfort with imposing your views on others. On the contrary, once your opinion is formed, you need to share it with others. Once your goal is set, you feel restless until you have aligned others with you. You are not frightened by confrontation; rather, you know that confrontation is the first step toward resolution. Whereas others may avoid facing up to life's unpleasantness, you feel compelled to present the facts or the truth, no matter how unpleasant it may be. You need things to be clear between people and challenge them to be clear-eyed and honest. You push them to take risks. You may even intimidate them. And while some may resent this, labeling you opinionated, they often willingly hand you the reins. People are drawn toward those who take a stance and ask them to move in a certain direction. Therefore, people will be drawn to you. You have presence. You have Command.”  Enough said.
  5. They have business acumen.  Its time we all face it – selling is dead.  Salespeople aren’t enough to get the job done.  We need businesspeople-who-sell, and for that we need business acumen for salespeople.

There you have it.  Look at your best salespeople and I’ll bet they are strong in at least 3 or 4 of these attributes.  Look at those who struggle and I bet they’re not strong in more than 1 or 2.

If you’re looking to hire a salesperson, interview for these attributes, and make sure you avoid these other hiring mistakes.


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