Succeed Magazine – www.succeed.co.za – October 2006
What are the most important qualities that top sales producers possess? This is a frequent question asked in South Africa and internationally by business owners, salespeople and executives. Psychologists and assessment tool experts have identified a number of qualities that top producers must possess.
I personally believe the two most important qualities are empathy and ego drive. You must differentiate between empathy and sympathy however. Empathy is not feeling sorry for someone. It is putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, and being instinctively able to see, hear and feel where that person is coming from. It does not mean you agree with the other person, it means you have an understanding of that person’s perspective, and that you can adjust your approach and feedback to that person instantly.
Ego drive, on the other hand, is the measurement of how fast you recover when you get knocked down, or after you have been rejected. If you immediately dust yourself off and get back up then you have a high level of ego drive. A salesperson with a high level of ego drive possesses an inherent focus and drive to make the sale, reach the goal, finish the task or conquer a difficult situation, and this is imperative. The need to accomplish, conquer and win keeps them motivated and focused on achieving results. The fact is that salespeople fail more often than they succeed. High ego-driven people are usually not shattered by failure, in fact they find that a failure or setback to them is just a challenge and handling challenges are what makes them happy. They live for the challenge and they live for the conquering, so when that one in 10 clients says ‘yes’, the path of rejections is justified.
The two main qualities of empathy and ego drive must be balanced. If a salesperson is high on empathy and low on ego drive, clients will think he is a great person, and really like that individual. But they may end up buying from the competitor, because the salesperson got so engulfed in seeing and accepting the client’s point of view that he did not present the best solution, and did not close the sale. A salesperson with high ego drive, but no empathy will often be so focused on driving through to the close of the sale he will not take into consideration or demonstrate respect for the client’s real needs, views and wants. This type of salesperson often loses the sale and does not understand why. She can also negatively affect her reputation and that of the company she works for. In essence you need a high level of empathy and a high ego drive to be a top producer. A salesperson with only one of these traits can still be a salesperson, and may achieve a sufficient level of sales. But if he is low in either empathy or ego drive, and makes a commitment to developing the right attitudes, skills and habits, he may become a top achiever. As a business owner or sales director make sure you are hiring people with a high level of empathy and ego drive if you want results. For the salesperson, do what you can to improve in both of these qualities, and it will pay.
Empathy and ego drive are inherent natural talents or abilities, although with a major focus and effort they can be improved. Here are a few quick tips that can help raise your ability in these two areas.
With empathy try the following:
Use the following statement in the following ways. “I listen to understand not just to respond.” Repeat this 20 times a day as an affirmation. Use it as a screen saver on your laptop and post the statement where you can see it. Put it on your fridge, in your car, on a card or on your cell phone screen. This will continuously keep the importance of understanding other people’s point of view front and centre of your mind. Remember, awareness precedes action and action precedes change. Make a list of ‘soft openers’ and commit to utilising them when dealing with friends, family, associates and clients. These ‘soft openers’ will force you to listen to and empathise with the other person’s situation. Try a few of these ‘soft openers’:
• “May I ask…”
• “Could you share with me…”
• “I’d be interested to know…”
• “You obviously have a good reason for saying that…,share with me…”
• “It would help me if you explained…”
• “Help me understand how you came to that conclusion.”
• “Help me get a handle on what you are up against …”
• “Please give me your view.”
• “What advice or suggestions do you have…”
• “I need your direction on this… how do you…”
• “Obviously you have your own view. Could you share your view with me?”
• “I’d like to hear more about what happened…”
• “That question tells me you still have some concerns…”
• “Maybe there are some things I can learn. Could you expand on that point?”
• “I’d like to hear more about your views on that.”
• “You know I have not shut up. I have been doing all the talking. I’d be interested to know what made you decide to take this route.”
• “Possibly I can serve you better if you could give me more information on what you expect from us.”
Take a course, read a book, listen to a CD or watch a DVD on effective communication skills. This should include active listening and talking so others will want to listen and understanding the non-verbal cues of body language. Interview associates, friends and family members that are known to be people that quickly see other people’s points of view. Ask them how they do it. It probably comes naturally to them so you may have to dig deep so they can explain it to you. Study personality types and take a course on how to deal with each type. Then start recognising the different types and consciously shift your approach to dealing with the different types. The four basic foundation types are: controller driver, expressive promoter, supportive amiable and the analytical.
A few suggestions to off-set a low level of ego drive could include:
Draw a parallel between rejection and the weather. Some people are affected by the weather and some are not. Even if it is raining or it is really cold or extremely hot, you know you still have to drive to work or go see a client and you always do that no matter what your weather mood is. Think of selling like you do the weather. See the rejection as a passing weather change. Just drive on anyway. Keep your eye on the destination. In certain weather you will move slower but you will still move forward. Take the rejection and still move forward … even if it is slowly. Make a list of the adversities you have experienced and recovered from and how you have recovered from them. Keep that list handy and review it after you’ve had a ‘no’. This will help you see that you can and will overcome this adversity.
For the next several weeks keep track of how many ‘no’s’ it takes before you get a ‘yes’. Draw up an average for yourself. Then start counting the ‘no’s’ and with each ‘no’ you will know how close you are to a ‘yes’. Calculate how many ‘no’s’ it takes to get a ‘yes’ and then take the average size of your orders/sales and divide that by the number of ‘no’s’.
E.g. R10 000 ÷ 10 ‘no’s’ = R1 000 per no. You now know that every ‘no’ you get is worth R1 000 Rejections and ‘no’s’ are often situational rather than personal. Make a list of situational circumstances that could cause a client to say ‘no’ or ‘seem to reject you’ in reference to a meeting or a proposal you have made. These could include:
• They are unhappy with their present job
• Do not have the decision-making power
• Dislikes salespeople in general
• Just committed to someone else
• No need for your offering
• Have personal pressures at this time
• The timing is not right
Caution: Do not use these as excuses if it has something to do with your lack of skill or flaw in your product or service you offer. Use it as a reality check to let yourself know that it is not necessarily you that is the problem… it could be a number of factors. Interview associates, friends and family members with high ego drive and find out what techniques they use to overcome the ‘no’s’, handling rejection and recovering quickly from adversity.