Straight from the Source: Executives Provide Insight to Improve Sales Effectiveness

Friday, July 18, 2014 | Category :

Top 6 Qualities of a High-Performance Salesperson

In recent proprietary research, we asked business executives to review 25 qualities and skills that prior research identified as important in a salesperson. Their top six responses paint a portrait of the ideal salesperson.

  1. The Opening Ante: Honesty and Integrity

    Reflecting on a range of salesperson qualities, executives desire honesty and integrity—characterized by truthful, sincere, fair, and ethical behavior in all customer interactions—above anything else.

    The placement at the top of the list may seem obvious, but with over 25 years of experience in partnering with leading sales organizations and asking thousands of salespeople what their customers want most, we’ve seen few consider “honesty and integrity” at the top.

    So why is trust so important to executives? The short answer—it generates predictability. With predictability, risk is reduced and less time is required to address and solve problems.

  2. The Buck Stops Here: Accountability

    During all stages of the buying cycle, executives seek salespeople who assume full responsibility for the implementation of the products and solutions they sell. In our survey, we defined accountability as “keeping commitments and taking responsibility for doing whatever it takes to ‘make it right.’”

    The stories are legion of executives who championed a major purchase only to see implementation stall and ROI evaporate. As their internal credibility faded, these executives became unable to accomplish other goals and ultimately found work elsewhere—or not.

    Smarter executives take a different approach. They evaluate the accountability of the salesperson, and the organization behind him or her, as thoroughly as they do the product or service being purchased.

  3. Inside the Customer’s World: Understanding the Customer’s Business


    Executives next look for salespeople who understand their business, its goals, and how it measures financial success. Salespeople who deliver that understanding can help executives make faster, more informed decisions—decisions that help them achieve the business results they are accountable to deliver.

    Executives seek more than just "sales or marketing-speak” around the products and services the salesperson offers. They want business-literate, next-generation salespeople who can become strategic resources.

  4. “Elementary, my Dear Watson”: Problem-Solving

    At the most basic level, the process of selling involves helping someone fill a need or solve a problem. So, in this respect, salespeople have to be problem-solvers. To sell effectively, they must help the customer define a problem, assess options, and implement a solution.

    Executives today are faced with myriads of problems and challenges and they seek assistance in solving them. The salespeople of the most value to executives are those who can recognize and assist with the widest variety and deepest complexity of problems, not necessarily just those challenges that closely relate to the product or service the salesperson provides.

  5. Shall We Dance: Partnership

    There is a surprising but revealing tension when executives discuss the value of partnerships. On the one hand, executives seek salespeople who collaborate to achieve customer goals, add value, and continue the business relationship beyond the sale.However, in a separate question, executives displayed a wide range of views about partnerships with suppliers.

    When executives do form partnerships, they do so slowly, over time. They expect salespeople to understand that. One executive commented, “I want to see the salesperson continuously add value and demonstrate a commitment to a long-term relationship.” This executive added that he doesn’t often see that.

  6. The Customer is King: Customer Satisfaction

    It’s fitting that the final quality executives desire in a salesperson is customer satisfaction, which we defined as “makes extra effort to meet customer needs and consistently monitors customer satisfaction.” The center of all activity has to be the customer, not the salesperson, the product, and not the seller’s company.

    In this context, customer satisfaction means more than ensuring interactions are pleasant. It means satisfying the customer’s need, which in B2B sales means helping the customer fulfill stated business goals.


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