can not only enhance and preserve a sales rep’s status, but also ensure ongoing successes. Such a future is greatly influ- enced by the willingness and ability of a sales rep to embrace change and exhibit a passion for continuous improvement.
A Sales Mind-Set
For decades, variations of “needs satisfaction selling” have been popular mantras. What constitutes “satisfaction,” however, has often been ill-defined or mistakenly under- stood. In today’s selling culture, the emphasis on needs satisfaction selling requires more than lip service for recog- nizing and addressing the personal wants, needs, and am- biguities of a buyer. At any given moment, the features/ functions/benefits of a product may be outranked by the unexpressed or hidden needs of the customer. The selling challenge can be more of an emotional and psychological mind-set than a purely product-positioning strategy. Sales characteristics need to be fluid, malleable, and complemen- tary. Knowing what they are—and when they are necessary —calls for keen intuition and good judgment.
Not being trustworthy is an immediate deal killer. One’s integrity must be sacred, even if it means occa- sionally losing an order. The issue of trust may never be a topic of conversation, but it can be the catalyst that gener- ates the next order or causes the next rejection, without the buyer’s concern ever being mentioned. Because of this, rule No. 1 is: Never compromise integrity.
• Knowledge vs. skill.
Sales reps are expected to possess expertise in the prod- ucts and services they represent. Know- ledge is the basis for much of their exper- tise. Knowledge is theoretical, conceptual, and cerebral and is based on information and facts. Additionally, it can be trans- ferred to others. Knowledge alone, how- ever, rarely results in a successful sale. Without the requisite skills to apply it, knowledge can be impotent. Historically, manufacturer-sponsored product training programs have been the practice of the electrical industry, while selling skills education (for the most part) has been left up to the distributor to provide or to each sales rep to develop on his or her own. Bill Attardi (attardi marketing.com), consultant, sales trainer, and university professor, expressed con- cerns that distributor owners/managers devote too little effort to training their sales reps on selling skills.“They spend a lot of time on the knowledge side, but they don’t spend enough time on selling skill sets,” he said. “They seem to feel that if someone knows enough about the product, they are on their own to learn selling skills.”
The characteristics of successful sales reps vary in context, depth, routine, and breadth. Not all sales- people require the exact same skills, but what they do need is a repertoire of useful competencies that address the psy- chological and emotional sides of selling. Some of these are inherent in one’s DNA; others are acquired through expo- sure, training, and practice. Certain personality traits are in one’s blood. They come naturally and seem to be unalterable—and to some degree, they are. Social psychology points to five different ways in which our key personality traits differ (openness, conscien- tiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and negative emo- tionality) and notes that, to a certain extent, the differences are the results of one’s genetics (much like height and weight). The balance of one’s personality characteristics appear to be molded by familial and social peer groups. Recent studies focusing on extravert vs. introvert char- acteristics have revealed surprising clues to their influence on selling. A study by Adam Grant ( pss.sagepub.com) con- cluded that “extraverts are more likely to be attracted to sales jobs and employers are more likely to hire them.” No surprise. But what was surprising in Grant’s study re- sults was the conclusion that “there was no indication that being an extravert helped sales performance.” A personal- ity trait that should be sought out, according to Grant, is
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