Want to know the secret to sales success? Success is more than just getting clients and closing deals. To be really successful in sales, you need to be a leader, both within your own company, as well as with your clients.
As management guru Peter Drucker famously stated, a leader is someone who not only does things right, but who also does the right things, and helps others do the same. Isn’t that also true of success in sales? You do the right things for your clients and when you really know and understand them, you’re helping them do the same. Here are seven important characteristics of great leaders AND great sales people.
Risk-taking. You won’t get anywhere if you’re hiding behind the door. Leaders step out, facing fear of rejection every day. It takes courage to act when the odds seem to be stacked against you. It means having the determination to make that extra phone call, to deal with the tough client or prospect, and to not let anything get in your way.
Discipline. Successful leaders are consistent. They have a structure, a schedule, and a plan. They are not only disciplined in their actions, they are also disciplined in their thinking. This means guarding against self-doubt. Our minds have a subconscious negative bias which leads us to constantly question our own ideas. A leader knows how to shift the negative to a positive. For example, instead of buying into the conventional wisdom that “it’s a tough market out there these days,” replace that thought with “I generate sales regardless of market conditions.”
Planning. Napoleon Hill, in the classic Think and Grow Rich, says “The successful leader must plan his work, and work his plan.” Planning is the basis of successful selling. If you have both long-range and short-range plans and if you take action every day to move your plans forward, you will reach your goals. Beyond the daily, weekly, and monthly plans, you must also plan to succeed. Another famous quote has been attributed to Ben Franklin, Winston Churchill and several others: “Failures don’t plan to fail; they fail to plan.”
Empathy. Good leaders understand what other people need, and they help them get it. Good salespeople understand their clients. They know the emotions and stress involved in buying or selling a property and they help clients successfully navigate the process. They listen actively and offer positive solutions to client problems.
Responsibility. No matter how much support your company provides, you are the key player in every transaction. If you try to pass the buck to someone else, you lose your clients’ respect and your own credibility.
“But I sent the documents to the title company yesterday. It wasn’t my fault that somebody spilled coffee on their fax machine.” It doesn’t matter. Take responsibility for any problem and all the details, and then do whatever it takes to make it work. Your clients need to know that you will make it happen. Leaders share the credit, not the blame.
Decisiveness. People are more apt to trust your leadership if you appear decisive. That doesn’t necessarily mean making snap decisions. It means that you recognize when it’s time to move and you can structure communication with clients and others involved in a deal so that everyone reaches agreement.
The important point is that good leaders and good salespeople don’t delay or avoid making a decision. When you encounter a client who is stuck, unwilling to move on an offer, you need to recommend a decision that is supportive of their priorities and consistent with their needs and values.
Vision. Last, but definitely not least, a leader has a clear picture of where he or she is going, what the end result looks like, and how to achieve it. As a successful sales leader, you must be able to communicate your vision in a way that makes others want to buy into it. You must have the discipline to work toward your vision which will motivate others to join you and share in your success.