The Five Characteristics of Super Salespeople – Is Natural Talent a Myth?

August 21, 2012


The cost of hiring the wrong salesperson can be substantial, even for companies that do not pay a base or draw against commissions. Once advertising, trade shows, hiring bonuses, training expenses and lost revenue opportunities are tallied, the price tag for each failed salesperson can reach many thousands of dollars, even potentially reaching six figures for B2B salespeople selling complex, high-priced solutions.

Hiring the right people is therefore a crucial activity for every sales manager. Even the best sales training will not create a valuable salesperson that produces reliable results if the person is not suited to the job. Natural talent has been shown to play a definite role in salesperson success. So, what qualities should a sales manager seek when making a hire, and, perhaps more importantly, what should she stress when developing the best sales training program possible for her staff?

Read on for the top five characteristics of super salespeople.

1. Product Knowledge

Top salespeople are avid students of their industry and their offerings. Not only that, but they constantly study their competition to determine their strengths and weaknesses, while also staying abreast of their customers’ businesses to tailor their offerings to their specific needs.

A sales manager that detects a reluctance to study when interviewing a candidate should consider alternatives before hiring that person.

2. Aptitude

According to Dr. Larry L. Clark of Clark Systems, 50% of the results for outside salespeople are due to their natural talent or aptitude. Other evidence supports this, meaning that, despite some politically-correct, touchy-feely talk about how everyone can be successful in sales (which is espoused by some sales trainers), plenty of evidence exists to show that those born with natural talent for sales simply do better than those that have to be taught to sell. It is not impossible for a salesperson who is not a “natural” to be successful, but she might have to work harder.

3. Selling Skills

The top salespeople know and use the techniques proven most effective in building a sales career, such as:

• Focusing on a few top prospects rather than using a “shotgun” approach
• Using coaches or inside referral sources to get an edge
• Thoroughly researching prospects and their business before the appointment
• Building rapport before trying to sell
• Listening more than they talk
• Knowing how to best present a marketing message
• Acting as trusted advisors
• Recognizing when and how to close
• Providing excellent account management and service
• Generating and following up with referrals

4. Motivation

Self-motivation and independence are hallmarks of excellent salespeople. In fact, it can be said that great salespeople “create something from nothing” and sell constantly, no matter where they are. They also show a tremendous resilience and perseverance in the face of rejection and tough competition from other sales professionals.

In short, the best sale personnel simply don’t quit and hit the pavement every day looking for opportunities to sell.

5. Sales Process

While most factors that determine each salesperson’s success are directly controllable by him, the sales process used by each company is different and depends on people besides himself. The greatest salespeople tend to demand excellence and that their companies provide the best sales training, branding, marketing, fulfillment and customer relationship processes to support them — or they move to companies that will.

Sales managers have to do a lot of filtering to find the right people. To avoid wasting time and money, a recommended approach is to conduct salesperson aptitude testing. While most tests cost a nominal fee, the gain in productivity can cover that cost many times over by eliminating the revolving door syndrome faced by so many companies.