Why do Sales Reps Succeed or Fail?

What makes some Sales Reps so successful time in and time out while other Sales Reps keep on failing?

Personally I have few traits that I believe differentiate an extraordinary sales rep from a moderate one but I would like to definitely focus on what industry experts say first.  Here are some characteristics of good sales representatives:

  • Set big goals
  • Enthusiastic
  • Hard workers
  • Persistent
  • Great listeners
  • Lots of passion
  • Empathy
  • Focus
  • Collaborate
  • Responsible
  • Optimism
  • Ego-driven
  • Goal setters
  • Planning before cold calling
  • Ask quality questions
  • Keep in touch with their clients
  • Tenacity
  • Confidence
  • And many more

When I look at any individual, I always try to separate the traits / skills, which you can NEVER be taught, from the tools and techniques.  The Traits / Skills are typically the foundation for everything you do as they reflect the “LOOK WITHIN” motto that I keep talking about.

Sales Reps MUST possess the traits in order to be successful and they should have the most important characteristic of ALL: “Be COACH-ABLE”, Yes coach-able because if they’re not then there is nothing that could help them get out of their bad habits, learn from their mistake and earn the $ they want every year.  Coach-able goes hand-in-hand with TRUE listening skills.

Coach-ability reflects your ability to listen, learn and evolve so you could be more successful. During my career, I have met an extraordinary gentlemen who is the Executive Vice President of Sales where he brought the Value Selling Proposition and new selling techniques to the Sales Team.  Some of us kept joking about drinking his “Kool-Aid” and if you don’t enjoy drinking it then you will not be around forever.  The “Kool-Aid” for us, funny guys, was truly our reference to being coach-able and have the ability to learn new processes so we could get better consistently.  NOT drinking the “Kool-Aid” gave him a clearer indication that you’re potentially an uncoachable individual.  If he ever faced some resistance from some Sales Reps, he did let them do what they believed is right but the monthly, quarterly, and annual achievements spoke to the expected end results.

Learning is important to any individual, don’t you agree? Without learning, you would have been doing something totally different in life and not reading this article!

I am NOT talking about tools and techniques here but I personally believe that the fundamental Traits a Sales Rep MUST possess are:

  • Being Coach-able;
  • Structured (Thinking / Process / Focus / Habits …);
  • Hard working;
  • Confident;
  • Result-Driven / Goal-Oriented = Takes responsibility for their Results;
  • Empathetic;
  • Honest; and
  • Passionate.

The above Traits somewhat remind me of the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) definition of a Project Manager as they define a Project Manager as an individual that is “organized, passionate and goal-oriented“. Now, let us look at the above Traits of a successful Sales Rep:

  • Coach-able
    Why did I list coach-able as the number one? Unless you are PERFECT, which does not exist in any profession, learning is vital to your improvement and success.  Being coach-able starts from WITHIN first as you MUST evaluate every win, loss, and stall you come across during a sales process to learn from it so you could repeat the good and adjust the things that are not working.

Learning and mastering the tools of techniques and adjusting the behavior are driven by how coach-able we are as individuals.  When you possess the foundation, the rest is nothing but a learning process.  Look at it from a different angle, do you think you could learn how to:

  1. Set big, realistic, and accurate goals through lessons learned, through trial and error, with guidance from your peers or manager, …
  2. Be persistent so when your sale reaches a stall you become persistently creative in your approach.
  3. Qualify your opportunities harder so you could spend your time where your fish are and not spending hours in the same spot with no fish around.
  4. Be a Great Listener since sometime we get carried away / excited and we talk more than we ever listen.
  5. Ask quality questions by taking the discovery model to your meetings and uncover the unknown rather than the known and basic stuff …

Of course you can, if you are coach-able.

Being coach-able is to do something different than you’ve ever done it before – It’s the “Kool-Aid”.  If you are asked to do something in a certain way, do it that way even if you have always done in a different way.

  • Structured

You have to have a structured mind and process in every step of your sales process while building your sales strategy, to establishing your overall action plan, to individualizing your strategy for each opportunity, etc. Successful Sales Reps are very well organized.

Structure, organization, and efficiency drive a Sales Rep to be more conscientious about their work and take pride in what they do. Through structure, you can systematically lead your prospects through YOUR sales process and follow through.

  • Hard Working & NOT Hardly Working

There is NO TIME LIMIT for a Sales Rep as it is NOT a 9 to 5 job – It’s a career, your compensation and your future.  Successful Sales Reps have a strong work ethic and do what it takes to get the job done, regardless of whether they are on vacation or at night or the weekend.  They should be willing to roll up their sleeves and work long hours to reach and surpass their goals.  When you are Goal-oriented & Result-driven the hard work is given.

Hard working Sales Rep relates to being independent and focused on knowing what they want to over-achieve.  Hard working Sales Reps will take all measures, available to them, to make their job a successful reality.  Successful Sales Reps are self-motivators as they can build themselves up to do a lot more then what has been set by others for them.  Independent Sales Reps do not have to be thanked for success as they feel the satisfaction from “WITHIN”.

Sales Reps should over commit and over deliver every time so they reap the benefits of their hard work.

  • Confident

Sales is not a stroll in the park as you will be faced with continuous rejections and you must possess the confidence to know that it is NEVER personal.

As a Sales Rep, you cannot have thin skin because rejection is a common place in sales.  Sales Reps hear the word “NO” all the time, but successful Sales Reps have the confidence to take “NO” as a challenge and not as a personal rejection.

With confidence, walk into every meeting whether internal or external.  With confidence, walk into every presentation.  With confidence, make your calls. With confidence talk to people.  Notice, I have said “Confidence” & NOT arrogance!

  • Result-Driven / Goal-Oriented

How can you be in sales without Goals and Results?  You know you have quota to meet, every quarter and every year, but I would actually say “you know you have quota to exceed as people set your quota and you need to aim for higher targets! unless their quota setting is totally unrealistic based on many factors”.

Successful Sales Reps know what they want to accomplish and they plan to achieve their goals through result-driven steps and action plans.  They make sure their goals are clear, measurable, achievable, and based on set timeframes. Results & goals, go hand-in-hand with structure as successful Sales Reps visualize their target, determine how they will achieve their goal through structure, and take actions to meet there goal.

Maintain your focus on achieving your goals by reaching smaller results every step of the way.

  • Empathetic

Empathy is the ability to identify with prospects, to feel what they are feeling and make them feel respected.  You have to relate to the prospects on a personal level and support them through their selection process.  Personal empathy is an essential quality for a Sales Rep.  Through empathy, you can gain trust and establish rapport with your prospects.  Empathy allows a Sales Rep to read the prospects very well, show concern, and clearly demonstrate interest in providing them with the right solution.

With empathy, you show that listening is more important than talking as it reflects a genuine care for others.  The lifetime value of an ideal Customer is much more important than the quick sale, so empathy is crucial.

  • Honesty & Integrity

Honesty & integrity are fundamental to your sales process.  No one can teach you how to be honest as it has to come from “WITHIN”, bring integrity to your process and build the trust with the prospect.  Do NOT mislead a prospect because of a quick sale as you will pay the consequences in the LONG haul.  You will be haunted forever, as peers do talk on many occasions, and you will never get another sale in the industry if you are dishonest.  Sales is NOT about the immediate win but the LONG TERM value of having references so use your Honesty & Integrity in everything you do.

Bring integrity and honesty to the sales process and you will build the TRUST needed to offer a consultative model and go to the next steps.  Wouldn’t it make you feel so good and proud of your actions and achievements when a prospect, now a customer, talks about you and your sales process in the following manner?

“Richard represents the company in an exceptional manner.  He is quite the expert and he really has the respect of those he works with … – Julie”

“The sales portion of our project was outstanding … – Neal”

That makes me feel so proud of ME and what I bring to my prospects.  It is ALL about ETHICS, my friend so TRULY live by your values.

  • Passion

Successful Sales Reps actually enjoy their sales job and if they hate it, they should take on another career.  Keep in mind that passion is NOT ONLY about your job, whether you like it or not, and the passion to be successful, it is also about the passion for what you are selling.

When you’re talking to your prospects and during your presentations, it will clearly show whether you have the passion for what you’re selling or not.  Sales Rep should be passionate about the products or services they’re selling.  If they’re on board with the Value Message then they can excitedly share that vision with their prospects.

Passion should be clear in your voice during a telephone call, in your responses to proposals, in your presentations and definitely, in your regular communication with your prospects.

Passion is like creativity – It cannot be faked so it has to come from “WITHIN” and resonate with your prospects.

How can you be successful as a Sales Rep?  Just look at the traits I have listed and evaluate whether you have them or not then use the tools and techniques by learning them through many means based on the foundation of being coach-able.