Startup sales jobs have been transformed over the last two decades. Where once being a salesperson was largely about knocking on doors and cold-calling people on the telephone, today’s proliferation of data-driven technology has put science and statistics into the seller’s box of tricks.
CRM systems and marketing automation software have enabled sales and marketing teams to make informed judgements about where a prospect is on the sales journey and when they’re prime for contact. Sales approaches today are therefore knowledge-led and targeted, rather than scattergun and clumsy.
Do You Have What it Takes?
Although I would certainly hold back from saying anyone could be great at in a startup sales job, you certainly don’t have to be a prized talker or an extrovert to be a success nowadays. The days of overbearing and fast-talking sales professionals are over, and in their place has emerged a diverse salesforce made up of all different shapes and sizes.
So what, then, does it take to become a star player in this sophisticated new world of sales? Are some people naturally predisposed to being a good seller? Or are there techniques and approaches that can be taught and nurtured?
Like all professions, if you really want to rise to the top – genetic leg-up or not – you have to embrace the process of learning it, and that requires hard work and commitment. If your heart isn’t in it, then it’s unlikely you’ll ever make it big.
Below is my list of some of the top characteristics and attributes all of the best sales people I’ve ever worked with have in common:
Resilient – I touched on this in my recent blog post here. If you’re going to be a good seller you need grit, pure and simple. I don’t mean being so desensitised that you can take a verbal battering without batting an eyelid; but I do mean having a thick enough skin that you’re not going to get derailed every time someone slams the phone down on you or tells you to do a running jump, so to speak.
Sales people get knockbacks on a daily basis. Whether people simply don’t like you because of your job or they hate the product you’re selling, you’re going to get people letting you know their thoughts with interest.
Good sales people know this is a numbers game and that making a sale usually comes with a whole lot of rejection in its wake.
Motivated – Related to resilience, motivation is what keeps you turning up every day despite the long hours and daily knockbacks. Sometimes even the best salespeople will have a terrible quarter but still have the drive to carry on and make the next quarter their best yet.
Thankfully in a startup sales job there are lots of ways to keep motivated. For some all the motivation they need is the buzz of the sale, while others get their drive from selling a great product or service. The job gives the opportunity to meet lots of people, to communicate and be expressive. It’s challenging, too, which makes the reward all the more appealing. And that’s not to even mention the commission.
Being a good listener – Asking questions is an intrinsic part of every sales role, but how the best sellers listen to and interpret the answers, is what stands them out from the pack. Selling is all about providing a product or service that meets someone’s needs or desires, and the more attuned you are to what a prospect is thinking and feeling, the closer you are to closing the sale.
Which leads me on to this next point:
Knowing your product – The best salespeople dedicate time and effort to ensuring that they know their product or service inside out. This is because by truly understanding how your product works, about its features, its advantages, even its drawbacks, you put yourself in a prime position to respond to your prospect’s needs. Lesser people in a startup sales job will lose prospects simply because they don’t realise that although the person doesn’t care about the product’s features X, Y and Z, they’ve actually been searching for W their whole lives!
Through a continuous internal process of listening to a prospect’s needs and identifying how your product might provide a solution you maximise the chances of a sale. If you do this well, you’ll be making the prospect feel like you are doing them a favour by selling them your product.
And don’t forget – to have even greater impact in your startup sales job you will be feeding consumer reaction right back to the product team.
Able to turn negatives – Many people’s natural reaction when speaking to salespeople is to go on the defensive and reject things out of hand. I used to get it a lot when selling gas as a young man in Edinburgh. I hand on heart knew that I was offering an astonishing deal that was head and shoulders above the competitors’ at the time, and yet I was amazed at how many people initially put up opposition. “On no, my gas company would never do that to me” or “Well at that price, the service must be dreadful” are a few of many responses. It was so frustrating.
Trained sales people know how to turn a negative on its head. They spend time listing all the misguided views and misconceptions people might have about their product so they can develop a canned response to challenge the prospect’s negative comment and reopen the dialogue.
It’s All Part of the Mix
If you hadn’t noticed already, all the points I’ve touched upon above feed into one another. Understanding your product inside out is great, but it’s not going to get you very far if you don’t also understand your customer’s needs, and the way you do that is by talking to them, asking questions and listening to their answers. You can only get to that point if you have the resilience and drive to cope with the many knockbacks and downturns you will experience along the way.
Of course, there’re a lot of other things I could have included here such as perseverance, having lots of energy, enthusiasm, being polite, tone of voice, and so on – they’re all valuable qualities. At the end of the day, being good in a startup sales job is about a lot of things, but chief among them is the desire to learn and do well. Get that right and you should go far.