Five Attributes of Top Sales Producers, Plus Some Other Stuff–No Extra Charge – by Andrew Rudin
I made a pact to never write about a topic that’s been beaten to a miserable pulp. But here I go:
Mission-critical skills for top sales performance. Those who have worked with me have probably already clicked on the comments area and typed somewhat hypocritical on the subject line. So I’ll include a suffix: —that we wish WE had.
You’ve seen related questions on sales discussion boards: “What are the qualities of top sales professionals?” Scrolling through the responses I think, “Yep! Got that, and that, and that, and that, and that, too!” There’s no such thing as an ego that isn’t delusional. I claim no exception.
A royal flush of killer sales skills? Could I be anywhere close to being that good? Since it’s just us in this conversation, I’ll be candid. No. The reason I occasionally peek at these encapsulations of sales perfection is for the endorphin rush that comes with personally-assessed competence. Another path to Seller’s High. Fortunately, I have a wife and two teenage children who every day pay meticulous attention to ensuring I never stray into self-aggrandizement.
Author Nate Silver provides a great list of success skills in his bestselling book, The Signal and the Noise. But he’s describing baseball players—not salespeople. His set comes with a user-friendly label, Five different intellectual and psychological abilities that predict success at the major league level. Yet this list fits sales professionals to a tee. Truncate the highfalutin label after the word success, copy the list, and plop the whole thing into your PowerPoint for the upcoming sales meeting.
1. Preparedness and work ethic
2. Concentration and focus
3. Competitiveness and self-confidence
4. Stress management and humility
5. Adaptiveness and learning ability
If you’re one of the fortunate few to own the full complement of these skills, you’re still not guaranteed coronation as Top Producer. Without the right organizational leadership, sales environment, company culture, coaching, mentorship—what have you—these are just useful behaviors, all dressed up, but without anywhere to go.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter offers a list of winning cultural attributes in a Harvard Business Review article, not coincidentally drawn from sports, Ten Reasons Winners Keep Winning. I’ll throw in seven from her list for no extra charge:
1. Good mood. “While losers use any excuse to stop, winners sometimes play on even while injured, lifted by a kind of winners’ high.”
2. Attractive situation. GlenGarry GlenRoss? Not!
3. Positive culture of mutual respect. “Winners can maintain high aspirations and act generously toward others. Losers are more likely to blame others and disdain them as mediocre, creating a culture of finger-pointing and infighting.”
4. Solid support system. “Winning enlarges the circle of backers. Losing erodes support.”
5. Better stories. “Winning provides a halo that makes everything seem to glow. Losing causes observers and analysts to probe for reasons in a rewritten version of the past that makes continuing losses seem inevitable.”
6. Self-determination. Winners have more autonomy. “Losers get attention of the negative kind. They are encumbered with ‘help’— special committees, audits, reviews, frequent visitors.”
7. Continuity. “Lose too often, and heads roll. High turnover consumes time and attention. More time spent getting people on board leaves little time to fully execute any particular game plan. It’s hard to start winning again until the situation stabilizes. Winners have the luxury of implementing long-term strategies and planning for orderly succession.”
Feeling daunted? A little like a sales version of Wayne’s World We-Are-Not-Worthy from Saturday Night Live? Not to worry. Remember, former major league baseball player Bob Uecker had little to boast about his skills on the baseball diamond, but he had a high batting average in sales for Miller Brewing Company—as a celebrity spokesman for Miller Lite.
Andrew Rudin serves as Managing Principal of Outside Technologies, Inc. He enables B2B clients of all types and sizes to manage revenue risks, and to clearly understand the cost of risk. A prolific writer and speaker, Andy has a broad background in business development as a strategist, marketer, sales executive, and product manager. Andy has a BS in marketing and an MS in information technology, both from the University of Virginia.