Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

What It Takes to Be a Great Salesperson

Although many salespeople, like the one Alcorn let go, may be great at their jobs based upon previous definitions — like the number of sales they can close — that may not be the case any more. Alcorn implored readers to redefine what it means to be a great salesperson and hire accordingly.

“Recently I fired a great salesperson,” Stacey Alcorn wrote in the opening sentence of her article for The Huffington Post.  It took me by surprise, and I’m willing to bet your reaction was similar to mine. The success or failure of a newspaper ad department often hinges on the sales team. So why on earth would Alcorn fire someone she defines as a great salesperson? That is what she went on to explain in her article, “Firing Your Sales Force – Redefining Greatness.” As she noted, the sales industry has undergone a complete and utter transformation in the past 50 years, if not in just the past decade. It wasn’t so long ago that we would receive a knock on the front door and be greeted by a salesperson trying to sell kitchen utensils, make up or the like. Those days are past us, and now, with the help of smartphones, laptops and tablets, consumers go to the source for their purchases, often circumnavigating the salesperson. Although many salespeople, like the one Alcorn let go, may be great at their jobs based upon previous definitions — like the number of sales they can close — that may not be the case any more. Alcorn implored readers to redefine what it means to be a great salesperson and hire accordingly. She set up three key characteristics to look for when creating a sales team to be reckoned with.

1. Empathy: A salesperson who can empathize with a customer, co-workers and his boss is extremely valuable. Although today’s consumer can buy without the help of a salesperson, a salesperson that demonstrates empathy will resonate well with consumers. With the ever-changing and increasing amount of technology at our fingertips, an appreciation for humanity has not been lost. If a salesperson can empathize with a consumer’s frustrations or even the joy of a purchase, it will go a long way. Likewise, a salesperson that can empathize with his colleagues will make for a better team member, and therefore a better-functioning office. 

2. Honesty: Along with the convenience technology has offered consumers, it has also offered them a multitude of outlets to voice their opinions. If they have encountered a dishonest salesperson or business transaction, they often will share that experience to warn future buyers by posting to social media sites and reviews on commerce sites and forums. If you know you have a dishonest salesperson on your team and there was bad publicity as a result, it’s time to weed him out of your staff and look for honest, outstanding employees who have built positive customer relationships.

3. Nice: When I saw this as one of Alcorn’s prized characteristics, I was once again taken aback. Nice seems like such a weak descriptor, however, Alcorn made a strong defense for the characteristic. Of course, it’s important for salespeople to be likeable and have positive interactions with customers, but really, Alcorn means “nice” in terms of office dynamics. If you have a salesperson that comes in to work with a bad attitude every single day, it will negatively impact your sales productivity and spread throughout your entire team. Alcorn noted that this quality is why she fired the “great salesperson” she referenced at the start of her article. So, no matter how many deals a salesperson can close, he is not worth the damage his negativity could do to your entire team.