These basic traits are the traits I have heard small business owners repeatedly use to describe their best vendor representatives and on the flip side, they use these very same terms with the addition of “does not” or “is not” to describe their worst vendor representatives. I have worked to instill these 7 traits in the sales professionals who work for me. They regularly stand out against competitors sales professionals.
1. Visit on a regular basis:
I have worked with hundreds of small business owners and the most common complaint I hear about sales representatives in general is that they never see them. Almost without fail the company that’s representative visits most often have the lion share of sales.
The reason for this fact is that people buy the product they are most comfortable with. The more complex your product or service is, the more the frequency of visits grows in importance. Customers often buy from the sales professional they are most comfortable with, which is usually someone who exhibits several of these seven traits.
Frequencies of visits vary by industry, complexity of products and account ranking systems your company may follow. Just be cognizant of the expectations of your customers.
2. Preschedule appointments:
Another common complaint customers have about sales representatives is “They stop by without letting us know they are coming”. Customers want to prepare for representative visits. They don’t feel it is as productive if a representative just does a drive by. They always think of additional things they wanted to discuss after their gone. When representatives don’t preschedule appointments, customers feel that they don’t value their time or are hoping they can just get in and get out.
It is best to preschedule next visits before leaving the current appointment.
3. Be Accessible:
Customers look for sales representatives that respond to their phone calls and e-mails in a timely fashion. This is another common area of frustration for customers. The best sales representatives answer or return calls immediately upon receiving them. Even when they don’t have the answer, they let their customers know they are working on their request. Silence and waiting will drive customers crazy.
4. Actively Listen:
Representatives have to listen to understand customer’s needs. Too many sales representatives only talk about their agenda and do not take the time to find out what is going on with their customers. Listening not only strengthens the bond it also opens the door to additional sales opportunities. The sales professional who is always uncovering and addressing their customer’s needs have the largest wallet share.
5. Prepare for sales calls:
Representatives have to prepare for existing customer visits just as they would with a prospect. Customers can tell when a representative just shows up. True professionals try to bring something new to each visit. They make sure they are keeping the customer up to date on product, service or marketing improvements your company is making. They review notes from previous meetings to make sure they completed what they said they would. They take the time to understand, develop and present ways that they and their company can address the customer needs they uncovered at the last visit. Customers have a different level of respect for the sales professionals who are always bringing them answers to their needs. Too many representatives just assume nothing has changed with their customers. That is a dangerous practice that leaves an opening for the competition.
Some representatives cringe when they hear the phrase pre-call planning. But to make any significant advancement with your current or perspective clients you have to have a plan. The most effective sales professionals I have worked with use pre-call plans. In most cases the customers know the representatives are trying to upsell or increase the number of products purchased by the customer. When done right, customers appreciate being sold too.
Don’t let your sales representatives operate like a rudderless ship, make sure they are pre-call planning with desired next steps identified. It is my experience that sales representatives are much more confident in front of customers when they follow this process.
6. Bring Value:
David Maister coined the term Trusted Advisor which nowadays is referred to as consultative selling. That is exactly what the top sales professionals become. The sales professionals who help their customers better understand the competitive landscape; bring ideas that help the customer grow their business will always be welcomed with open arms. These ideas are often ideas they are not specific to the product the representative is selling, they are ideas focused on making the customer stronger.
Several times I have seen the positive effects of helping a customer get into a niche market they had never thought to go after. It’s incredible to watch a customer double or triple purchases with your company in the course of a year, based on bringing them an idea.
Brining value like this to a customer will take the relationship to a whole different level.
7. Do What You Say You Are Going To Do:
Many sales representatives make promises when they are in front of the customer. Then for whatever reason they don’t follow through on the promise. They get busy, forget, or did not have the authority to make the promise.
The best sales professionals make sure they take thorough notes from their client meetings. They prepare a list of action items and make sure all the items are completed in a timely fashion. Many take the extra step of committing to their customers the time frame in which items will be taken care of and make sure they get done.
Nothing discredits a sales professional quicker than not following through on commitments.
I often wonder why these 7 traits are not practiced everyday by all sales professionals. Far too many representatives who are in more of a farmer role act as if they are on a milk run, just checking off the visits. Successful farmers break the ground, create the rows, place the seeds, cultivate (weed and water), harvest and preserve.
What other traits do you think are important for the salespeople calling on your business? Do you have any stories to share about either good or bad sales representatives? I look forward to hearing your feedback.
David Domos developed WhyBuyFromYou.com to provide content to help small businesses develop their branding, marketing and sales systems. In the past he held key leadership positions for a fortune 500 company. That company led the market in both sales and brand awareness and David was a significant contributor to its growth. David has been on the Amazon.com best seller list in their Direct Marketing, Communications and Entrepreneurship categories. He is a student of sales, marketing, branding & small business growth, continually focusing on the reason people buy. Follow him on Twitter @WhyBuyFromYou or visit www.whybuyfromyou.com.