6 Attributes of the Best Salespeople
Folks who work in specialty tend to eschew the moniker of salesperson. Many managers even re-title the staff to hide the truth. They call themselves specialists or experts, professionals or associates. Apple’s no stranger to such retail smoke and mirrors—their employees are deemed geniuses. Sheesh. Sort of pretentious, but pretty genius, too. Gulp.
But make no mistake, every last one of these folks is, at root, a freaking salesperson.
When I had my store, I didn’t dare advertise an employment vacancy as a sales position. No way. I didn’t want to attract someone skilled in up-selling or closing the deal. I didn’t want someone tarnishing my brand’s good, homespun name by slinging products for the sake of increasing personal stats. That would go against everything I believed in.
So I sifted through stacks of Craigslist applicants to find that special someone who was both anti-sales and able to move my racks of dusty apparel. I nailed it a few times. But once I accidentally hired a dude who could sell anything. An ice to an Eskimo sort of guy. He ended up with walking papers because he “didn’t fit into our culture”.
My lesson in hindsight—I was disillusioned. Blowing it. Not only was I misrepresenting myself, I was also setting the stage for a compromised customer experience.
Fact is, there’s no way to hold folks accountable for store growth or sales goals if I can’t even accept that my people MUST do some serious selling every single day.
Basically, I needed amazing “salespeople”. But I was afraid to say so.
Specialty teams need to stop thinking of selling as a bad thing. Granted, there’s a sour association with the idea of sales, in general. The word alone conjures up images of greasy bald dudes in cheap suits, lurking around a used car lot, creepily conniving to get you behind the wheel of a lemon disguised as a cherry.
But selling need not look like this.
Participating in a selling experience can be both fun and rewarding. It can be educational, emotional, and memorable enough to stick for life. I still remember a family of customers from my early days as a part-timer. After spending more than $2000 on shoes and apparel, they extended an open invitation to their home in Pakistan. Though I’ve never taken them up on their offer, I kept their address. These sorts of connections happen all the time if we are doing “sales” right.
The best specialty salespeople are extrinsically motivated and skilled at reading others. They don’t necessarily care about winning vendor contests or killing internal sales goals (but they do it, nonetheless). The best salespeople understand that turning inventory is the heartbeat of retail. They don’t compromise their humanity to do it right.
And “doing it right” means mindfully focusing on some basics.
I’ve made a list of 6 attributes the best salespeople ought to be all day (and not just at work):
1. BE PREPARED – This is a mindset. A conscious decision. You commit to show up ready. You know you need coffee before your shift, so you make it happen. You’re like a bilingual local who can interpret tourist’s needs. Nobody needs to tell you to “get out there” because you’re already there, zipping around leaners and clumpers.
2. BE SELFLESS – You know it’s all about the other person. You read the vibe of people and adjust your approach accordingly. You say hello like you mean it. You know that life can be scary, and you don’t want to add to it. You skip a lunch now and then. You cover others’ shifts here and there. You are OK with someone else’s glory because you know it makes the team rock solid.
3. LISTEN – You know that listening is the only way you’ll ever learn something. You are adept at breaking the ice in a way that’s not contrived. For you, big ears small mouth isn’t a skillset—it’s part of your personality. On top of all this, you are fascinated by others’ stories. You are enriched by the connection made by vulnerable sharing. It feeds you.
4. SOLVE PROBLEMS – You are the sort of person who helps folks with a flat tire. You offer to mow your elderly neighbor’s unruly lawn. You get to the root of the problem and hit it with something productive. You connect details to solutions. You only stop if someone tells you to stop, or if you’ve run out of answers. You are happiest when you can help.
5. BE HUMBLE – You don’t move through the world as if someone owes you anything. In fact, such thoughts never cross your mind. You do for the sake of doing, not for any sort of return on your investment of time, knowledge, authenticity, or love. If folks take advantage of you, you shrug it off and trust that what you offered made a difference.
6. GO BEYOND INTENTION – You are the sort of person who is genuinely fueled by helping others *but* you also happen to be damn good at the practicalities, too. Simply put, you are nice *and* highly skilled. You seek to fill others’ empty buckets. To you, there is no finish line, only joy in the running.
Yeah, selling’s got a bad rap. But don’t kid yourself, it’s exactly what you and your employees do on that retail floor. If you do it well, it doesn’t look like selling. Doesn’t feel like it either.
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