Everyone knows that great salespeople are outgoing, personable and obviously very expressive; sharply dressed, maybe a little flashy, and persistent. Right? Not exactly… Just like there is no perfect “leadership Profile“, I suggest that you steer clear of stereotypes to create the perfect sales team.

We struggled for years to put together an effective sales team, and it took a while before we finally figured out why. We, like so many businesses, were hiring salespeople according to a stereotype. We always believed that we could send people who fit that mold into the field and business would come rolling in.

As it turns out, none of those traits bears at all on the effectiveness of a salesperson. As soon as we figured that out we’ve had great success, and we are now an Honor Roll Inc 5000 winner having made the list of fastest-growing companies for the past 5 years in a row. When you think about it, highly effective employees at any level, in any industry are highly skilled and understand the nuances of their jobs. Sales is no different in that respect. It’s an art, and the best salespeople understand that substance trumps superficiality every time. What any buyer wants above all else is to be able to trust the seller.

Here’s the formula that has allowed our sales department to reach its fullest potential:

I know it’s obvious, but honesty is essential. This means much more than simply not lying to prospective clients. It means being forthcoming at all times with any relevant information the client might need to make a good decision, including bad news. Sure, we want to make the sale, but honesty on the front end saves much agony on the back end.

A great salesperson must also possess in-depth knowledge of 1) the product he or she is selling, and 2) how that product can help the prospective client. When you have answers to every question and can clearly express all the reasons why your product is a natural fit, you establish trust. This, above all else, is where the prospective client is “wowed”.

Want to see a potential sale completely go down in flames? OK, then you’d better follow up. For whatever reason, lack of follow up by the salesperson is possibly the most maddening, frustrating part of a sales process for a customer and often leads to disaster. Answer the phone; return calls, emails and texts. Take ownership of issues that arise, and address them promptly and completely. Stay engaged after the sale and follow-up to make sure everything is working properly.

A great salesperson must believe in what he or she is selling. This is where our animal instincts come into play. A salesperson may be honest, have knowledge of the product, and adequately follow up on our questions, but if we sense that he or she is not fully behind the product, it raises doubts in the customer’s mind that they might not even be able to express.

And finally, a little bit of self-awareness can work wonders. We work with companies on their talent development strategies- and many times this involves training sales people. Our approach to training is the same no matter what the subject matter. By creating awareness of an individual’s thinking and behaving preferences we’re identifying how each employee will approach a situation, and empowering them to know how to tailor their approach in a way that is best suited for their client. You might not always know what’s going on inside your customer’s head, but knowing your own go-to methods and blind spots help you to craft a more holistic- and effective- approach to engaging with them.

So is a little flash a bad thing? And what about being personable–that can’t hurt, can it? I’m not saying any of that hurts a thing, only that being gregarious and highly social by no means qualifies one to be a salesperson. My point is that, first and foremost, salespeople should be honest, knowledgeable, follow up, and believe in what they are selling. Hire people who are self-aware, authentic, and comfortable with who they are. It’s not rocket science, but you will rest easier when you know that the members of your sales team fit this formula.