When a company is trying to turn a vision into a product that customers will buy, it needs someone who can design and build that product and someone else who works well with people.

This is not to say that the 'product' person is terrible with people -- for example, the product person should excel at attracting and motivating other great product people. However, the 'people' person must be good at forging great relationships with everyone who can make the company succeed.

The people person ought to recruit and motivate talented employees, find potential customers and persuade them to buy the company's product, and convince investors to provide capital and other assistance to keep the startup going until it can make a profit.

If you are that people person, you can only do these things well if you're tops at selling. Here are the five skills that separate the best salespeople from the pack according to Harvard Business Review. You and your team ought to make sure you are always improving how well you perform each.

Own Everything

The best salespeople take responsibility for hitting their sales targets. They don't whine, make excuses, blame others or factors beyond their control for not achieving their goals. 

As HBR explains, psychologists call this mindset an "internal locus of control" and they found that it contributed to "success at work, higher income, and greater health outcomes."

If you have the right answers to the following questions, noted HBR, then you too have an internal locus of control:

  • How did I get here?
  • Did I build the right relationships?
  • Did I put in the extra work?
  • Did I speak up?
  • Did I blame others for my failures but take credit for my successes? 

The right answers to questions two three and four are 'yes' and 'no' for the fifth one. If you gave any of the wrong answers, find mentors who excel at sales and ask them for advice.

Be Resourceful

The best salespeople are often put in impossible situations with few tools or resources and very little time to resolve them. Rather than panic or give up, they calmly assess their strengths and resources to figure out a solution.

To improve your resourcefullness, HBR suggests you do the following:

  • Seek out or "fully embrace the next ridiculous or impossible" business challenge 
  • Turn off your phone and computer and focus your attention on brainstorming several ways to overcome the challenge
  • Draw your potential solutions on a whiteboard with a work colleague who offers feedback

Rather than go to someone else for help, a resourceful person develops solutions before seeking out others as advisors.

Be An Expert

Great sales people are leaders with confidence derived from a combination of knowledge and experience. As a leader, your 'product' is the future opportunities available to potential employees, customers, or investors.

To sell it, you must develop a point of view about how that product makes your industry better off. "Expertise leads to confidence, which leads to trust, which leads to sales," according to HBR..

Help Others

The best salespeople take responsibility for other people. More specifically, they share their knowledge -- about a product, process, or an industry -- with colleagues who need it. Passing on such knowledge makes you more self-confident and a great candidate to take on more responsibility. 

Move Quickly

Get back to other people quickly when they ask you for something. A slow response to an email from an employee, customer, or investor can create dissatisfaction and doubt in your professionalism. That leaves an opening for a faster-responding rival -- and it could cost you a a great employee, a new customer, or a value investor. So move quickly..

Master these five skills and you will be a more effective leader.

Published on: Feb 7, 2020
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