Some people are naturals when it comes to sales. They effortlessly close deals, surpass quotas, and are the rainmakers for their organizations. But that doesn't mean the rest of us have to sit in their shadows. In fact, their secrets are very teachable and learnable, says George E. L. Barbee, author of 63 Innovation Nuggets for Aspiring Innovators.
"People who are leaders are always trying to improve themselves," he says. "Part of their motivation is to reach for excellence."
While most of us would think that extroverts have an edge, Barbee says it's not necessarily so. "Someone with a technical or engineering background who is a good translator is often a very effective consultative salesperson," he says. "They're able to get clients to think about their real issues. If they can get comfortable being in front of a client, they are effective rainmakers."
The root of successful sales is honing your skills and motivation. Barbee shares nine secrets that top salespeople know and that the rest of us can learn:
1. Be optimistic. Clients will have questions, concerns, and perhaps even objections, but rainmakers find a way around them, using optimism.
"An optimistic person believes there is a rainbow at the end of the discussion," says Barbee. "They keep positive energy going, which drives them and their client."
2. Believe you can make a difference. If you don't think your product or service will benefit your client, you'll have a hard time achieving sales success.
"Rainmakers are motivated by the belief that what they're providing is something the client truly needs," says Barbee. "If they think the client doesn't quite understand the benefit they're providing, they're motivated to discover why.
"This isn't an ego thing; it's an important mindset and a personally rewarding belief that you can help your client and make a difference."
3. Have persistence. Like any person, rainmakers get told "no." But they don't let that stop them.
"They're resilient and are able to patch themselves up and keep going without being obnoxious," says Barbee.
4. Listen to more than words. A top salesperson uses all of his or her senses to learn more about clients. They not only hear their words, they take in body language to understand what the other person is thinking.
"If someone is squirming, they might say, 'Here's what I think you said, but you were squirming. Did you really mean this? You looked uncomfortable,'" says Barbee. "This kind of listening helps you discover someone's real needs, and a conversation will often shift based on good listening."
5. Network. Effective salespeople like learning from people, and the best way to do this is to be in front of clients. In addition to meetings, these people talk to colleagues and are constantly brainstorming.
"Good rainmakers are often part of research and development or marketing for an organization," says Barbee. "They are the eyes and ears, and they like to network, test, and retest their hypothesis. It's not selling in the traditional sense. It's putting the client in the middle and helping them self-discover."
6. Stay organized. Good rainmakers take notes that they use later to follow up with clients. They document information using technology or by hand, and store their notes in such a way that they can be easily retrieved.
"This is part of their listening skills, but it's also a tracking skill," says Barbee. "They store information in an organized way. This is somebody who is very strategic and organized, has a system, and then gets the result."
7. Practice discipline. While top salespeople are friendly and connect quickly with others, they are also incredibly disciplined.
"What's underneath doesn't necessarily show," says Barbee. If a client says they'd like to talk about this in a month, for example, this person calls them back in a month. The recipient of that call realizes that this is a very disciplined and organized individual.
8. Motivate yourself and your team. Instead of showing up during office hours, rainmakers take initiative and start work early. They treat every day like a blank page, and ask themselves, "What am I going to write today?"
Barbee says they're also team players, and realize they can't do it all themselves. "They're good about involving others," he says. "They know they need to start their own engine, but they also know they aren't going to take off unless they have a good team."
9. Push boundaries and break rules. Rainmakers are out there pushing the boundaries of the organizations they represent. They aren't just accepting what the person said, says Barbee, they're listening and probing.
"They're always thinking about the future and saying, 'Imagine if we went down that path,'" he says. "And they're doing something the company didn't think it could do.
"It's being a contrarian in a constructive way. It doesn't mean you go through a red light, but you might push a yellow."