Is your sales team made up of "people" people? Do they clock a lot of talk time?  Wine and dine your prospects a bunch? Chances are you've got the wrong people in the sales seats. Good sales people are actually not what most people imagine. They aren't overly talkative. They don't call customers just to emptily "check in". They don't spend your company's money to earn theirs. They are:

  1. Intent listeners.  Good sales people prompt rather than pitch. They ask a few well-placed questions, but mostly, they work silently. They don't rely on getting chummy, they bank on getting information-- the down and dirty details of what is happening in their customer's world. And because they show true interest and attention to what their customers are experiencing, they also become trusted partners to them. Their relationships are based on real knowledge and understanding, not small talk.

  2. Avid researchers. Good salespeople believe that knowing is essential. They are curious about everything they come into contact with. They vet competitors like their life depends on it. They know their product inside and out. They can tell you what is happening in their industry, but they care more about learning what is happening in their customers' industries. They don't just google, they delve. They use their wisdom to generate confidence and that creates closes. This constant seeking is often solitary and rarely public.

  3. Smart connectors. Good salespeople are always making connections--which doesn't only mean networking. When they hear that a prospect needs more space to grow, they may put him in contact with a real estate agent they know and trust--because they understand that when he has more space, he can also grow his business with them. If they hear that a customer has had a bad experience with a past provider, they make sure to address all the issues that provider failed on up front. They are selective in their connections however, only speaking up when they know what they have to offer will truly benefit the customer. They connect the dots, and that nets both trust and transactions.

  4. Devil's advocates. Good salespeople are never content with just accepting the status quo. They ask what if, why not, and how so on a regular basis. They understand that change is hard, that doing something differently is difficult to imagine, and that trying a new product or service often seems to prospects to be more risky than advantageous at first glance. That's why they don't spend time reiterating features, they focus on explaining benefits, and encouraging their prospects to believe that something better lies ahead.

  5. Innovative problem solvers. Good salespeople love obstacles because it gives them a chance to be creative, to learn more, to win bigger. They truly believe everyone they come into contact with has the potential to be a customer--if they do the work to understand the prospect correctly, change the mindset blocking the customer's need from getting met, and ultimately, push for what others might deem impossible. They do this through reflection, not chit chat, through hard work, not gabbing.

  6. Purposeful positioners. Good salespeople are all about objectives. They know that every conversation counts. They measure their words and are direct, detailed, and demanding. They know that without the ask, the clear request for an order, there will be no action. Every sentence they utter is about getting to the endgame, because they know that is what will benefit the customer most.

If your salespeople show these skills in spades, you've got the secret sauce. If not, it's time to find others who do. Selling well is not about being the loudest, the most verbose, or the most fun. Selling is about being attentive, about hearing accurately, and about creating opportunity.  The less noise your team makes, the more clear your company's message will come across.

Published on: Jun 27, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.