Businesses thrive on making sales – and thus the quality of sales representatives. But what makes a great sales representative, and if you're making a career in sales, what can you do to improve? Here we take a look at the qualities that great sales reps need. But first, let’s define what we mean by a sales representative:
On a fundamental level, a sales rep is someone who showcases and sells products or services offered by a business or organization – but it’s not always quite that simple. There are many different kinds of reps, and it can be easy to be overwhelmed by the jargon. What is a B2B sales representative? What is a sales development representative?
In the case of a B2B sales rep, it’s pretty straightforward – someone who sells for a business whose target market is other businesses. A sales development rep (SDR) is a little more complex; an SDR is a rep that focuses purely on outbound prospecting. They are interested only in moving customers through the sales pipeline to ensure that they turn into conversions.
Thankfully, however, no matter what kind of sales representative you are looking for, the same skillset is required.
It's all well and good assuming that every sales rep is closing deals and doing the best job they possibly can. But the only way to understand performance and measure success is by having goals. It's important that a sales representative can not only monitor their progress through goals, but also strive for better goals.
“We have our standard goals, and then we have our stretch goals,” says Tom Hart, Director of Sales at SEO agency Artemis “standard goals are the baseline of what we need to achieve to stay on track for the year – but we have stretch goals to motivate us to push for more and exceed our expectations”.
Some sales representatives achieve decent numbers and then think they’ve got it made. The truth is there is a world of difference between a decent salesperson and a great sales representative; just because you’re meeting the quota right now, doesn’t mean you’ll keep doing it. The best sales reps are always interested in learning and developing their knowledge.
This means reps not only need to know the products and services that are being sold inside-out, but also keep up with sales trends, and understand their target market. Strategies that were hugely effective ten years probably won’t work today. Reps have to stay aware of what the most successful figures in their industry are doing.
Every sales rep needs to know their own products or services, from the features, applications, and benefits they provide to customers. However, great sales representatives go a step further in their understanding. To be a great sales rep, you need to truly know your industry.
It’s not enough simply to know the unique selling points, reps need to know how these relate to their competitors. Remember that reps need to be providing value to customers – anyone can use the internet to look up what each service or product offers, what customers really need is help understanding the context.
The simple fact is the majority of sales require more than one discussion with a prospective customer. And yet many reps give up on a prospect after a single follow-up. Making sales and being known as a great rep demands persistence. That said, there is an important point to make here too; don’t let persistence come across as aggression.
When salespeople get pushy, such as calling multiple times in a single day, it really turns potential buyers off. A much better idea is to be respectful - if you haven't heard from a prospect after a couple of days, follow up and make sure to always add value – maybe something to sweeten the deal.
There can be no doubt that working in sales in any industry can sometimes be a frustrating business. When a lead you've been working on for a long time opts for a competitor or seems to lose interest at the last second, it can be easy for reps to resign themselves to failure and disappointment. But this isn't what great sales reps do.
Remember, a customer saying 'no' is not a reflection on the work that's been done, but a reflection on where they and their business are. Focus instead on trying to find opportunities and solutions for why the customer won’t commit. Even if you can’t get a successful sale this time, ensure the conversion isn't left at a rejection – open up the possibility to future dealings.
You can be a skilled SDR with knowledge of all of the science behind modern sales. But if you don’t possess skills such as coachability and ownership, it will be hard to move up in the sales industry.
Coachable employees learn from their mistakes and explore other ways to achieve results. Reps who come into an organization unwilling to learn new ways to execute, will likely go the way of the dodo bird.
Reps that take ownership and help their sales team succeed will grow quickly within an organization. They’re also likely to become great leaders.
Great sales representatives aren't born – they're made. Yes, it's important to have natural traits like persistence and optimism, but so much of making and closing sales is about the rep’s desire to learn more and stay ahead of the game. No matter what you're selling, it's essential to be passionate about the product and industry if you want to be considered great.
You also want to look for a sales rep with the willingness to learn and adapt to tough times. The covid era has changed the way sales processes are done and 2020 was the year where we all saw the rubber met the road.
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