What makes a great salesperson? The answer might surprise you…

Contributor - Andy Bounds


What makes a great salesperson? The answer might surprise you…The Sales Executive Council (SEC) says that salespeople tend to behave in one of five ways. Here are their profiles - which do you fall into? And which is best?

The relationship builder:

  • gets along with everyone;
  • builds strong advocates in organisations;
  • is generous in giving time to others.

The reactive problem solver:

  • reliably responds to internal and external stakeholders;
  • ensures that all problems are solved;
  • is detail-orientated.

The lone wolf:

  • is a bit of a maverick - follows their own instincts;
  • is self-assured;
  • can be difficult to control.

The hard worker:

  • is always willing to go the extra mile;
  • doesn't give up easily;
  • is self-motivated;
  • is interested in feedback and development.

The challenger:

  • has a different view on the world;
  • understands the customer's business;
  • loves to debate, often creating "positive tension" with the customer to help arrive at the best outcome.

Two questions to answer

  1. Which are you?
  2. Which is best?

The SEC found that most salespeople were relationship builders. The idea being that, the better someone likes you, the more likely they are to buy from you.

But they found that the most successful salespeople were challengers - in other words, those who provoke customer thinking.

So whereas the relationship builder often seeks to agree with the customer to enhance the relationship, the challenger often seeks to disagree, to provoke discussion to ensure they arrive at the best solution.

The rationale here is: customers don't always know what's best for them. As Henry Ford famously said "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse".

The simplest way to ensure you challenge others is to teach them something. To make them think: "Well, I'd never thought of it like that". When this happens, they see you as value-adding. And they want more of it. They seek you out again. Great for them; and for you.

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Andy Bounds

Awarded the title Britain’s Sales Trainer of the Year, and described by AstraZeneca’s Global Communication Director as “a genius, whose advice can’t be ignored”, Andy’s insights stem from the fact his mother is blind.