You can't rely on just personality and intuition

Why did you choose a career in sales? Many people enter the field of sales as a default career move. Recently, I have been hearing the phrase, "natural born salesperson," kicked around a lot lately. The attributes most often associated with this phrase are: great personality, positive attitude, likable, good conversationalist and fun to be around.

If I combine these attributes with the belief in the power of intuition, I have detailed the approach 80 percent of salespeople use to close business. The sad fact is that it takes a lot more than these superficial attributes to be successful at selling.

Professional selling is both an art and science where many skills and traits come together to form a successful outcome. I was taking a break from the day in a local coffee shop when I overheard two salespeople having a passionate conversation about their prospects. One explained to the other how she had a full pipeline of prospects that could possibly yield $100,000 in sales and $10,000 in commission if she could just get a face-to-face meeting and "schmooze" them to buy from her. The other explained that his pipeline was even larger than hers and had the potential to deliver $250,000 and $25,000 in commission when he was finally able to pin the prospects down. Both were elated and celebrating their anticipated success!

I couldn't resist injecting myself into their discussion, so I introduced myself and asked if they would mind answering a few questions about their potential commission windfall. Both seemed stunned at my questions and I was similarly stunned by their lack of answers.

Their vague responses pointed to the fact that they had no reason to be optimistic about closing any of the business in their respective pipelines and the commission windfalls were merely pipe dreams. Both of them forecast business based on initial "friendly" sales calls and delivered proposals based on having the lowest price in their category.

Successful sales professionals act in a manner totally opposite from these scenarios. They understand that social skills may get them an appointment with a prospect, but true sales skills and methodology close the deal. The next time you are in front of a qualified prospect make sure you dig deep enough to really qualify the prospect's intentions as well as the opportunity and lastly determine their willingness to act.

Here are five behaviors top performing salespeople utilize to achieve success in today's competitive sales environment:

1. Prospect your way to success: "If you can't find them, you can't close them."

2. Develop a professional relationship: "Stop being a Professional Visitor and build an honest, trust-based relationship with prospects."

3. Determine the prospect's needs: "Stop telling prospects why they should buy from you and help them discover why they should work with you."

4. Ask better questions: "Help prospects understand your expertise by making them think differently about their issues."

5. Only present to qualified prospects: "Stop wasting valuable time making proposals to prospects who have no intention of buying!"

Personality and intuition rarely work as they cannot be relied on to predict success. Instead of blindly believing that a pleasant conversation with a prospect means potential business, ask tough questions and determine whether the opportunity is real. Balance a positive outlook and winning personality with cold hard facts and you'll save yourself a lot of explaining to those above you and increase your bottom line.

Go conquer your worlds.

• Bill Bartlett owns Corporate Strategies, A Sandler Training Center. Text "SalesTip" to 71813 to receive Bill's biweekly newsletter.

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