Many sellers like to describe themselves as professionals, but what is it that makes a seller a professional?
Professional sellers conduct themselves in such a way that buyers respect and trust them. Professional sellers work with buyers, they don’t sell to them.
Many surveys and studies have been conducted asking buyers what traits they value most in sellers. This information is invaluable for those who truly want to be toward the top of the sales profession.
The list below shows the traits buyers say they want to see in sellers. For some sellers, these come very naturally, while for others perhaps it’s a constant struggle to exhibit these traits.
Nearly all the traits can be summed up in one word — professional.
Are you a professional?
Traits Buyers Like
Honest. Buyers want sellers to be honest with them. Give your prospects credit for being intelligent people who know that no product or service is without faults. Be forthcoming with those faults and at all other times.
- More often than not, buyers will find out the truth — if they already haven’t figured it out.
Knowledgeable. Make it a goal to know your products and services — and how they address customer needs — far better than your potential buyers. You should know the industry which you serve better than any of your competitors.
- Most companies do not train their salespeople enough to meet these objectives, so you must constantly take the initiative to learn these things on your own.
Organized. For meetings with buyers, make sure you have a valid business reason and are properly prepared.
- Whenever possible, provide a proposed agenda in writing to your buying counterparts. Do it several days before the meeting to allow them time for input/feedback.
Punctual. Buyers expect sellers to be on time, even if they — the buyers — are not.
- “My last appointment ran long” or “traffic was really bad” may be valid excuses on occasion, but there is no excuse for not letting the buyer know if you’ll be more than a few minutes late.
- Talk to your current customers to identify creative solutions they used in conjunction with your products or services that you can share with prospects.
Prompt. Return calls and emails the same day whenever possible and always within 24 hours.
- According to one expert, the current expected response time to an email is now four hours.
Follow-through. Strive to always meet or exceed timeframes in which you’ve promised to provide information or other items to buyers. Exceed their expectations by providing the information more quickly than the promised timeframe. If you will not be able to meet the promised timeframe, let your buyers know as soon as possible.
- Don’t make the mistake of thinking buyers will forget about your promises — they won’t.
Empathetic. Buyers want salespeople who genuinely care about their personal and professional needs and goals.
- The ability to identify buyers’ personal wins is just as important, if not more important, than identifying business wins.
Traits Buyers Don’t Like
While it is critical to understand what traits buyers want to see in sellers, it is just as important to know what traits they don’t enjoy. The list below shows what organizational buyers don’t want sellers to be:
One word describes most of these traits — unprofessional.
Are you viewed as unprofessional by your buyers? In most situations, they surely won’t tell you. What they will tell you is that your price was higher, the other company was a better “fit, ” or the other guys had a better solution.
Are those your problems, or are you unprofessional?
Unprepared. While you may like to think your buyers’ worlds revolve around decisions involving your products and services, most times they do not. Unless they are in purchasing, buyers are paid to perform a specific task or function, not to meet with sales representatives.
- Always prepare for your meeting. This includes the appropriate research, written agenda (when feasible), written questions, and goals and objectives for the meeting. In the first few minutes of the meeting, review this information, along with the expected results or payoff for the buyer.
Uninformed. In many industries, the bar has been raised significantly on how much buyers know about your products and services. Before a sales call, meeting, or presentation, anticipate the questions you’ll be asked — and have the answers and/or information at hand.
- If you cannot confidently answer a question, say you don’t know and give a specific process and timeframe for providing the answer.
Aggressive. While aggressiveness may be touted by many sales experts and managers as a necessary trait for sales, buyers don’t like overly aggressive sellers. In many situations, overly aggressive behavior can be construed as desperate, and buyers don’t like to purchase from sellers who are desperate for business.
- Buyers may also believe that aggressive sellers are not interested in their needs and care only about generating a commission.
An interrupter. There still may be a few industries where it is appropriate to show up without an appointment, but most professional sellers generate new business by setting appointments. It’s funny to read stories where a sales representative “won the business” because he just decided to “show up” and ask to see the CEO.
- While a few of these stories may be true, there are many more untold stories where the CEO (or more likely an assistant) asked the sales rep to leave and never come back.
A talker. This is another sales expert and manager favorite. “You’ve got to hire people who can tell a good story or joke and develop rapport with customers. ” That bus left long ago. Selling is much more about asking good questions and listening.
- Many sellers have the 80/20 rule backward — they are talking 80% of the time and listening only 20%.
Undependable. Buyers don’t like to work with sellers who do not follow through and do what they have committed to doing.
- If you’re guilty of being undependable, figure out if you’re over-promising or under-delivering — or both.
Powerless. Buyers don’t like to work with sellers who do not have the power or influence to make decisions on their own. If you consistently go to your superiors or to other departments for approval, buyers will quickly lose respect for you as a seller.
- Professional sellers view themselves as the CEO for their relationships with buyers. They have the power to get things done for the benefit of their buyers.
A deflector. This is a seller who deflects the blame for problems that arise to external forces. Buyers don’t like sellers who won’t accept responsibility for customer satisfaction.
- Professional sellers are willing to be accountable to their buyers.
To be a professional salesperson, conduct yourself as a professional. Your buyers will like it when you do - and you'll be more successful.
Rob Reed is a consultant, speaker and president of Terrakon Consulting . Terrakon provides sales, marketing and management consulting services to help businesses and service firms attract and win more customers. Based on extensive research of offline and online trust development, Terrakon provides strategic, educational and tactical assistance to clients who want to differentiate from competitors and grow their businesses faster. Visit the marketing consulting services page to learn more or the sales and marketing consulting center for free tips and resources.