Young people just starting out in the fenestration industry oftentimes ask me, “How do I know if I have what it takes to become a successful salesperson?” So I thought I would take some time out to ponder on this topic and relay what I feel are five key attributes that make a highly successful salesperson. They apply not only to our industry but others as well.

Number 1 -You must truly love sales. If you are in sales for money or prestige, then these are the wrong reasons. You will have successes and you will have failures, and probably more of the latter, but if you have a true love for the sales process, you will not be easily discouraged. Instead, you will use each failure as a learning opportunity in order to sharpen your sales skills and provide feedback to manufacturing on product or service improvement. As time goes on, you will improve your skills and product lines, thereby increasing your percentage of wins vs. losses. However, the learning process will never stop. No matter how experienced you become over the years, there are always new sales techniques and product or competitive product knowledge to learn. For this reason, sales never gets boring.

Number 2- You must be tough and willing to work hard. Sales is not a 9-to-5 job. You will work many more than 40 hours a week. Much of this time will be spent traveling, since you must maintain a presence in front of your customers. Traveling for pleasure is fun, but traveling for work can be brutal. If you are contemplating a career in sales and you have not yet seen the movie Planes, Trains & Automobiles, then I highly suggest you jump onto Netfix and watch it, especially as Thanksgiving is upon us. As funny as this movie might seem, be prepared to live all of this and much more. The good thing is that if you subscribe to Number 1, that is, you truly love sales, then you will seldom complain about the pitfalls of travel. Travel is part of the job, and you will also learn how to make the travel process as easy as possible while also staying as productive as possible on the road.

Number 3 – You must thirst for knowledge. In order to increase your chances of success, you must be willing to learn as much as possible about the products you are selling — as well as those you are competing against. Both are crucial. For example, what if you know nearly everything about your own product and you have just completed your sales pitch? You have spent 20 minutes going over all of the features and benefits of your product, conclude your presentation and then ask for the order. How do you respond if your prospect then says, “Those features are great, but XYZ Company has all of those, too — at a lower price”? The point here is that you must know your competitors’ products almost as well as you know your own. You need to point out the key differences as well as how these differences translate to an advantage that makes the customer choose your product over the competition, even if your price is the same or higher.

Number 4 – You must love people. You will be dealing with people of all types. Fun people, grouchy people, humble people, arrogant people, and most noteworthy lately…people with different political views than yourself. People who love people will truly embrace these differences.  You must love interacting with all types of people in ways that comes across sincerely and not fake or staged. If you truly love people, then you won’t have to fake sincerity. It will come naturally and your sincerity will shine through. If you only love people who are just like yourself and have to fake it with others, you will easily be busted and this will come across as phony. At the end of the day, people like to buy from people who they like. If you come across as likable and sincere because you truly are this way, then you will greatly increase your chances of success as you develop and solidify long-lasting business relationships. This people factor is huge and it also increases your desirability within the industry that you serve. It represents a form of job equity that makes you a highly desirable person to employ within your industry. Within a given industry, whether it is the fenestration industry or the toy industry, everybody knows everybody. It is a “small world.”

Number 5Connect with or become an “Intrapreneur” with the companies you sell for or represent. As good a salesperson as you might be, you can never exceed the success limits that are defined by the products and service levels that you have available to sell. Therefore, as a successful salesperson who is in it for the long haul, you must have an inherent desire to provide the best possible products and services to your customers. So, as customers provide feedback as to why you have not gotten the orders, you need to funnel feedback and ideas back to the people who can facilitate change within the respective organizations in order to make positive changes happen. For those of you who are not familiar with the concept of intrapreneurship, it entails knowing how to get things done within an organization as opposed to an entrepreneur who is a master of getting things done externally. Intrapreneurs have the same skill sets as entrepreneurs, but they are focused on achieving positive changes within an organization that ultimately improve the company’s products and services in response to market demands. Therefore, by identifying and connecting with the intrapreneurs within the organizations that supply the products you sell, the successful salesperson can provide valuable feedback that will speed to market new products or changes in existing products in response to the needs of the customers served. Ultimately, this makes you more valuable to the companies you sell for, in addition to making you extremely valuable to the customers you serve. You basically become more valuable to your customers and someone they prefer to do business with above all others. Murray Newland posted an excellent article on this subject on entitled 10 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know about Intrapreneurship.

So there you have it. These are five key attributes that a salesperson must have in order to achieve maximum success, whether it is windows, doors, fenestration components, or anything for that matter. And even if you are not in sales, watch that classic movie starring the late John Candy during the upcoming holidays so that you can truly appreciate the fun your salespeople are having out on the road.

1 Comment

  1. Jim, I love,Love, LOVE this post!
    This should be a “Must Read” article for anyone considering a sales carrier, but every existing salesperson should also read this and do a little soul-searching. Only the person who loves sales, is tough enough to fail, willing to work long hours, excited to learn new things every day, loves people enough to find solutions for their problems and to help others invent new solutions and methods to provide those solutions should be a salesperson!
    The proper activity of a salesperson achieving the criteria you list is critical to our capitalistic society… As I have said here before, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something. After that, anything is possible!”

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