What Makes a Good Salesman?

What Makes a Good Salesman?

What Makes a Good Salesman?

Various test methods have been applied to the question of what makes a good salesman. Unfortunately, it has been impossible to measure accurately a man's selling aptitude. One of the methods which has been tried, is to establish an analysis of the interests of successful salesmen and to use this as a guide in the selection of applicants possessing a similar pattern of interests. It has been found, however, that skills and interests are not the same thing. There are millions of people who follow football with avid interest. Comparatively few play football and fewer still are skilled players.

An alternative method has been to put to the candidate a number of questions about his motives and opinions with a view to comparing these with the objectives and views of men with good sales records. The problem arises, however, that intelligent applicants are quick to anticipate the general drift of the questions and thus provide answers which they think will succeed in getting them the job.

The major difficulty in arriving at any satisfactory method of human assessment is that no two people are exactly alike and can only be loosely classified by means of very generalized characteristics. Some of the best salesmen, for example, are individualists. They are men of strong opinions and have patterns of behaviour which often fail to conform to the likely code of acceptance which an employer would lay down for men who are to be his ambassadors. Thus, an individual whose characteristics achieved a high rating on our Applicant Assessment Chart might well be a very likeable person and be hopelessly unsuitable as a salesman. Equally, however, there are many very satisfactory salesmen who would be likely to achieve a comparatively poor assessment if their characteristics were rated individually in this manner.

The element which is missing from the assessment chart is that of personality. Any study of personality, however, is soon baulked by the problem of definition. Personality is made up of so many aspects, many of them contradictory, that a specification for a good or a not-so-good personality is impossible. It is an indefinable sparkle which defies definition because it has so many facets.

In spite of the many abortive studies undertaken in this field, there has been growing realization that two aspects of human character play a predominant part in the establishment of selling ability. These are known as ego-drive and empathy. Ego-drive means the overriding need for success. There is a dominant urge to succeed which transcends all other considerations. A man with a strong ego-drive will stop at nothing to achieve his ends. Unfortunately, ego-drive on its own does not make a good salesman. He will tend to be over persistent and oblivious to the feelings of others.

A good salesman is one whose ego-drive is matched by an equally strong degree of empathy. Empathy means the ability to adjust to the reactions of others. The salesman with good empathy will be creative in his sales approach and will be capable of modifying that approach to suit changing circumstances.

Efforts have been made to permutate empathy and ego-drive. There is a degree of both empathy and ego-drive in most people. The theory is that, where both empathy and ego-drive are strong in an individual, he will have good selling abilities, and be capable of 'closing' his sales. Tests have shown, however, that comparatively few people possess these qualities in equal pro-portion. Thus, a man with strong empathy and reduced drive is likely to possess excellent personal qualities but, because of his lack of drive, he will often fail to 'close' business. Equally, a man with a high degree of ego-drive and weak empathy will tend not only to ride roughshod over both his colleagues and his customers, he will also fail to win business because of his lack of understanding of the reactions of his clients. A man with a low degree of both empathy and ego-drive will make a poor showing as a salesman. His personal qualities and his understanding of other people will be limited and he will possess little of the driving force needed to achieve sales.


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