In the June issue of Research magazine, I published the “The Perfect Sales Professional.” In it I listed and explained characteristics I felt essential for defining sales perfection.
I also asked readers to take a detailed self-assessment survey. Eighty-nine people kindly gave me a half hour of their time. One FA even commented: “This is a great exercise and humbling.”
As you will see, based largely on reader response, I have greatly expanded my list of characteristics that define perfection.
But I’m not done yet. Even if you already took the first survey, please do it again. I think I’m close to defining sales perfection, but I need some more help. Go here: http://bit.ly/perfectsales2.
When you are done, as a way to say “Thanks,” I will send you to a website where you can download my white paper “The Good Way to Sell.” I will also send you the survey report so you can evaluate yourself against your peers.
As a disclaimer, what I am reporting so far could not be considered a scientific survey. But these are the data I have. Plus, I have many years of training tens of thousands of sales professionals. And with your help, we will come up with most of the characteristics that define “the perfect sales professional.” I say “most” not “all” because perfection, while desirable, is elusive.
A couple of lessons: (1) My list of 16 characteristics was too short. I focused it, though not exclusively, on sales procedure. When asked what I missed, my readers told me I missed a lot. They pointed me to some more sales procedure characteristics, as well as personal, work habit and prospecting characteristics.
(2) The survey validates my theory of “best practices.” As I had suggested sales success is determined not by any one best practice but “by implementing more best practices better.”
My survey was a “self-assessment” on the characteristics I started with. I used the classic evaluation question, “On a scale of 1–5…” I also gathered some information on AUM, number of years in the industry and number of clients.
I ran two reports: (1) You manage $100M or more. You are an excellent sales professional. (2) You manage $25M or less. You have some work to do.
For each question for each group, I calculated the “mean” answer. Before I tell you my conclusion, look over the nearby table. It shows the mean answer for each characteristic for each group, and then the difference. Take a moment. What do you see?
Fact: Advisors with $100M or more consistently rated themselves higher across all but two skill levels than those with $25M or less. I think one of these categories, “Data purity,” should not be included in the list of perfection characteristics and I think the other, “Sales proposal,” needs to be reworded.
Conclusion: There is no “one thing” that separates the top tier advisors from those in the bottom tier. Once again, this validates my theory of best practices.
Fact: Several characteristics seem to matter more than others. Interesting that product knowledge showed the biggest difference in self-assessment score. If I had less than $100 million AUM and wanted to improve my selling skills, I might start there.
I learned a lot from studying the 89 suggestions for additional characteristics that define success. After weeding out nonsensical and duplicate items, my respondents made 42 good suggestions. I have combined some, tossed a couple, and am adding these characteristics to the characteristics that define the perfect sales professional. The descriptions, with some editing, were those suggested by readers.
Likability: The ability to get your point across in a nonthreatening, non-slick way and allow the clients/prospects to trust and like you.
Integrity: Always tell the unvarnished truth in a matter-of-fact way. Always do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. Always acts in the best interest of the client, not compensation
Communicate persuasively: Control your tone and pace when you speak. Use strategic pauses when making a “big point.” Illustrate the concept or say an important statement three different ways or three times.
Communicate accurately: The most important characteristic is communication accuracy. Proper spelling and proper word selection are key when communicating with a client. It will not make the sale, but it will certainly lose the sale.