Outside Consultant: What Are Some Habits of Highly Effective Salespeople?

This “Outside Consultant” column by Opus College of Business Participating Adjunct Instructor Michael Hoffman ran in the Star Tribune on April 26, 2021.

Much has been written, wondered about, studied and researched concerning what habits and activities contribute to the achievements of highly effective sales professionals. Aside from tactics like sending birthday cards to all your clients and practice, practice, practice, a research project revealed what personal traits contributed to sales success. It also confirmed that while we have "unlimited potential" that has been unrecognized and untapped, when that potential is discovered and accessed, we can achieve far greater levels of productivity than we have ever imagined for ourselves.

The research also determined four key characteristics of highly successful people. These characteristics can morph into habits as well, and the most successful sales professionals seem to have an ample supply of all four of them. The first two are high achievement drive and strong goal clarity.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the third important factor, particularly as it relates to successful people knowing themselves. They learn how they’ll react when their proposal didn’t get selected, or they lost a sale. Some people take these disappointments in stride, some go into a “funk” for a day or two, some take a day off, and some plow ahead. But they don’t crumble. They also know that there are certain activities in their practice that they should be doing on a consistent basis, and they have the discipline to do them. Procrastination is a lurking danger.

The fourth characteristic is social skills, known better as empathy for the situations they’re in and people they deal with. These professionals are also excellent listeners. They are present and engaged with the person or audiences that they are with. They pay attention. They listen with intention.

The characteristics of high achievement drive and strong goal clarity do interact. First, people often wonder if they really do have high achievement drive. Are they really motivated? What the research study revealed is that if we are strong about our commitments to our goals and objectives and are clear and specific about them – strong and clear – then our other characteristic of achievement drive goes higher and higher. Our high achievement drive can soar once we are clear and committed to our goals.

The best news is that these characteristics already lie within all of us. Not with birthday cards, but with a sincere commitment to achieve.

Michael Hoffman is a participating adjunct instructor at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.