One of my acquaintances from high school was the most naturally gifted salesperson I’ve ever met. He had never read a single sales book, attended a sales seminar, or even considered himself a salesperson, but he had an innate ability to always say the right thing at the right time when doing business. We were in the cell-phone industry and as I went to college and temporarily left sales to pursue partying and going into debt, he quickly moved up the ladder and was a regional sales manager within a year.
Unfortunately, along with his incredible sales ability, he also had some bad habits and ended up getting in a lot of trouble and his career faltered. He’s not in sales anymore, and I consider it a huge waste of talent. Few salespeople have that kind of amazing sales talent, and most have to make up for it in other ways.
Here are some ways you can still succeed in sales despite not being naturally super-talented:
1. Work harder
“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” I saw that quote in a bodybuilding documentary on Netflix while I was sitting on the couch eating cereal. If you’re not one of the naturally gifted salespeople in the world, you need to be disciplined and hard-working to succeed. Work hard, work consistently, and stay focused, and your efforts will pay off. Persistence is probably the single most important factor separating successful salespeople from unsuccessful ones.
2. Be yourself
One of the worst things you can do in sales is try to act like someone you’re not. “Fake it till you make it,” is dumb advice. There is no substitute for authenticity, and customers can almost always tell when someone’s laying it on thick. Act natural instead of pretending that you’re Don Draper and you won’t have to worry about keeping up an act, and can instead focus on finding solutions to the client’s problems.
3. Listen really, really well
While naturally talented salespeople have an innate ability to persuade, everybody else has to go above and beyond to gain the customer’s confidence. There’s no better way to do that than to be the best listener that they’ve ever talked to, ever. Make sure you listen to understand, not just to hear, which is easier said than done. Practice listening to friends and family members, even if they’re screaming at you because you posted those photos of them to Facebook after they told you not to…it’s good practice.
4. Get organized
My sales prodigy friend could close almost anyone, but he was also one of the most disorganized people I’d ever worked with. If you can get organized and plan out your day as efficiently as possible, you’ll be a step ahead of the curve. Too many salespeople spend their time in reactive mode, or sitting around waiting for things to happen. This is due in large part to being disorganized and not planning ahead. “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail and not hit your bonus and get evicted and live in your car.”
5. Sell something you believe in
Sales has been called a transfer of enthusiasm from one person to another. But it’s really, really difficult to be enthusiastic about a product that you don’t care about or believe in. Try to sell a product that you’re passionate about, or at least one you know is going to truly help your customers. Some people are able to be enthusiastic about everything they sell, knowing that it will make them more money, but it’s a lot easier when those feelings are genuine. If you’re a vegan, don’t go into meat sales.
6. Focus on process, not persuasion
Sales prodigies can influence people naturally, and only need to work to get in front of prospects. Everybody else should focus their energies on the sales process, not on persuasion to close more deals. This means first identifying a coherent sales process, and then making sure you’re following it on every single deal. If you hold yourself accountable to the process, there’s no doubt that you’ll close deals. It might not come as effortless as it does to the naturals, but stick with it and eventually everyone will say that you make it look easy.