5 traits of highly effective salespeople

April 14, 2016

Is it beauty? Brains? Speed? What makes highly effective salespeople?

My first job out of college was selling newspaper advertising. Like all 22 year olds, I thought I had the world by its tail. I moved to Dubuque, Iowa to sell advertising for the Dubuque Telegraph Herald. I knew no one in this small town and during the winter it literally snowed over 70″. After one particularly bitter night, I had trouble getting my car door unlocked to go to work. It was frozen solid. Never having experienced this before, I got a pan of hot water from my apartment and poured it over the door. It seemed like a good idea to me and I was able to open my car door! I left it open to “dry” while I took the pan back to my apartment. When I returned, the door lock was frozen and I couldn’t completely close the door. I drove to the newspaper with the window rolled down and my arm hanging out holding the door closed. I sobbed too.

The solution to my problem

One of the older men in the ad department told me to see old “Joe” down at the local hardware store. Well, old “Joe” had to be one of the most effective salespeople in the world. He sat me down by the heater in his very dark and musty-smelling hardware store (complete with a checkers set on a barrel – I kid you not). He genuinely showed concern for my plight and proceeded to sell me 4 cans of WD40. Yup, not only was WD40 perfect for opening my frozen lock, he insisted it cured arthritis, removed gum, cleaned toilets and so much more. Old “Joe” was a highly effective salesman.

#1.) Looking for more than just a paycheck

Since the majority of resale shops are small single-owner businesses, having salespeople who are invested in your company is key. A really good salesperson will not be looking to just make the sale, but will focus on how they can help build your business overall. Old “Joe” wanted to help me with more than my car lock. I’d be prepared if I ever needed to remove gum or cure arthritis!

#2.) Excellent communication skills

Resale is about people bringing in a part of their lives and trusting you to sell it to someone else. Your salespeople need to be able to empathize while wisely negotiating. Retail salespeople sell a product, resale salespeople sell a possession. Resale has a unique set of procedures that are very different from retail shops. Effective salespeople need to communicate appropriately with consignors as well as shoppers. In retail, when items can’t be located, there’s only one person to deal with (the boss). In resale, you have at least two… the shop owner and the consignor.”Joe” didn’t just sell me a product, he sold me the one product I would ever need to take care of every ill I may encounter in my entire life!

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#3.) A passion for the merchandise

Highly effective salespeople for consignment and resale need to be passionate about this type of shopping. Obviously, knowing a salesperson’s pre-conceived notions about used items or resale shops in general is important, but hiring salespeople who can enthusiastically communicate the importance of buying used goods overall is invaluable. They need to constantly convey not only the savings but also the uniqueness of what they sell. One-of-a-kind items need to be arranged in a special way, authenticity of merchandise needs to be verified and the ability to sell add-ons or to cross sell is critical. Old “Joe” was so convincing about the benefits of WD40, I couldn’t imagine how I had made it that far in life without it.

#4.) Highly effective salespeople are good listeners

Not much needs to be said here, but shoppers know when a salesperson is uninterested and bored silly. Customers want to know you’re listening. Effective salespeople sell solutions to problems. When old “Joe” took the time to sit me down by the heater and listen to my story, he showed me that he truly cared. I complained about the cold. Heater. I was lonely. Listened. I couldn’t get my car door to work. WD40.

 #5.) Known for their confidence

It’s virtually impossible to be an effective salesperson if you aren’t willing to smile, stick your hand out and engage the shopper. Pushy is one thing, but confidence is another.  Furthermore, highly effective salespeople are always “on.” In spite of having a bad day, they come to work with their game face on. They’re tough and don’t let rejection bring them down. Of course, in order for salespeople to operate confidently, they need to have strong, confident managers too. “Joe” was extremely confident. I wouldn’t have walked out of the store with 4 cans if he hadn’t been.

In the end

When I moved from Dubuque a year later, I found tucked in the back, under my kitchen sink, 4 shiny cans of WD40. They represented more than just opening my car on a very cold winter morning. They were a testament to the fact that I had survived and could keep on going. To this day (several decades later) I still have one can left.


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