Six Virtues of a Sales Professional
Virtues are a kind of excellence pertaining to morality. It would be hard to list the virtues of a business-to-business salesperson without including honesty and integrity, but those are table stakes; you’ll never be considered any kind of salesperson at all without them.
But there are other virtues that great salespeople possess in addition to honesty and integrity, all of which lead to a high level of excellence and effectiveness.
Professional salespeople, especially the great ones, are extraordinarily self-disciplined. The virtue of prudence is about making choices. It’s about taking the right actions when they need to be taken, and controlling the desire to be impetuous and impulsive.
As a salesperson, you are offered an unparalleled freedom. Succeeding means tempering that freedom with the personal responsibility that results in prudent behavior, especially as it pertains to prospecting activity, keeping your commitments to your clients, and dream clients, and ensuring that you help your clients achieve the outcomes that you promised.
Your prudence is the foundation for other virtues.
Some of the choices that you must make in order to succeed require that you be courageous. It takes courage to take action in the face of resistance and against long odds. It takes courage to ask for what you need to succeed and to win for your dream client after you have been denied your request multiple times; you do it because it is necessary to your doing excellent work.
It takes courage to face the defenders of the status quo, and to fully engage in the politics of change in your dream client, especially when you are an outsider and have no real authority.
Courage is also required to face the internal politics that prevent you from succeeding for your company and your clients; it means taking on the entrenched defenders of the status quo within your own company.
It takes courage to do what is right when those around you would have you do something less.
Professional salespeople possess the virtue of humility, being modest and humble, especially as it pertains to their accomplishments. You know that you didn’t win the dream client opportunity alone and that there are many on your own team who helped them to win.
You know that you don’t succeed for your clients alone and that your operations team produces a great majority of the outcomes that you promised and sold. You are standing on the shoulders of many, many others. Sometimes, they are carrying you.
The virtue of humility also ensures that you respect your competitors, never underestimating them or discounting their abilities as competitors or as value creators.
It’s a strong word. You might be thinking too strong, but it isn’t.
Love is the greatest of all virtues and describes the act of caring enough about someone else to ensure that they get the outcome that they need. For salespeople, this virtue manifests itself in the ability to listen to their client, to seek to understand their needs, and to work with them to ensure that they achieve the outcome that they need.
It doesn’t end with your client. That deep caring that is love extends to the people on your own team. It means caring deeply enough about your own group to ensure that you do all that is necessary (and then a little bit more) to ensure that they succeed for your dream client with you.
Sales comes with lots of thankless and humorless tasks and events. The competition can be stressful and intense, as can delivering once an opportunity is won.
Possessing the virtue of humor allows you to release the tension in the difficult situations that are part of sales—and business. Humor allows you to make unpleasant circumstances and unpleasant tasks more tolerable for everyone.
This virtue can especially be seen in your having a sense of humor about yourself; a self-deprecating sense of humor helps lower the barriers to your message, and makes it easier for your dream clients to perceive you as less threatening—especially since your change effort brings with it a hell storm of disruption.
Your dream clients don’t believe that the stiff, dispassionate, medical demeanor is professional. Your virtue of humor allows you to be the authentic you, and it gives your dream client the permission to be their authentic selves.
The business of sales is about people. Your virtue of humor makes you more human.
You must be grateful for the opportunities you are given.
You must be grateful for the opportunities your clients give you to share their most precious resource: their time. You show your gratitude by respecting their time and using it well.
You must also be grateful for the opportunity to compete for their business, win or lose. Once the business is won, you must be grateful for having been trusted to help them achieve the outcome that they need, and you show your gratitude by digging in and ensuring their results are achieved.
You also demonstrate this virtue with a simple, heart-felt thank you.
This virtue must also extend to your own internal team, those who have served as your teachers and mentors, and all of those who have supported your endeavors.
- How do you exercise the virtue of prudence? What are the choices that you make that are the right actions, even though it might be more pleasant to do something else? Is your freedom counterbalanced by an even greater amount of personal responsibility?
- What part of selling requires that you be courageous? What are the difficult and emotionally charged conversations and actions you must take to succeed? How do you summon that courage?
- You have a lot to be humble about, no? How do you balance your supreme self-confidence with an even stronger measure of humility?
- Are you afraid to give enough of yourself that it could be called love? Are you selling your self short of the passionate engagement that is the supreme virtue in any human endeavor?
- How do utilize the virtue of humor? How important is that you help others to make what is too heavy much lighter and more easily endured? Can you laugh at yourself? Can you help others to laugh with you?
- For who—or what—are you most grateful? When was the last time you said thank you and for what? Who do you a debt of gratitude right now?
- What virtues do you believe to be critical for professional salespeople? How about essential for effective human beings?
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