Being a star player doesn’t mean you can coach. And some coaches never excelled in the sports where they lead pro players to championships. Being a superstar sales professional doesn’t always translate to success in sales management. Let’s look at sales stars, sales leaders, and the DNA that makes them different.
What does it take to succeed in sales?
Today’s sales superstars realize that relationships are critical to their success. Product knowledge isn’t as important as connecting with a buyer. The new home sales professionals I’ve worked with who are consistently converting leads to sales have a powerful set of skills.
- Curiosity These new home sales professionals ask questions in the discovery phase, looking to zero in on the buyer’s needs, wants, and the things that simply don’t matter. Every question they pose is intended to guide them to matching the customer with the right product.
- Emotional intelligence. Relationships require self-awareness, motivation, self-control, empathy, social skills, and self-regulation—all the components of a high degree of emotional intelligence, a high “EQ”. They are excellent, active listeners, not framing up the next question in their script while a buyer is talking.
- Trainability. A sales superstar doesn’t sit back on their proverbial laurels. They’re always chasing the next milestone. They devour knowledge and training with a pro athlete’s appetite—but instead of carbs, it’s knowledge.
- Solutions-centered. The new home sales professional who rises above the others is an adept problem-solver. They understand that every problem is an opportunity to demonstrate value to a buyer.
- Undaunted by objections. Like churning through problems with mastery, the sales superstar not only handles objections, but welcomes them. There’s a noticeable twinkle in their eye when a buyer questions the value of a new home or offers “I can get that less expensive elsewhere.” Like the champion racehorse ready to burst from the starting gate, this sales pro is prepared to overcome any obstacle to success.
What makes a great sales leader?
Vince Lombardi is one of the best coaches in the history of football. The top honor, the Super Bowl trophy, is named for him. But Lombardi never played professional football. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, the NFL’s most successful head coach, played at a Division III college, hardly pro caliber.
It’s wrong to assume that because someone can perform at a high level in sales is a natural predictor of success in sales leadership. While there is overlap in the traits, behaviors, and habits, the key differentiators between a sales star and a sales leader are important to understand.
- Mentor. A sales professional should be focused on making sales. To do that, they need the coaching of a qualified, motivated, and dedicated mentor—someone who isn’t working on sales but working WITH it. The exceptional sales leader achieves the greatest satisfaction from seeing their teams succeed.
- Strategist and Decision-maker. While the sales professional is embroiled in the action, the sales leader provides the perspective of a knowledgeable spectator. The eagle eyes of a coach on the sideline catch every nuance on the field. They can adjust the strategy in mid-play, unraveling a glitch and quickly reweaving it into success.
- Role model. Guiding others requires a professional who models desirable behavior, like integrity, accountability, respect, self-control, and a healthy level of confidence. By exhibiting positive behavior, the leader leads by example.
- Conflict resolver. Both the sales professional and sales leader must be problem-solvers, but a leader must also be skilled at managing conflict—whether that’s between team members or between a sales pro and a buyer or partner. They can bridge gaps that seem insurmountable, using the same perspective that enables them to strategically change the plays on the field.
Perhaps the biggest differentiator between a sales superstar and a superstar sales leader is their vision of success. A person who thrives on selling is driven by their achievement in this field. The sales leader loves influencing that performance. There are cases when the sales professional is ready to use their experience and knowledge to guide others. However, don’t make the assumption that it’s a natural sequence to move from sales to management and leadership.