Some people seem born to be in sales. They have a gift for building rapport with anyone they meet and could sell ice to an Eskimo. Whether you know someone like this or not, this stereotype is deeply ingrained in popular culture and the business world. Some people seem to be effortless sellers. but the concept of the “natural born seller” is a myth.
Stefan Aarnio would seem to fall into the category of natural selling talent, but he’ll be the first to tell you that the traits needed to sell in the big leagues are learned, not innate. Aarnio, who made it big as a real estate investor, author, coach, and speaker, believes that there are three core traits to being successful in sales. Everything else, he says, can be learned along the way.
Me, Myself and I
When people see a successful, extroverted salesperson, what they’re actually seeing is a strong sense of self at work. Ego is what you think of yourself. According to Aarnio, it’s the all-important force that says “I Am.” It’s important because being in sales requires you to go out in the world and be unreasonable in order to make progress.
Ultimately what you’re trying to do is “push” on the world, but sometimes the world will push back in unpleasant ways. A healthy amount of ego is what reminds you of your value. It lets you push through the rejection you’ll experience day in and day out. Too much unchecked ego can be counter-effective, therefore leaving you with an unfortunate blind spot in your decision making.
One way to keep the ego in check is to build empathy within yourself. Again, empathy doesn’t match with the popular conception of a brash, outgoing and talkative salesperson. The thinking goes that business is a cut-throat game, and you have to be willing to make hard decisions at the cost of others to get ahead.
Although business is cut-throat, Aarnio says that empathy is one of, if not the most important, traits of successful salespeople. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes and understand their feelings and fears. This is what makes buyers feel like they’re being understood, and makes them comfortable enough to open up to a sale. People buy under two conditions: either they want something, or they need something. Both are a position of weakness, causing fear of being taken advantage of by unscrupulous salespeople. By taking a genuine interest in someone and deeply focusing on their desires, you can overcome this fear and develop a powerful connection with your buyers.
Passion is infectious. If you’re excited about your company or your product, it’s infinitely easier to get your buyers excited. When you believe in what you’re selling and can demonstrate that belief through your passion, buyers will be easy to convince. According to Aarnio, sales merely is “the transfer of emotion.” The more love you have for what you’re selling, the more unstoppable you’ll be at overcoming obstacles. Every buyer has the same fear that what they’re being sold doesn’t work. You need to be living breathing proof that it does everything you claim and more.
These three traits – ego, empathy, and passion – are the critical ingredients for a successful salesperson. All the technique, mechanics and delivery can be picked up along the way. Some people might inherently have the perfect blend of these three traits. Regardless, they’re not fixed at birth, although they can be learned and honed. By developing these three traits, you’re well on your way to dominating at sales.
Jordan French is the Executive Editor of Grit Daily. An award-winning journalist, he is on the editorial staff at TheStreet.com and a Fast 50 and Inc. 500-ranked entrepreneur.
He is the founder of Notability Partners and the co-founder of BNB Shield, Lisbon Hill Farms, Status Labs, BeeHex, BlockTelegraph, and Grit Daily. A biomedical engineer and intellectual-property attorney, French is the author of upcoming book, The Gritty Entrepreneur.