Why are some salespeople more successful than others? What separates the top earners from those who fail to reach their potential? Could it boil down to personality?
Top salespeople “include both extroverts and introverts and all degrees in between: shy and outspoken, talkative and quiet,” says David J. Lill, author of the sales textbook Selling: The Profession (DM Bass Publications, 6th edition, 2012). “However, certain core characteristics seem to be present to some degree in the most successful salespeople.”
Gaining clients’ trust is an important component of real estate success. Just how important? Look no further than the National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers survey, where honesty and trustworthiness are ranked as the most important factors home buyers and sellers consider when choosing a real estate agent.
In his 35 years of training top producers, Lill has observed certain traits that improve face-to-face client interactions and help build credibility and rapport. According to Lill, these are some of the characteristics present in the most successful salespeople:
Do you have passion and excitement for the work you do? It can show in your client interactions. Enthusiasm isn’t expressed just as excitement, Lill says; it can also be shown through a calm, quiet confidence. Enthusiasm helps demonstrate a genuine belief that you believe you can help your clients fulfill their needs.
Stop talking and start asking and listening, Lill says. Good salespeople tend to ask a lot of questions. Indeed, a study by Steve W. Martin, an author and expert in sales linguistics, shows that 82 percent of top salespeople scored high on curiosity.
Martin has interviewed thousands of top salespeople over the last decade to hone in on what makes them top earners, giving them personality tests to measure the core personality traits that separate them from their peers. The top salespeople tended to show their curiosity by asking their customers lots of questions — sometimes difficult and uncomfortable questions — in order to close any gaps in information. Questions help you discover more about your clients, uncover their primary buying motives, and flush out and discuss any potential concerns.
Every prospect has unique needs, so spend more time in the discovery stage with your customers. Avoid jumping into the know-it-all role of telling prospects what you think they need. Ask and then listen to their specific situation before you propose solutions. Once they’ve expressed their concerns, use “what if” questions to gauge their interest in the solutions that you suggest.
You’ll need that inquisitiveness to show empathy — another core sales trait of a successful agent, Lill says. Empathy involves having a true understanding of a person’s concerns, opinions, and needs, and reflecting that understanding in your conversations with the client. Don’t fake empathy or sincerity — your clients will quickly pick up on it, which will lead to distrust. Make sure your comments or compliments are genuine and relevant to the conversation. “People do not always care how much you know; they want to know how much you care,” Lill says.
To be successful, you need a plan of action, Lill says. Consider what you want to achieve in your real estate career and how you can work toward fulfilling those goals. Top salespeople tend to take initiative and be self-starters by setting goals with an action plan for how to achieve them.
Lill recommends using the SMART process for goal-setting: Make your goals specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, andtangible. He recommends writing down specific goals. For example, instead of “increase my income,” write “increase my income by 50 percent in the next year.” This will help you more easily evaluate your progress. Lill also recommends attaching a tangible reward to your career goals to add motivation, such as more money, recognition, or an award or plaque.
Have a plan to continually monitor your progress. For instance, at the end of each week, take a personal account of what you’ve accomplished. List the five habits or attitudes that were the biggest obstacles to achieving the results you wanted and consider how you can change them. “Working toward goals increases your creativity and problem-solving ability,” Lill says.
How fast do you think on your feet? Resourceful people analyze what works and what doesn’t, and they study industry information to guide them.
“On the spur of the moment, [top salespeople] can think of new ways to make a point, new applications and creative uses for products, and unique reasons for a particular prospect to make a buying decision,” Lill says.
To be more resourceful, start by keeping good records, such as handwritten notes, when you are asking your client questions about their buying or selling motivations and concerns. This will not only help reinforce your own memory and understanding of what they’re saying but also show the other person that you think what they’re saying is important. They’ll likely perceive the gesture as a compliment and a sign of thoroughness. Then, repeat the concerns they express to you — including key phrases they use — to make them feel heard.
Pushy, overly confident salespeople are a turn-off. Not surprisingly, clients prefer friendliness when trusting someone to guide them through one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives. “The salesperson with a pleasant, outgoing disposition is remembered and favored,” says Lill.
When you’re first meeting a prospect, your goal should be to establish rapport in the first few minutes of conversation. This will help put the person at ease and signal that you’re not trying to “sell” them on something. “Small talk may be discussions of topics unrelated to what you’re selling,” Lill says. “Topics like mutual friends, similar interests in civic organizations, hobbies, and family life are frequently used.”
Be able to sync your communication style to one of the four basic personality styles that your clients are likely to display. People will respond more favorably to a style that is similar or complementary to their own. For example:
Driver:Tends to be competitive, fast-paced, goal-oriented, and wanting to see results.
Adapt your style: Be prepared, organized, and to the point. Know their goals and offer them several solutions.
Expressive:Tends to be spontaneous in their decisions and often will jump from one topic to another.
Adapt your style: Let them talk, but gently refocus them when needed; show interest in them personally; and propose solutions through stories and illustrations.
Amiable:Tends to be friendly, sensitive to how their decisions affect others, and slow to act.
Adapt your style: Get to know them personally, be prepared to move at a slower pace, and use small talk to help establish rapport.
Analytical: Tends to be detail-oriented and show less emotion.
Adapt your style: Don’t rush them to make a decision, but allow them plenty of time to assess a situation. Provide lots of information and be prepared to answer questions in detail.
Observe your clients’ behavioral clues, such as their speech, use of time, reaction to others, and tone of voice, to see which of the four communication styles they likely fit.
“It’s using psychological reciprocity,” Lill explains. “You’re getting into their mind-set. You don’t change your style, but use techniques to accommodate their style.”
Part of success is how you handle rejection. There will be prospects who will not want to work with you, buyers who choose not to buy, and sellers who decide to work with another agent despite your numerous attempts to convince them otherwise. Sometimes clients may not be forthcoming as to why they decided not to work with you — try not to take it personally, Lill says. It may come down to bad timing or budget constraints.
“Setbacks outnumber triumphs,” Lill says. “Salespeople must have reserves of strength and resilience to fall back on when this happens.”