The 4 Cs of Great Salespeople

Great salespeople are like diamonds in your collection and similar to diamonds, they have characteristics that make them shine.

We all know the four Cs of diamonds are cut, color, clarity, and carat so what are the characteristics that great salespeople possess? As Sales Coaches, we get an up-close and personal look at some of the greatest salespeople in the world. Some are young while some are older. Some are extroverted while others are more introverted. Some are extrinsically motivated, and some are intrinsically motivated. In short, salespeople come in all shapes and sizes. But we have been able to identify four traits that the great relationship selling salespeople have in common:

  1. Curiosity
  2. Confidence
  3. Courage
  4. Charisma

Let’s take a deep dive into each of these:

#1: Curiosity 

The two most important skills that a salesperson must master are becoming good at asking questions and becoming good at listening, which are advanced selling skills. Great salespeople tend to be naturally and intellectually curious in their conversations with prospects, with questioning being a natural approach to satisfy their curiosity. Asking questions also requires listening closely to answers. The problem with many salespeople is they listen with the desire to interrupt as opposed to listening to understand.

This is where great curious salespeople really shine. In their pre-call plan, they create questions that are tailored for resonance, meaning the questions speak the prospect’s love language. These questions are questions that invite discussion around the things that matter most to the prospect, the essence of relationship selling. And because the salesperson is “intellectually curious”, most of those questions start with why, when, how, what or when, which we know are “journalism questions.”

And that’s not all. Salespeople who are curious also rely on industry intelligence to make sure the questions they ask are both intelligent and that those questions resonate. One resource that thousands of firms around the world rely on to help in this research area is IBISWorld which can provide salespeople with real-time industry-specific knowledge. This allows salespeople to avoid having to tell their prospects how smart they are – they simply ask questions that allow the prospect to self-discover that the salesperson is knowledgeable about the prospect’s industry. Great salespeople ask what weak salespeople prefer to tell.

So how curious are you when you speak to your prospects? Are your questions tailored for resonance?

#2: Confidence

Great salespeople are almost always confident and tend to express that confidence in three areas:

First, they are confident in their firm’s value proposition (how their firm helps businesses or people solve problems). They believe their company can do everything they say they can do. They have “proof of concept” and share that with confidence. By the way, these confident salespeople rarely, if ever, think they need to have the lowest price. They position value, and they defend that value.

Secondly, they are confident in their approach. They know that they must interrogate reality, as Susan Scott says in her book “Fierce Conversations.” They must figure out whether the prospect is truly a prospect with a problem they have to solve, the money with which to solve it, and the conviction and clarity to make a decision when presented with a solution. Confident salespeople ask the tough questions, and they ask lots of those tough questions.

Thirdly, confident salespeople are confident in their belief that they do not have to be liked for the prospect to do business with them. Don’t get me wrong – they do subscribe to the philosophy that people generally enjoy business relationships with people they like. But they confidently believe that the buying decision is made because the prospect has trust and confidence that the salesperson can do what the salesperson says they can do – and that is to solve the prospect’s problem. Being liked has very little to do with any of that.

So, how confident are you in your own abilities and the value proposition of your company?

#3: Courage

Next, let’s focus on the critical 3rd trait of great salespeople: Courage. Great salespeople are always courageous. The question worth asking is, where does that courage come from? Maybe the other question worth asking is, how did they get that courage?

Mark Twain once said, “courage is resistance to fear…it is mastery of fear…it is not the absence of fear.” Great salespeople will always have moments in their sales process where they are challenged, where they will need to have what Susan Scott calls a “fierce conversation.” For more on that topic, I encourage you to read Susan’s wonderful book titled Fierce Conversations.

There are two primary challenges for salespeople that require the most courage:

  1. Providing pushback. The prospect has said something that is just flat-out wrong. They want to do something that is just not right. As a salesperson, you have two options: you can simply remain quiet and let it go, or you can push back and challenge the prospect. Remember – it is never ok to confront or challenge people. But is ok (and quite frankly essential) that you challenge the statements that people make. And this starts with asking permission. One example would be; “Hey Mary, you just said something that I have a divergent opinion on…would it be ok if I offered a different perspective?”
  2. Walking away. Salespeople hate what we call the “Crowded House” moment in a tribute to the rock band’s 1986 hit single “Don’t Dream It’s Over”. You know the words- “hey now, hey now, don’t dream it’s over.” But what if it is over? Wouldn’t you want to know that so you could move on? Would you be concerned about wasting your time? Of course, you will only walk away if you have something else (other deals, other prospects) to walk towards. If your pipeline is empty, walking away can be hard to do.

Do you want to be more courageous? Suppose Look for moments to push back (ask permission and be nice) and prospect like crazy, so you are operating with a full pipeline. Remember – you would like their business. But you certainly don’t need it.

#4: Charisma

The fourth and last trait to focus on is the critical trait of Charisma and how being able to attract, charm, and influence those you engage with will help you be more successful. Great salespeople are usually quite charismatic. The questions worth asking are twofold:

  1. What is charisma?
  2. Where do you go to get charisma if you don’t have it?

Let’s start by defining charisma. It is the quality of being able to attract, charm, and influence those around you. It is generally very easy to identify when someone is charismatic. The challenge is being able to pinpoint the skills or qualities that charismatics have that others do not.

Charismatic people are very interesting to be around. To be interesting you must first be interested. You must be interested in the person you are meeting with (at least more interested in them than you are in telling them about you). How much time are you currently devoting in your pre-call plan to identify the questions you intend to ask your prospect that will convey that you are genuinely interested in them and their problems?

In terms of question #2 above, we are not sure there is a place you can go to obtain more charisma. Like your IQ, which is typically fully set around the age of 20, charisma is similar. Some people are simply more charismatic than others. But don’t let that deter you. You can still improve your ability to attract, charm, and influence the people around you. All you need to do is to be interested and go back to those other top Cs of great salespeople: curious, confident, and courageous. Focus on these four and your prospects will find you to be more charismatic, more compelling, and comfortable to buy from!

Find out how your salespeople rank on the 4 Cs


From Chief Growth Officer, Mark Trinkle

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