Selling Microsoft

The 10 Traits Buyers Seek in Sales Superstars

Selling yourself is the first step.

What really separates the best salespeople from the rest of the pack? Our research shows that top performers not only understand each customer company -- they understand the person making the buying decisions as well.

Most sales training courses emphasize the importance of addressing the customer's needs. They teach salespeople to explain how, for example, the Microsoft stack or a Dynamics solution can help achieve key business goals. Those discussions are critical for making sales.

But few training programs address how buyers view salespeople as they're presenting that information -- knowledge that can be an equally powerful sales tool.

Our research indicates that, from the buyer's point of view, the best salespeople:

1. Listen. Buyers want to deal with professionals who ask the right questions and truly listen to the answers, people who can take what they've heard and translate it into appropriate solutions. Want to boost your listening skills to top-performer level? Take notes, summarize and restate what buyers tell you and -- just as important -- listen when they confirm whether you've gotten it right.

2. Tell the truth. I cringe when I hear salespeople tell customers or prospects, "Let me be honest with you," as if they haven't been honest so far. If you don't know the answer, don't make it up. If you aren't professional enough to sell without lying, find a new profession.

3. Do more than push products. Of course, it's vitally important for salespeople to know about the products they represent, but talking only about features and functions went out in the '70s. Top performers focus on helping buyers achieve their business goals. One way to do that: Videotape and watch your own sales presentation to see from the buyer's point of view. Are you helping or just selling?

4. Know the customer's business. Going after vertical markets has become a major emphasis for Microsoft in recent months. Stay abreast of developments in your customers' worlds. When prospects see that you're familiar with their businesses and industries, that generates trust and confidence -- key ingredients in any successful sales formula.

5. Know what the customer's clients need. See No. 4.

6. Address pain points. Top performers outdo the competition by personalizing their presentations, showing how their solutions help customers resolve specific business problems, achieve important goals and generate impressive ROI.

7. Keep promises. Buyers keep track of what you say you'll do and whether you actually do it. If you offer to send a white paper or list of references, follow through. And get it there when promised; never request an extension.

8. Avoid wasting time. As a salesperson, you've got the right to be persistent and to be respected, but not to be a pest. Dropping in unannounced because you were "in the neighborhood" falls into the latter category; it's also the mark of an amateur. Instead, schedule your calls, have a stated objective for each meeting and be sure the time spent results in value for the customer.

9. Serve as an information resource. Top-performing salespeople often provide customers with useful background materials, typically from reputable outside sources. Consider giving your buyers relevant information from The Wall Street Journal, local business journals, industry magazines and technology newsletters.

10. Make the buyer a hero. Top performers know what personal factors drive each buyer's behavior, whether it's ego, desire for a bonus, the potential for promotion or some other factor. Do what's necessary to make sure an important buyer regards a particular sale as a personal win.

Long ago, someone told me the three key factors in sales are: Emotion, emotion, emotion. No question about it: If you recognize your buyers' emotions, you'll accelerate your sales.

About the Author

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations. You can reach him at