If There Were Only One Key to Effective Selling…

Apr 21, 2016, Written by Jim Miley

Key to Selling

Time is flying, last year’s close is fading in the rear view, our business goals have long since been set for the coming year.  As we round turn one into the second quarter, many people find concern with sales production as a risk for hitting their growth plan.  “Two of our first three months were okay, but we struggle to produce consistently.”  The concern over whether we can hit the sales plan consistently gives rise to the conversation around our sales approach, sales skills, sales effectiveness.  We need to energize our sales effort!  What should we look for in search of our next top producer?

It’s a constant quest for the “A” player, the rain maker, the rock star.  Obviously one post can not put a dent in the topic of overall sales development; but, I can offer some insight into one key characteristic you will find in top producing sales professionals who sustain high performance over time.

Selling: The Key Characteristic for Success

If there were only one key to effective selling, it would be empathy.

Just in case, according to Webster – Empathy: the capacity for understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another…  without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

There are many supporting traits required to round out the package; drive, competitive spirit, discipline, assertiveness, etc.  But I’m looking for the “non-starter.”  The trait, that if missing, makes it very difficult to develop and nurture lasting customer relationships over time.  It is critical that a sales representative in nearly any field be adept at understanding the buyers situation and decision drivers.

A person who is naturally empathetic will be quick to understand the primary needs of the buyer.   An empathetic person will be equally quick to understand and anticipate the objections of the buyer even when those objections are not openly expressed.  We all appreciate someone who seems to understand our needs and works to meet our needs as consumers.

Conversely, many of us do not respond well to a relentless battery of questions all driving toward a corner we don’t really want to be in.  I’ve had some well-trained and very persuasive sales reps on my team over the years who under-performed “less polished” peers over time.  Coaching of my sales staff consistently landed on developing a better awareness of the buying prospect’s situation and motivation; empathy.

It Has To Be Natural

The “Consultative Sales” approach is the closest match for empathy in sales technique but the approach can’t readily teach a personality trait.  One of the toughest challenges in developing a strong sales producer is this dilemma of connecting both effective personality traits and effective skills in one person.

My point here is simple. I can train and refine sales skill behavior; good luck overcoming effective personality traits that just aren’t there.  When looking for potential in prospective sales producers, look to find those who demonstrate natural empathy.

Your next Rock Star will understand what you are looking for without you having to say it.

“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Luke 6:31

Reader Interactions


  1. Angela Moore says

    Thank you for this. I believe what’s held us back from hiring a sales person is just what you are referring to. I want someone who isn’t pushy that just wants to sell. It’s important to listen to the needs of the client and make sure we are a good fit for them. I don’t want to just “close a deal”. It’s important for me that our clients know we are on their team to help them reach their goals. I hate the “sales is just a numbers game” attitude. Hopefully someday we can find that rock star with the right personality. 🙂

    • Jim Miley says

      Thanks Angela. It can be difficult to find the right sales person but it certainly helps to know what you are looking for. Let me know if we can help.

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Jim Miley

As a Business Coach, Jim brings a broad background of operational and sales management skills and expertise to help small business owners grow their business and reach their highest potential. He has 30 years of field-proven professional experience.

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