Which is more important to sales success: improving on your strengths, or trying to shore up your weaknesses? Based on the results of a landmark 30-year research project by Gallup, it turns out that focusing on your personal strengths and talents is a better path to top performance.
"The most successful reps understand their innate talents and strengths and use them to sell more effectively," say Strengths Based Selling authors Tony Rutigliano and Brian Brim, both senior practice experts at Gallup.
The conclusions of the Gallup study maintain that that there is no one, correct way to sell, and no magic formula. "No two great sales reps are alike," say Rutigliano and Brim. "You might thrive on fierce competition, while a colleague wins by being a super-analytical problem solver. Or maybe you have a tremendous talent for building relationships, while your fellow top performer is a brilliant strategist. What's most important is that you win business your way."
This is great news for sellers after all, everyone has strengths. The trick is to know what they are and how to maximize them. The authors recommend the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment (accessible with a key code in the back of their book), to pinpoint your unique strengths. Once you know them, follow these three steps to sharpen them.
1. Intentionally use your strengths. Know where you're strongest, know how to apply your talents, and use them with intention every day. The top strength of a Sales VP at a large financial services firm was "Command," or the ability to take control of a situation and make decisions. When he asked his team for suggestions about how to use his strengths to make his team better, there was unanimous agreement that he should stop taking over meetings and spend more time listening and learning. He now keeps that and other advice from his team next to his phone and refers to it before calls and meetings.
2. Build complementary partnerships. Team up with someone who is strong where you are weak. Offer your talents in exchange for theirs. This has never been more possible than in today's era of social learning. In a new white paper "How Social Learning Can Create Top Performers," the experts at Saba say that enabling a team with the right technology allows underperforming reps to follow a rainmaker. The same technology can also allow a star sales rep to find solutions through other company contacts. Social learning, enabled by solutions such as Saba Social Learning, makes complementary partnerships easier than ever to achieve, and strengthens the team as a whole.
3. Adjust/change roles. Examine your top five talents and figure out what you do best and adjust accordingly. For example, maybe you would thrive by shifting from a more aggressive "hunter" role to a "farmer" role in which your focus is on maintaining long-term relationships.
We've all heard the advice to "just be yourself." Follow that advice, and you'll unlock the key to improved sales results.