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Discover Your Sales Strengths: How the World's Greatest Salespeople Develop Winning Careers

Discover Your Sales Strengths: How the World's Greatest Salespeople Develop Winning Careers

3.7 9
by Benson Smith

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For four decades, The Gallup Organization has been gathering information and offering data-driven advice-conducting millions of interviews, compiling thousands of statistics, and building a wealth of facts about what really makes people successful (and happy) in their fields. Now Gallup uses its expertise to offer a unique, interactive StrengthsFinder.com Profile that


For four decades, The Gallup Organization has been gathering information and offering data-driven advice-conducting millions of interviews, compiling thousands of statistics, and building a wealth of facts about what really makes people successful (and happy) in their fields. Now Gallup uses its expertise to offer a unique, interactive StrengthsFinder.com Profile that will identify your top five talents-and help you start getting the most from them in your sales career. The product of a twenty-five-year, multimillion-dollar effort, the StrengthsFinder program interviews you and offers an in-depth, individualized analysis of your predominant strengths and personality traits. Using this book, you can then find out how to put your strengths to work in the real world, how others with similar talents have succeeded or failed, and why you may need to make essential changes in your career. Debunking the most-repeated myths about sales-from the myth that anyone can sell to the myth that a good salesperson can sell anything-Discover Your Sales Strengths shows you: * How to understand your top talents in sales-and focus on the ones that will help you most effectively plan your career * How to use your strengths to have an impact on other people-and gain a competitive advantage * How to find the right field, the right company, and the right boss for your talents * Why different approaches to the same sale can both succeed. (There is no one right way to sell!) A book that only The Gallup Organization could create, Discover Your Sales Strengths offers you a powerful new knowledge of who you are, what you're good at, and how you work best. And in today's world of sales, that is the most powerful tool of all.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Unlike many how-to-sell books written by motivational gurus and successful salespeople, Smith and Rutigliano s work is backed up by facts and figures gleaned from 40 years of Gallup research. The authors, both Gallup consultants, dissect stereotypes and debunk popular myths about selling to determine that there is no one formula for success, and that training, knowledge and experience cannot make a great salesperson. Instead, they find, great salesmanship stems from exploiting individual talents. Top salespeople succeed by figuring out what they do best and then finding a way and a place to do it. With that argument established, Smith and Rutigliano take an interactive approach to help readers find their own Signature Themes, directing readers to www.strengthsfinder.com (for which they ll need an ID code from a Gallup publication) to gauge whether they fit their current situation by taking a quiz based on a 12-step hierarchy of employee engagement. Since the authors contend that good managers help sales stars shine, they analyze what makes a good sales manager and relay advice from those they deem the world s best. This inventive book should help people with a knack for sales achieve better results. (Feb. 26) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
A Winter Sales Career
For 40 years, The Gallup Organization has conducted millions of interviews and compiled thousands of statistics and facts that reveal what makes people successful in the field of sales and selling. The authors of Discover Your Sales Strengths, two effectiveness experts from The Gallup Organization, use the latest statistics and analysis to debunk the most pervasive myths about sales, and help salespeople understand themselves and their top sales talents while showing them which talents they should focus on. Benson Smith and Tony Rutigliano also show salespeople how they can use their personal strengths to impact other people and find the right field, company and boss for their talents. In addition, the authors discuss the benefits of a variety of approaches to selling and explain that there is no one right way to sell.

While studying thousands of salespeople and the factors that hinder them from reaching their full potential, the authors discovered many prevalent myths that were debunked by Gallup's extensive research. For example, while exploring the myth that a better-educated sales force is a better sales force, they point out a study that indicates the best performers had not achieved high grade-point averages in college. Dispelling the myth that experience matters a great deal, they write that their research indicates that sales is not the experience-sensitive profession that it has been made out to be. Instead, they write that they rarely find a strong correlation between experience and results.

Assessing Personal Strengths
While discussing the importance of assessing personal strengths, the authors delve into redefining many terms that help them describe world-class performers. When they write about talent, they explain, "It is a pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied." To describe the talents of salespeople, the authors have compiled a list of 34 theme names that describe different traits salespeople can embody, and discuss the benefits of each as a dominant theme in various sales disciplines. These themes include Achiever, Command, Empathy, Fairness, Self-Assurance, and Strategic. By defining a clear vocabulary of sales strengths, leaders, managers and salespeople can talk knowingly about their strengths.

The authors call a salesperson's top five dominant themes his or her Signature Themes, and they write that knowing one's Signature Themes is a key to understanding the areas in which one's talents will allow him or her to outperform others. When a salesperson understands his or her Signature Themes, he or she can focus time and energy on those areas in which he or she naturally excels. To help readers find their own Signature Themes, Gallup researchers have developed a computer-based StrengthsFinder assessment tool that can be accessed on the Internet with an identification number from the book.

Signature Themes
The authors also address ways salespeople can find a job that fits with his or her talents. By aligning a person's daily activities with his or her Signature Themes, a salesperson has a greater chance of finding a good fit. They write that the five critical dimensions of fit for a sales role stem from the patterns of thought, feeling and behavior that explain:

  • our motivation
  • the way we build relationships
  • the way we gain commitments
  • the structure we need to get work done
  • our ability to understand customer needs

The authors write that the most important dimension is motivation, and research indicates that the best salespeople are much more motivated than most of the population. When key motivation requirements are fed, motivation and fit are maintained.

Discover Your Sales Strengths discusses the importance of good managers, self-reliance, expectations, building customer engagement, and even becoming a sales manager. To help salespeople and managers better understand their roles, the authors have created 12 questions that make up a hierarchy of employee engagement that addresses their needs.

Why We Like This Book
Discover Your Sales Strengths offers sound advice about selling, improving sales performance and managing salespeople that is based on research and statistics but does not get bogged down in mind-numbing numbers and graphs. Instead, the authors turn Gallup's studies into enlightening tales of salespeople who overcame adversity and created strong careers by persevering and focusing on their strengths. Their case studies and examples provide useful insights about salespeople who have used their talents to overcome personal and structural challenges to succeed. Copyright © 2003 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

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Read an Excerpt

Discover Your Sales Strengths

By Benson Smith and Tony Rutigliano

Warner Books

Copyright © 2003 The Gallup Organization
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-53047-6

Chapter One

The Wizard's Instructions

There are no jobs with a future, only people with a future.

A few years ago we were making our way down Bourbon Street in the New Orleans French Quarter. We had finished our meetings for the day and were in search of a cold beverage. It was late afternoon, and the street was already filling up with visitors. As we stopped at a corner, two boys about ten years of age came up and began studying our shoes intently. Just as we started to move along, one of the boys held out his hand and said, "Wait-I bet you a dollar I can tell you where you got them shoes."

We thought there was no real chance he could do this since we were from out of town. It would be a million-to- one shot for him to guess where we had bought our shoes, and even greater odds to guess for both of us because we were from different cities. "Are you going to tell us just the city or the store name?" we asked. He stared a bit more at our shoes and held out his own bet to his friend (more like his accomplice), who had some-how become the official money holder for this wager. He said, "I will tell you exactly, and I mean exactly, where you got them." With that, we both handed over our dollars.

After a few seconds the boy looked up at us and said, "Now, remember, I didn't say I was gonna tell you where you bought those shoes. I said I was gonna tell you exactly where you got 'em. Right now, you got your shoes on your feet on Bourbon Street."

With that, they both turned and ran down the street with our money. It wasn't until that moment-as our eyes were following them through the crowd-that we saw the wizard. He was heading our way down Bourbon Street. He was easy to spot. Dressed in a flowing purple costume with a peaked, purple wizard hat, he pulled a wishing well behind him. Even in the French Quarter, he looked a little bizarre. As he drew closer, we could see a sign on his well that read WISHES OF ALL KINDS GRANTED.

Perhaps we had our own signs painted on our foreheads that said TOURISTS: EASY MARKS, because he stopped right next to us. Intrigued by his appearance, we asked what the going rate for a wish was these days. He eyed us up and down and, taking in our suits, asked, "Is this a business wish or a personal wish?" "Business," we replied. "Well," he said, "those are a bit more complicated. Personal wishes are only a dollar, but business wishes are three dollars. Of course, with a business wish, you get a lot more for your money!"

Sure you do, we thought, but what the heck, this still had to be a better deal than spending a dollar each just to be told our shoes were on our feet, so we handed over three dollars. At that point he looked at us and said, "That's three dollars apiece." So, we coughed up another three dollars, and the wizard went to work.

He began waving his hands slowly in the air and speaking in a raspy wizard's voice. He instructed us to imagine clearly the wishes we had in mind. Then he asked us to visualize what would happen when our wishes were fulfilled. As we concentrated on this, he continued his incantation.

When he was satisfied we had clearly visualized our wishes, he said, "Now, think of all the gifts you have. Think about your physical gifts, your mental gifts, and your spiritual gifts. Think about all the different abilities and capabilities you have." He let us think for a moment as he continued his spell. Then, after a moment, he asked if we had those gifts clearly in mind. We both answered yes. He continued, "Think especially of those gifts and capabilities that would be useful in making your wish come true." And so we thought about which of our strengths might help us, and exactly how we would use them.

By this time a small crowd had gathered. This inspired the wizard to become even more dramatic. His demeanor became more mystical, his arm-waving more pronounced, and his voice even raspier. For six bucks we had our own Harry Potter Wizard on Bourbon Street. Then he said, "Now, I want you to think of all the people who might be able to help you make your wish come true. Not only people you know, but people you might meet who could help you. Think about what you would ask them to do and why they might want to help you." So, we thought of all the people who might help us to make our wishes come true.

While we were thinking about this, he threw flash paper into the air, which burst into flames. (Flambe of all kinds is popular in New Orleans.) The crowd was spellbound. Then, he asked us to close our eyes and think of the very first thing we could do to make our wishes come true. As we did this, he handed each of us a small card. "When you have the first step clearly in mind," he said, "open your eyes and read the card." In a few minutes we opened our eyes. The wizard was already on his way with his wishing well in tow. The crowd had dissipated except for a few stragglers curious about what the cards said. We read the cards, looked at each other, and nodded our heads in agreement.

Many Wizards

Take away the flash paper, the purple costume, the raspy voice, and what do you have? Well, for one thing, you have a funny-looking man with a wishing well and six dollars of our money! Is this wizard's advice any good, or is it as worthless as being told your shoes are on your own feet? We were more than a little skeptical because over the years we have run into many self-proclaimed wizards, especially when it comes to advice about improved sales performance, a subject of keen interest to us. More than forty years ago, our researchers became curious about why some people perform their roles so much better than others do. What was different about the very best teachers, managers, or leaders? Although we were interested in all these professions, and eventually studied them, we began our research into job performance by studying sales. This is because, of all careers, sales has the most quantifiable results-ultimately, the numbers tell the most important story of sales performance. Gallup focused primarily on salespeople who were consistently in the top 25 percent of their companies' sales forces. We found that the best performers sold four to ten times as much as average performers. These performers were not just incrementally better ... they were a lot better. Customers not only bought more from them, but those same customers did it again and again. These top salespeople produced business with better margins. They tended to stay at their respective companies longer and developed more loyal relationships with their customers. We wanted to know what, if anything, is so special about such performers and why they are able to achieve so much more than their average counterparts.

Over the years we have interviewed more than 250,000 salespeople, more than one million customers, and 80,000 managers. This research produced some surprising conclusions-conclusions that refute many popularly held conceptions about sales excellence.

Dead Wrong

Yes, many "wizards" have written about exceptional sales performance. These books are sometimes big sellers. Just like the newest diet books, they promise spectacular results. But lasting improvement from either kind of book is hard to find. The dieter may lose a few pounds only to see the weight return weeks later. A salesperson may read a new book and her sales may take an upward bounce, but usually her performance quickly falls back to prior levels.

Why this consistent lack of success? Our research indicates that much of what has been written and taught about sales excellence has little to do with what really matters. All too many managers, authors, and wizards are dead wrong about what it takes to be a great sales performer.

Put bluntly, we see a number of myths about sales performance pop up again and again. Unfortunately, these misconceptions have guided the sales management practices of too many companies, inadvertently hindering the productivity of their own salespeople. Throughout the pages of this book we will identify these myths and explain how they can impede your performance. We will also show you the compelling picture of sales success that emerges from more than a quarter of a million interviews and decades of research.

One of these myths is that anyone can sell as long as he has enough desire and training. Recently we worked with the manager of a regional mortgage brokerage company. Frank had been in sales management for many years and believed that as long as someone could walk and talk and had enough desire, he could teach that person to sell. As you might guess, quite a few applicants who came through his door met these criteria.

So he hired them. And he trained them. And more than 85 percent failed in the first year. Frank's explanation for those who failed was that they just did not have enough desire to succeed.

We came to a different conclusion. The idea that anyone can sell is nonsense. Sales simply is not for everyone because consistent success in a sales career requires the presence of certain talents. In the course of our work we have studied sales forces for some of the best companies, companies that have carefully recruited and selected their representatives. Even in the best companies, we found that 35 percent of the sales force did not have the talents necessary to achieve acceptable results predictably. This rather considerable group-one of every three salespeople out there-is consistently in the bottom half of the performance curve.

Compounding this problem is the tendency among many companies to develop and enforce policies designed for these poor producers rather than establish cultures and practices that support great performers. These policies do little to help poor performers get better and sometimes even drive away the best producers. Having put the wrong people in the wrong jobs, many companies waste enormous resources trying to post-pone their inevitable failure.

In Frank's case the numbers were even worse than our average. Over two-thirds of the people he hired lacked the talents we see in top performers. He spent much of his time and resources trying to prop up poor performers. Yet to this day, Frank still believes that anyone can sell, and this tenet keeps him from recognizing the rarity of the abilities that his best salespeople possess. Because he fails to recognize the special nature of his top performers, he approaches salary negotiations, territory assignments, and even his own supervisory techniques and practices in a less than optimal fashion. Myths have a way of enduring that defies reason and data.

In our research we have not found any magic sales dust to sprinkle on poor performers to turn them around. Poor performers seem to be immune to both carrots and sticks. On the other hand, this book can show those who do have the potential to be great sales performers how to identify and unleash their potential. The recommendations you'll find in Discover Your Sales Strengths are about turning good sales performers into great ones, and helping great performers understand how to stay on top.

Why do we focus on great performers? Isn't it good enough just to be good? Not anymore, and not as we look into the future. Maintaining a successful career over forty years is no easy task.

Even great performers may let their performance slip over time. The results can be an unpleasant midlife employment crisis and a scramble in the last twenty years of a career. Look around your own company. How many senior representatives do you find leaving for a comfortable retirement after a sustained successful career? They are few and far between in most companies. It makes you wonder if this performance slide is inevitable. Do we just get tired of doing the same thing year after year?

Evelyn is a sixty-four-year-old pharmaceutical sales representative. She has been in the same territory for the past twenty-five years. Her biggest fear is not old age, but retirement. This is not because of any financial concerns since she has more than enough money to live out her days in a comfortable style. She can't stand the thought of retiring because she loves what she does every day. "I will miss this job so much," she told us. Our research has helped us understand why some people never seem to burn out, continuing year after year with renewed enthusiasm and exceptional results. Even in the short term we found a big difference between the results of great sales performers and the results of those who are merely good. For example, in a study Gallup completed with a group of sales agents, the average agents sold $2 million to $4 million in new business annually, but the exceptional agents sold in excess of $40 million. Great performance isn't merely twice as good as good; it's exponentially better.

These differences go far beyond higher sales and even higher profitability. They also include greater job satisfaction and a true sense of engagement in work. In fact, it's this engagement that produces these exceptional results and directly contributes to building and retaining a core of loyal customers. Our research indicates that the happier you feel about your performance and the greater your satisfaction in your sales role, the more your customers want to buy from you. Salespeople who are merely good may generate acceptable results, but they are less likely to create customer loyalty, and they hardly ever feel the same way about their jobs as Evelyn does. This book is about becoming engaged in your work. How can you accomplish this? We have found three key points: (1) discover your strengths, (2) find the right fit, and (3) work for the right manager. Let's briefly introduce these concepts.

Discover Your Strengths

The power of knowing your strengths is obvious to some, but the majority of us fail to give this important matter any real thought. In fact, a majority of the people we talked to had limited knowledge of their talents, their innate potential for strength. Trying to build a successful career without this powerful, important information is like trying to drive down a highway with a foggy windshield. If we're lucky, we will avoid a head-on collision, but we will most likely miss the important signs that tell us when we need to stop, turn, or yield. Why is it so hard to see our strengths clearly? Strengths, those capabilities that enable us to perform well in various parts of our lives, spring from recurring patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior that occur spontaneously and become unique parts of our personality as we mature into adults. Since these patterns are such an intrinsic part of us, as natural as breathing, we can take them for granted. People who meet others easily see nothing special about this gift.


Excerpted from Discover Your Sales Strengths by Benson Smith and Tony Rutigliano Copyright © 2003 by The Gallup Organization. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Benson Smith and Tony Rutigliano are leading consultants for Gallup's Sales Force Effectiveness Practice.

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Discover Your Sales Strengths: How the World's Greatest Salespeople Develop Winning Careers 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This short work debunks some of the most dangerous myths about the business of selling and will open your eyes to new and unexpected facts of sales life. Many salespeople find themselves frustrated in jobs where they don¿t fit in and can¿t succeed. Using research by the Gallup organization, authors Benson Smith and Tony Rutigliano explain why many organizations handicap themselves with underperforming sales forces. Here¿s how sales managers and salespeople can turn mediocrity into success. We say this is a must-read for anyone in sales.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sales technique is as personal and unique to the salesperson as personality is to each individual. This book helps unlock your own personal style, truly, your strength. As a sales manager I have this as required reading for my sales force. I'm not sure why someone would say it had nothing to offer unless they were looking for a gimmick...this book is free of gimmicks, fortunately. It looks at the foundation of YOUR sales excellence. Too many people have tried to be like the 'star salesperson' in their office, only to fail miserably because they were trying to sell from their weaknesses, not their strengths. If you want to not only grow as a salesperson but also as a unique person, this book is for you. I recommend this to everyone in my company and, again, have it as required reading for my sales team. Reading this book will help you clarify your sales style as well as what industry and products/services you sell. It's a must read for serious salespeople.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bar none, this is the best book you will ever read about the art of selling. Moreover, this book will change the way you think about hiring, training, managing and motivating anyone who is responsible for bringing new customers to your organization and keeping those customers engaged. See of you can answer this question from the book correctly: What do the top sales and marketing professionals have in common? a. Experience and background b. Education and training c. Great presentation skills d. Aggressive closers e. None of the above If you guessed ¿e¿, you are correct. According Gallup¿s extensive research spanning 30 years and interviews with 250,000 sales people, over 1 million customers and 25,000 sales managers, this is what the top sales people have in common: ¿ They were in the type of sales job where they were able to use their top talents every day ¿ They developed their own unique selling style based on their top talents ¿ They had a productive relationship with their manager. Since the top 25 % of the sales force accounts for 57% of the sales revenue in most organizations, the more sales people get to use their top talents, the more likely they are to build a sustainable and profitable customer base. So, how do you discover your individual strengths and talents? One of the unique features of this book is that you go to an Internet site and take an assessment that will immediately tell you what your top five strengths are. What I found intriguing is that these strengths are much more practical than the strengths I have seen in any other kind of assessment instruments. You can then use the book to determine how to put these strengths to work for you so they become true talents. (By focusing on these strengths I have increased my own productivity by 100%!!) The other thing I really liked about this book is the easy to read format and the fact that the author includes great real world stories and examples of how top sales people used their talents to excel in their job. The author, Benson Smith, who started his career as a successful salesperson with a Fortune 500 medical device company and eventually became the CEO, writes in clear business language and does not spend a lot of time espousing complicated theories. If anything, the book is too short and leaves you wanting more. The book also talks about the key role that managers play in insuring the success of the sales effort. The chapter on management should be required reading for anyone who is a manager or thinks they want to become one. (You will also find this chapter extremely helpful if your current manager is less than ideal.) I have spent over 20 years in the medical and pharmaceutical industry in sales, management, marketing and training. Over the last 9 years, I have had a successful business focused on performance development consulting and training. This book has inspired me to rethink my approach. I hope it will do the same for others in my profession. Most organizations tie training to ¿improvement opportunities.¿ Gallup¿s research has found that training will be far more productive if you focus on strengths and how to build them into true talents.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Basic, yada yada sales teqniques. I should not have bought this. It shares very little that isn't comon sense while encouraging the sale of another product. I sell cars for a living a found myself often dozing of, no mater how hard I tried to pay attention.