What makes an outstanding salesperson?

All dealerships rely on their salespeople to bring revenue into the business and to help make the company tick, writes John Fogerty,  Head of Learning and Development at PAR Training. In today’s market there is every reason to be concerned about the state of the sales force and what they can actually deliver. For many organisations, the key issue is to ensure that training properly equips their salespeople with the necessary skills and behaviours to meet and exceed business targets.

The word”salesman”used to mean someone who is pushy and won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Back then they were given a training model based on seven (or more) steps that didn’t really achieve very much – and still don’t – yet, it’s incredible that this approach is still widely used. To think that today’s sales ‘professionals’ would succeed by working through a seven-step sales process is both naïve and commercially damaging.

It is no longer good enough to accept average overall sales performance. Businesses must identify the critical sales competencies that separate themselves from the competition and be the best at these. So what makes an outstanding salesperson in today’s motor industry? There are many factors of course, though one area is clear: the core competencies of assertiveness, empathy and happiness are more predictive of sales success than traditional sales process training techniques; and if you have ever had a good (or bad) experience as a customer, it’s easy to understand why!

Today’s top flight salespeople are capable of reading their own assertiveness, empathy and happiness levels and understand how they feel at a particular time. By virtue of this, they are able to control their emotions more appropriately and in doing so are more likely to read the feelings of others. They do this through body language, facial expressions, tone of voice and listening and subsequently, are better at building and maintaining relationships. This is critical in modern dealerships where sales success and customer satisfaction is directly related to how well the salesperson and customer work together.


Customer loyalty is not about what customers say about their supplier; it is about what they do and how they behave in their relationships with the people in the dealership. Selling through true collaboration and partnership creates a more sustainable platform for salespeople and customers to work together more effectively and only the best salespeople will achieve this.

Product knowledge is, of course, important, but is actually secondary. Some of the best salespeople have average product knowledge but because they can quickly gain a customer’s trust and confidence, they sell themselves well and this reflects in their ability to influence.

It is only after you have trained people to sell themselves that you should work with them on a deep understanding of the product or services they will be selling. Like it or not, developing salespeople to sell themselves first is where all training should start.

“Customer loyalty is not about what customers say about their supplier, it is about what they do and how they behave in their relationships with the people in the dealership.”

Words like “Objection Handling” also need to be eliminated from sales training programmes. Too much emphasis is put on objections and closing the sale that the focus on customer satisfaction, value, benefits and building loyalty are often lost. Closing the sale is more likely to happen automatically if the sales professional has sold themselves with inspiring communication skills.

The old seven-step training approach polishes the tip of the iceberg. To some extent it gives direction but in order to achieve substantial results, you have to dig further down and investigate the intrinsic skills of influence, persuasion and helping people buy.

Finally, is it just the salespeople in the Dealership that are selling? Actually the answer lies in your perception of’selling’, but if everyone’s job in the Dealership is to ultimately ensure the customer has a positive experience and would recommend the business to others, it’s reasonable to think that everyone would benefit from this.

Selling involves a complex set of skills and the key competencies mentioned here can be taught and improved through effective learning and coaching. Training should ensure that learners have the skills and behaviours to conduct themselves in an engaging, inspiring manner. It should show them how to boost their own self­ belief and then how to influence others to make the best decisions. And now would seem an ideal time to overhaul and modernise the industry’s training, to ensure it is making the maximum impact on the business.


  1. What are the three core competencies?
  2. How do top sales people read customers?
  • body language
  • facial expressions
  • tone of voice
  • all of the above
  1. Customer loyalty is not about what customers say, it is about what they do. True or False?
  1. How many people in your business are involved in sales?


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