Success and Failure Both Start with Your Character

Jan 22, 2018 | Sales Blog

Mindset is important. Yet, you can develop whatever mindset you desire and still fail.

You can be a highly skilled sales professional and still fail.

Yes, mindset and skills are important. However, they run a distant second place to the importance of character in a salesperson.

Keep this in mind: Success and failure both start with your character.

Your character is the first thing another person perceives about you when you initially meet (in person and virtually.) “What type of person is this and can I trust her or him?”

This is a fundamental, important, and unavoidable, part of human nature. However, I’m often struck by the teachings of many sales trainers and supposed sales experts who think that the methods they teach enable sellers to bypass this step and make them immune to the laws of nature. They don’t.

It’s first things first. You can spend an inordinate amount of time to craft the perfect opening to a phone call, and you can have a success oriented mindset and still fail to connect and engage with a buyer if they sense something amiss in your character. Character precedes everything.

When we trot out the sales adage that people buy from those they “know, like and trust” what we’re talking about is character.

A few examples of important values that build character:

Do you have integrity?

This doesn’t mean honesty. Integrity means that your words and your actions are in alignment. Are you really there to serve the interests of the buyer or is that just talk? Buyers can instantly sense the difference.

What are your motives?

If you’re motivated by helping the buyer, that will be evident to the buyer. If you’re just in sales for the money, the customer will very quickly sense that your motives are at cross purposes with their needs. It comes through in your words and actions.

What is your intent?

Are you just trying to sell what you have or is it your intent to help the buyer find the best solution to their requirements? Even if it means referring the buyer to a competitor?

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American philosopher said “What you do speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you say.” This is true in both the positive and the negative cases with your character.

Your character is a direct reflection of your personal values. I’ve come up a simple acronym that summarizes the values that should comprise your character. I call it…


H is for Helpful. Success in sales starts with a help-first, service mindset; not a selling mindset. Start every sales opportunity with the commitment to helping the buyer successfully achieve his or her objectives.

E is for Empathetic Listener. It’s not enough to understand the buyer’s point of view. You must be able to listen to what you’re saying to the buyer the same way they do. This is what makes empathy come to life for a seller. That’s how you bridge the empathy gap between you and the buyer.

R is for Responsive. Being responsive means prioritizing the needs of buyer. Buyers don’t set out to spend an open-ended amount time in making a purchase decision.They want to quickly gather the information they need to make a good decision with the least investment of their time and resources possible. Being responsive is the key to making that happen and aligning your actions with their objectives.

O is for Open-minded Problem Solver. Buyers need your help to define both objective they are trying to achieve and the solution to achieving it. However, too many sales leaders are still fixated on hiring sales people that fit the tired and obsolete hunter-extrovert-aggressive-closer profile. How do any of those characteristics help buyers make good decisions quickly? They don’t. Buyers would much rather talk to introverted analytical problem solvers every day of the week.

Many of your sales challenges may actually be character challenges. For instance, if you’re not generating not enough second calls from your first calls, it could be a character issue. (Just like if you have a lot of first dates, but not a lot of second dates…) If you have too many deals suddenly go radio silent, it could be your character.

Here’s the bottom line. You can’t bluff your way through a character deficiency. Oh, sure, you might be able to fool some of the people some of the time. However, we see the proof every day, in what we read and hear in the news, that your true character eventually will be exposed.

Your character doesn’t have to be a life sentence. You can adopt the values that make you more human and “other-centric.” It takes self-awareness and humility to admit that you don’t have a sales problem as much as a character issue. Being a HERO would be a good first step toward positive change.

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