There are many characteristics of top sales performers. Even though I will only identify three, the effective application of others will also lead to sales success.  However, the three I chose have a compound, or multiplying effect on all other sales principles, skills and activities.  These three qualities are basic in nature, and become the foundation of any successful sales effort.  There are many skills necessary for one to achieve sales success, but without these three you will never attain your full potential.

ATTITUDE:  To quote Charles Swindoll, the founder of Insight For Living, "The remarkable thing we have is a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude."

Some people have a thousand reasons why they can't do something when all they need to be successful is one reason why they can.  Our attitude is a foundational element in achievement, whether we are referring to selling or any aspect of our lives.  Scott Hamilton, the great Olympic figure skater, speaking of his own personal challenges said, "The only disability in life is a bad attitude". William James, an American philosopher and psychologist of the eighteenth century once said, "The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind".

Those salespeople, who have achieved the most in their careers and in life, for that matter, are those who have developed a positive attitude about selling.  They have established an optimistic attitude toward the attainment of their objectives, that allows them to see through the fog of discouragement and the den of despair, which might otherwise obscure their focus and frustrate their efforts.

Viktor Frankl, speaking of his imprisonment at Auschwitz and three other German death camps of World War II, as recorded in his book, Man's Search For Meaning, said, "We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: The last of his freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." To summarize the power of attitude in both selling and in life, let me quote Norman Vincent Peale who said, "Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes".

KNOWLEDGE:  Early in my sales career I came to believe that knowledge was power.  As I grew and matured in selling, I came to understand that knowledge "applied" was power.  Most salespeople understate the power of knowledge, and spend their careers under performing because they are ignorant of the sales skills which would allow them to perform their very best.  There are right ways and wrong ways, there are better or worse ways, there are successful ways and ways that will always lead to failure.  Salespeople need to educate themselves in the science of selling.  Just as other professionals learn and apply the skills and principles of their profession, salespeople need to prepare themselves with the knowledge of selling.  There are books, CD's, workshops, courses and personal coaching that can provide invaluable knowledge.  Don't just do what you think is right, do those things that are right.  Take the time and effort to educate yourself in the science of selling.

There are two other areas of knowledge that are critical to sales success, customer knowledge and product knowledge.  To be your best, it is imperative to know the needs, wants and desires of your potential customer. Most salespeople never know enough about their customers. Ask questions to gain the insight necessary to be able to serve them properly. Product knowledge is paramount to achieving your best results.  As you know your products and then learn your prospects needs, you position yourself to present the best solutions to their problems.  Both product knowledge and customer knowledge are essential in maximizing your sales performance.

Time Management:  The application of effective time management is essential to sales success.  Time is the medium through which all things are achieved.  If you don't learn to manage your time, in order to maximize your achievement, you will never reach your true potential as a salesperson.  "I don't have enough time" is an oft-heard excuse for lack of performance, expressed only by those people who don't manage their time effectively.  Salespeople who have learned and regularly apply the principles of time management always seem to have the time to get things done.  It doesn't matter if you have the perfect attitude, or all the knowledge in the world, if you don't manage your time effectively, you won't have the time to achieve your goals.  Sales success is all about time.  Discipline yourself to plan your day every day.  Identify those things that need to be done for the day to achieve your maximum performance, and then plan and schedule to get them done.

The great American salesman, Michael Gore said about time, "You won't find it in your wallet, or your bank account.  You can't borrow it; you can't work hard and earn more of it and certainly, you can't hoard it.  In fact, all you can do with it is spend it" . Time is a universal medium of exchange for success, available to all who will spend it wisely.  Your sales success will be in part a direct result of how you manage this valuable, diminishing resource.  Top sales people like Gore are increasingly sensitive to their use of time.  They know through planning they can derive at least one additional productive hour each working day.  Through effective planning and improving your ability to concentrate on the important tasks at hand, you can improve your sales success.