What buyers want in a salesperson

Being up-front and not overselling cited

After IT buyers had a chance to vent about the more annoying characteristics of tech salespeople (see "The six most infuriating tech sales styles" Computerworld, May 19), they also wanted to talk about what makes a good salesperson.

Not surprisingly, the most-desired characteristics are honesty and the ability to listen to what buyers want. Buyers want the straight story on all fronts: about the capabilities and limitations of a product, about future products, and about a salesperson's own level of knowledge.

Indeed, IT buyers say they tend to be sceptical of salespeople who seem to know it all. "My perfect salesperson is someone that doesn't pretend to have all the answers," says Craig Urizzola, CIO at food service distributor Saladino's. He says he'd prefer that a salesperson say he doesn't have the answer to a question rather than give an inaccurate or incomplete answer.

Urizzola thinks highly of vendors who turn overselling on its head and help customers realise they may not need as much firepower as they're asking for. An example: His company requested an ERP module that his software provider insisted he didn't need. "They eventually proved to me that I didn't need it," he says, noting that his respect for the vendor grew because of the incident.

With IT departments under constant pressure to show returns on IT investments, buyers say they want salespeople who understand their business. "I want someone to be a true partner," says Larry Pritchard, CIO at Schaeffler Group North America. "That means someone who understands my business's peaks and valleys and has a feel for the challenges."

Buyers want good communication but not overkill. Katie Goodbaudy, technical support specialist at industrial gas supplier Airgas Nor Pac, says she loves one of her salespeople because she's a great communicator. "She even lets me know when she's going on vacation in case I need anything, and she doesn't call me unnecessarily to see if I need to buy anything."

Joshua Koppel, assistant director of IT at the Chicago Department of Revenue, says his dream salesperson is "someone who understands our business processes and has a handle on the tech side of things, someone who is friendly, honest and willing to listen." But, he says, like everything else in life, you can't have everything: "Usually I get three out of five."

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