So you’ve looked at the various careers paths within financial services, and you’re considering Sales as an option. There are several specific traits that successful salespeople have, either naturally or they have developed them over time. For example, some salespeople are highly persuasive and therefore are good at closing deals, while some are more analytical and are adept at explaining the more technical aspects of the market to their clients. Then, of course, there are the highly sociable types who thrive in client entertainment situations. Nevertheless, there are certain desirable traits which all salespeople should strive to develop. Here are 4 of the most important. Ask yourself whether you possess these characteristics: Motivation This means getting into the office early every morning with a coffee in hand and getting on the phone to your clients straight away. Remember, these clients often have trading relationships with 5 or 10 other banks. Being the first to make contact with a client and providing them with valuable market information every day makes you stand out from the competition in your client’s mind. By making a client rely on you to provide value to them at the start of their day, you will have a much greater chance of generating more business from the client. There will often be days when traders and other colleagues don’t do a whole lot, perhaps because the market is having a quiet day. A salesperson, on the other hand, should always be doing something to grow the business. Whether it’s developing a client relationship, making a cold call, learning about a particular financial product, or working on a presentation - if you’re just sitting on the desk and twiddling your thumbs, ask yourself what else you can be doing instead to generate business. Q. Are you a self-starter, or do you need to constantly be told what to do? Persistence Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer and then just give up. Suppose you’ve identified a potentially great client. You give her a call to talk about setting up a trading relationship. She says “No” because she already trades with enough banks. Do you leave it at that and discard this lead? Absolutely not. While you may consider her as less of a priority from now on, you can still be persistent in keeping in contact with her. That doesn’t mean you constantly hound her with phone calls every day. It can mean sending her a quick e-mail with some interesting market data or recent news that is related to her business, or perhaps letting her know when some of the particular strengths of your trading desk vis-à-vis the competition, or demonstrating specific ways in which you can add value to the client. While this may again result in being told where to go, there is still more chance of you converting the lead than if you had just walked away in the first instance. Some of those ‘No’s’ will eventually turn into a ‘Yes’. Persistence pays off. Q. Are you thick-skinned enough to handle rejection, and see it as a challenge instead? Being Personable While you are undoubtedly aware that one of the prime responsibilities as a salesperson is to manage client relationships, this is only half the story…in fact, not even half. You are directly responsible for growing the desk’s business, which means capable of managing all relationships, both inside and outside the bank. The most important internal one to look after is with the trader. The salesperson is effectively the middle man between trader and client – he has to effectively manage both parties when dealing. Often, the client on the phone often wants you to give her a better price, while the trader refuses to improve his price. How do you get the deal done? This requires people skills, or ‘soft’ skills, to ensure the client trades with you at a price your trader is also happy with. By being able to get along with a wide variety of people, and by maintaining healthy internal and external relationships, people will have a lot of confidence in you as a result. Q. How would you rate the state of your personal relationships at present? What can you do to improve them? Can you resolve conflicts calmly? Willingness to Learn The image of salespeople solely being smooth talkers who spend all their time schmoozing clients is far from the truth in reality. These days, especially since the global financial crisis and the onslaught of industry regulation, the competition for client business is greater than ever. It is true that taking a client out can help the business relationship grow immensely, but if you are unable to effectively provide value for clients, there is only so far your personality will take you. Learn your market and your products inside and out. Do you understand technical analysis? If not, learn it. Do you understand the ‘Greeks’? When you’re trying to close a big deal in the middle of a hugely volatile market, and your trader tells you that the price has moved because his Vega has changed, can you interpret this information quickly, and then communicate it to your client in straightforward terms that she can understand? This could be the difference between you and a competitor bank winning the deal. Your eagerness to learn new concepts will always make you a better salesperson, rather than a worse one. Never stop learning. Q. How keen have you been to independently learn about new concepts and topics while at school/university?