What do James Franco, Daniel Craig, and Mo’Nique all have in common? They’re described as actors who bring gravitas to their roles on the big and small screens.* Another is Sir Patrick Stewart, who embodied gravitas as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Picard had power and authority. He commanded respect. When he spoke, the Enterprise—and everyone else in the universe—listened.
Gravitas is rooted in Latin, meaning heavy, serious, having gravity. In the sales world, gravitas means you’re someone to be taken seriously.
When buyers take you seriously, they’re more apt to take your advice and buy into your ideas. That’s why gravitas is a key quality of an insight seller.
Got Gravitas? What It Means for Winning Sales
Insight sellers possess 12 key attributes needed to succeed in sales. We’ve divided them into tendencies that drive behavior and qualities that guide those actions. Gravitas is one of five qualities found in sellers who consistently win sales. So what does gravitas look like?
Think back to a favorite teacher who held your class in rapt attention, or a business mentor you admired and emulated. People with gravitas have presence. They’re confident and assertive without (necessarily) being arrogant or cocky. They’re cool and in control. They have credibility.
- Is the sum of many parts. It’s pedigree—your background, education, and accomplishments. It’s competence and knowledge. The ability to speak authoritatively about your customer’s business. The ability to answer buyers’ questions, address their concerns, educate and advise them, and lead them out of their comfort zone. If you can’t do these, buyers will doubt your credibility, and not be inclined to take your advice.
- Means not reacting emotionally. Sellers with gravitas stay composed and in control. They don’t get rattled or fold when buyers poke at them.
- Includes outward appearances. I once heard someone say, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” People with gravitas dress the part. They don’t look like they just walked off the back nine.
- Means serious…at least somewhat. People who make too many jokes, or are too off-the-cuff, get dismissed. Sure, jokes can be fine, but you must also demonstrate focus and determination when it’s time.
- Extends to your digital reputation. Buyers are checking you out online. What they see will influence their perception of you. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to manage a professional digital reputation that includes what people see on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
- Is necessary for internal referrals. When a director-level buyer thinks about referring you to their vice president, they need to make sure you’ll reflect well on them. Buyers will only put you in front of their superiors if they think their superiors will thank them for doing so. No gravitas, no internal referrals.
Assessing for Gravitas
Sales assessments can measure a lot of important sales attributes. They’re a crucial part of the sales hiring and development process. But they don’t measure everything, including gravitas. If you want to know if someone has gravitas, you have to talk with them.
Ask them serious questions. Dig into topics that someone who should really know their stuff would know. Try to rattle them. Challenge them. See if you can fluster them. If you think this sounds a bit standoffish, it’s nothing compared to what a tough buyer will throw at them.
People can sometimes fake it for a half an hour. Sometimes longer. But keep digging and you might just find a pretender behind a veneer of confidence. But keep digging and you also might find the well of gravitas runs deep. If so, you might have a winner on your hands.