5 Traits of Highly Successful Salespeople

traits of highly successful people

There are those who are gifted with certain personality traits, and those who have to work to develop them. Regardless of the path to accumulating these traits, a salesperson’s success relies on them. There have been many research studies conducted on personality traits and their correlation to success. One such study conducted by Harvard Business Review highlights the ideal temperament and characteristics that are hallmarks of a successful salesperson. When reading through this list of traits, one can’t help but wonder about himself or herself. It begs the question, do we possess these traits, and if not, how can we acquire them?

Below are 5 traits that are commonly seen amongst top salespeople, and a few tips on how to strengthen them—and in effect enhance your closing rates.

“Human behaviour flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.” -Plato

1. Be present

Practice meditation for 10 minutes a day to avoid mind wandering and to improve your concentration and attention span. When we are present we are more able to engage and focus on the conversation and tasks at hand. We tend to be distracted by our smartphones, social media, and any other excuse to not be 100 percent engaged in the task at hand.  

Download an app such as Headspace to get started with meditation. The 10-minute lessons are a nice break from the busy office and a sweet way to relax and regenerate after a long day. Chances are, you might become so fascinated with how beneficial it is, your Headspace time will become a gift to reward yourself at the end of a long and successful work day.

highly successful people

2. Refrain from feeling self-conscious

David Allyn, Ph.D., a Harvard-trained social scientist and visiting scholar at the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at Columbia University in New York City details in his book “I Can’t Believe I Just Did That.

“When we get trapped in a spiral of shame it affects the way we communicate about money, work, sex, love, and health. Our shame spirals affect the choices we make, the ways we react and interact. And they affect the ways others react to us. All too often our shame spirals wreak havoc on our lives, our relationships, our families. Yet we rarely recognise the extents to which embarrassment and shame run our lives, the extent to which they determine our responses to everyday events, the extent to which they limit our chances of producing extraordinary results.”

In order to refrain from feeling self-conscious, it is advisable to kill shame-inducing situations by practising the following:

  • Be on time. Punctuality creates self-discipline and impresses both others and yourself. It’s a healthy habit that keeps you calm about the clock.
  • Stick to the facts. You’re bound to get caught lying, so why bother? Lies just set you up with unnecessary opportunities to feel ashamed.
  • Cut the gossip. Comments made behind your back sting, and don’t forget how you feel about those who talked about you. Focus on deep, meaningful talk where every conversation can be a chance to realise a dream or accomplish an aim.
  • Keep your word. It feels good to be considered reliable, so honour your word no matter what the reasons are for disregarding them. Remember, a promise is a promise.

3. Have extensive product knowledge

The best salespeople know their products or services like the backs of their hands. They also stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends in order to adapt themselves to the ever-changing market.

According to a study of more than 1,000 salespeople and sales management leaders conducted by Steve W. Martin, professor of Sales Strategy at the MBA program at USC’s Marshall School of Business,

“Twenty-six percent believe that their knowledge is their most powerful attribute and this group had the highest average quota attainment last year at 170 percent. These salespeople are masters of language. They are accomplished communicators who know what to say and, equally important, how to say it. Through their domain expertise and the knowledge of their industry, products, technology, or business, they have developed the ability to persuade skeptics to buy.”

In the chart below, 26 percent of salespeople involved in the study stated that their knowledge was the most powerful attribute.

highly successful people
Knowledge is power as it strengthens communication skills.  Product knowledge allows the salesperson to speak confidently about the product he or she is selling.  Strong communication skills allow the salesperson to adjust his or her sales technique to the various types of customers they are likely to interact with.  There is a difference between communicating and talking; a great salesperson needs to communicate. The main difference is that a communicator can identify the needs of the customer and communicate effectively how the product will fulfil his or her needs. In order to communicate effectively in such a manner, the salesperson must possess strong communication skills that are developed by having product knowledge.

Salespeople can obtain product knowledge in the following ways:

  1. Marketing material
  2. Testimonials
  3. Training sessions
  4. Hands-on usage
  5. Industry-related reading material (magazines, blogs, etc.)

4. Be humble

Humility is quite contrary to what most people believe about salespeople. Salespeople are often viewed as aggressive sharks, always thinking about themselves and how they can meet their quota; however, one of the key attributes of a successful salesperson is humbleness. Learning to be humble will not only help with the perception of you as a kind individual who is genuinely trying to help your customer, but it will also help to fend off any rejection.

When you avoid a sales approach that forces you to be overly enthusiastic and in control, primarily motivated by a potential closing to boost your quota, you fail to connect to the customer, and if you don’t close the deal you feel like you have failed. This feeling of rejection can be avoided by being more humble. If you don’t assume anything, then you don’t have anything to lose. Humbleness will allow you to connect to the customer rather than feel you’ve collided.

According to Ari Galper, Founder of Unlock The Game, “When we meet new people in our day-to-day lives, we listen to them with genuine interest and curiosity about them and their lives. Why not do the same thing when we connect with prospects over the phone or in person?”

If we are humble, we are genuinely interested in speaking to a customer and are more inclined to listen to them rather than speak. Individuals like to be heard, and it shows you are motivated by his or her benefits more so than your own. Allow the customer to know that you are ok with whatever the outcome is. Be humble, don’t be pushy, and allow them to know you are not motivated by your sale, but that you are motivated by their betterment.

5. Grit

highly successful peopleGrit is defined in psychology as a personality trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve his or her respective objective.

Successful salespeople need to set their goals and have the motivation, passion, and drive to achieve them.  However, the most important aspect of grit is discipline.  Self-discipline is extremely important and will be a determining factor whether one person is motivated or not. The ability to stay focused and determined, despite any obstacles or failures, are key factors in a salesperson’s success. Grit is the ability to keep going, keep driving towards the goal, relentlessly. Here’s a great TED Talk by Angela Duckworth that describes a study conducted on the correlation between success and grit:

Ariel@Lusha.co'

Ariel Okonsky

Ariel Okonsky is Marketing Manager for Lusha. Ariel graduated with a Bachelor of Creative Writing from the California State University Northridge. When he is not writing, he can be found rolling around on the mat refining his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills.