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15 Characteristics of People Who Succeed at Sales

If you’ve ever been involved with sales, then you know that it’s not for the faint of heart. Whether it’s selling a pair of sneakers at a store, a new heating system to homeowners or pitching a startup to investors, making that sale depends on the appearance, knowledge and enthusiasm of the salesperson. Quite frankly, not all of us have those characteristics in us. There is a saying that salesmen are born, not taught. Well, not exactly. Undoubtedly, there is natural talent, but can you can learn these characteristics and be just as successful? Yes!

A true salesperson has the following characteristics that they use consistently to succeed in making those important sales.

1. Conscientiousness  

In 1993, the American Psychological Association published a report that found the most successful sales reps were “conscientious.” This trait is found in people who take great pride in their work, are organized and efficient. But, if you are not organized and efficient, you can learn to be. Conscientious also means you keep going in your job, no matter what.

2. Respectful

Founder of Searchmetrics, Marcus Tober, states that “our top sales reps respect our customers’ time above all else. You have to make sure that your customers and potential customers are treated like gold.” Part of doing this is making sure that they have time and you schedule time for work. People want the bottom line. Old tactics don’t work. People are busy, respect their time above all.

3. Initiative

Sales reps don’t wait for orders. They’re go-getters and take matters into their own hands. Being disciplined like this helps salesmen to stay on track. If something has to be sold, there is a way to do it. The salesman will do what it takes to sell the product. Learn to like the product better, compliment where appropriate (even if they hate it at first), learn how to mirror to connect and then actually care about the connection.

4. They listen

American Express’ OPEN Forum says that the best sales people ask their clients and customers “why they want something done.” When you listen to your clients/customers, you find out what they want and need, and how to make that happen. If you don’t know exactly how to make happen what your client has asked for, be absolutely sure that there is a way. You just haven’t found it, yet.

5. Persistent

You have to have thick-skin to be a salesperson. Why? Because you’re going to become very familiar with the word “no.” You have to be confident and persistent if you want to remain involved with sales. The public is done with the hard sell. However, the average person is not done with extreme kindness, even if you are irritating. “Hello, yes, I’m calling you back because I know you didn’t mean to hang up on me.”

6. Coachable

According to Mark Roberge from HubSpot, experience isn’t nearly as important as coachability for predicting successful reps. Being energetic, willing to learn and having the ability to adapt are all a part of being “coachable.” Coachable means an early adopter of the suggestion. If you are asked to do things in a certain way, do it that way, even if it’s something you have always done a different way. Brainstorm in your one-on-one with you coach.

7. Positive

Who would you rather make a purchase from? The upbeat go-getter or the depressed downer? Having a positive attitude and being cheerful makes it easier to approach customers and keep their attention until after you’ve made the sale. This positive attitude exudes from a person. If you’ve got a really bad scene going on at home, stuff it! I mean, stuff it! Learn to compartmentalize the aspects of your life. Your work life is positive. Try some psychology, smile, jump up and down, breathe, do what you have to to be positive.

8. Resourceful

The true salesman is able to shift gears if a sale isn’t going the way that they envisioned. Instead of just taking “no” as an answer, they will attempt a different approach by using their creativity and imagination. Remember though, you have to make it snappy and switch quickly. Learn to read faces. If your approach has not worked within two minutes, change. Have your twists and turns ready. If you have to practice them at home so that you are natural.

9. Passionate

A top-notch salesperson actually enjoys their job. If you hate it, change or get out. Most importantly, the salesman will be passionate about the products or services that they’re selling. If they’re on board with a brand’ message, they can excitedly share that vision with prospective clients and customers. Happy, positive, love it, passionate.

10. Ask questions

Searcy states that there is data that has discovered “that the higher-performing sales representatives ask more questions–often more than twice as many.” But, these salespeople don’t ask questions that focus solely on data. They want to know what the implications are. I have personally found that the questions I ask are not about the product. The client got what you are selling your first time around. Don’t drone on. This client has something to say. What is it? They have a Zen garden at home? You learn to love the Zen garden quickly and ask more.

11. Independent

Since most salespeople work on a commission, they have to be independent and will take the correct measures in making this a reality. The boss doesn’t have to be there to make sure the work gets done. The salesman is a self-motivator. The independent salesperson can build themselves up to do more. They can pat themselves on the back and appreciate their own greatness. Most independent salespeople do not have to be thanked for each call or sales, they know how to say, “Good job, me!”

12. Time managers

Here’s a simple equation: more selling time increases sales and compensation. The best salespeople manage their time effectively, such as finding the best routes from location to location, so that they have more opportunities and time to spend securing a sale. If one place or person takes too long, or longer than expected, the time manager makes up for it somewhere else.

13. Overachieve

Author and sales expert Grant Cardone informed OPEN FORUM that salespeople should “over commit and over-deliver.” You have to go above and beyond. True salespeople don’t know when to stop and typically are pushing for more. More people, more clients, more work, more money… just more. The quality more.

14. Personable

A great salesperson has no problem getting along with others. And, most importantly, they enjoy meeting new people and realize the power of networking. It’s not surprising to see salespeople involved with so many local events and organizations. Most sales people love people, and it shows. They are energized by people. They go home and can hardly sleep after an event.

15. Alertness

Salespeople are always prepared. They have to be ready for any situation that they’re thrown into and know how to successfully break free. The salesperson is aware of herself and her body. If she is not alert, she has felt it coming on and taken care of it. Caffeine up, run up and down the block or eat less, they do whatever it takes. Alertness is key to so many of the principles of being a great salesperson.


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