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What Makes a Great Salesperson? 18 Qualities and Traits They Have

It wasn’t that long ago, really, when sales and marketing were separated by an unbridgeable gulf.

Those dark days of intrusive outbound marketing and sales techniques were perilous for sales pros and their customers alike. Since they rarely had the opportunity to communicate with their marketing peers, they were missing out on some of the best arguments in favor of their products.

The trouble went both ways – without open lines of communication with sales, even the best marketing experts weren’t savvy about customers’ evolving views and latest concerns. That meant marketing materials would forever lag behind the times.

In a worst case scenario, they were out of touch before they were printed.

Now, with the advent of permission-focused inbound marketing, things have changed.

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Sales and marketing teams can work together to fill in gaps, support success, and reinforce one another’s messaging. This has led to a new reassessment of what makes a sales professional truly effective. The old, hard-charging ways are changing with the times, too.

Let’s look at what really makes for sales success in 2019.

Top 10 Qualities of a Successful Salesperson

1. Active Listening Skills

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An inbound approach to sales starts by listening.

With active listening skills, you have a chance to show others you can be trusted – in other words, they can drop their guard and stop defending themselves against “being sold to.” Only then do prospective customers start to discuss their real problems and leave themselves open to building rapport.

2. A Value Creation Mindset

In the old days, sales confidence came from seeing everyone as a potential customer.

Nowadays, even as prospects have become more qualified, successful organizations have shifted their focus. Today, you generate something worthwhile for prospects even before you make the sale. 

3. Adaptability to Customer Needs

This stems from the value creation mindset. Sure, you have a defined portfolio of products and services, but you realize one size never fits all.

To create a package that meets customer needs now and in the future, you have to be willing to improvise. When you put on your listening ears, prospects give you the fuel you need. You just need to match that to what your enterprise can offer.

4. Ability to Research Customers Heavily

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Getting to know your prospects before the call has always been important. That said, there’s never been more sources of information than there is today.

To stay aware of all the latest, a sales professional needs to be fluent in social media, industry publications, specialized news outlets, and much more. Synthesizing all that into a clear picture quickly is absolutely essential.

5. Collaboration Across Roles and Functions

A versatile sales leader should work with marketing, but that’s only the beginning. For real and lasting success, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get involved anywhere your expertise is needed.

You might find yourself partnering with the web design or content team, the product development organization, and more. Always be alert to opportunities that will ultimately make selling easier.

6. A Head for Emerging and Long-Term Trends

When it comes to the hottest new information on what prospects are thinking, nobody can beat the sales team. To make the most of that, though, ask yourself: How’s your head for data?

Turning your customer insights into actionable intelligence means recognizing when and how things are changing. Often, that means being fluent in modern business intelligence and CRM.

7. Enablement Through the Latest Technologies

BI dashboards, CRM ... those technologies are key, but the right orientation to technology goes beyond any single tool.

Sales winners of tomorrow need to embrace mobile, where everything is happening. They need to move fast and fluidly through the cloud, using its bounties to support and extend their organization. And they need to look beyond yesterday’s Excel and PowerPoint!

8. Willingness to Lay Off the Pressure

As the great sales trainer Kenny Rogers once said, you gotta know when to fold ‘em. Along with the customer focus of inbound comes the inevitable reality that some people just aren’t your customers.

The more you’re willing to relate to others on their level, the easier it will be to hone in on those who you can help to the mutual benefit of everyone. Otherwise, walk away.

9. The Vision to See the Big Picture

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Riding on the heels of #8, an ability to zoom out and take a bird’s eye view will give you the energy to ride high when things are down. If you’re up against a tough quota, a streak of 10 bad breaks might seem like a disaster.

When you look at the big picture – how sales fits into the partnership of marketing, product development, and strategic goals – things often look brighter.

10. Ability to Juggle Multiple Tasks

Sales is no walk in the park. You're constantly emailing, calling, video chatting, and setting up meeting with potential customers.

It's important that people in sales can juggle multiple things at once. Keep yourself organized with calendars, Post-it notes, and reminders. Plus, if you have a more robust CRM with task creation, you can create quick task reminders for yourself to keep you on top of your high leads.

11. Passion For What You Do

When you were growing up, your parents probably told you to "love what you do." The work days feel dreadfully long, and doing something you aren't passionate about will just bore you to death.

A successful salesperson has a passion for making connections, building relationships, and closing deals. It's what keeps them going through good times and bad, and they are still able to walk out the door each day knowing they're happy at work.

12. The Tenacity to Stick It Out

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If there’s one thing that’s absolutely unchanged from the old days, it’s this: A sales leader has to take wins and losses gracefully, recognizing that tomorrow holds all kinds of great opportunities.

If you get shaken by a fork in the road or a change in the wind, you’ll have a hard time bringing your work to the next level. Confidence helps inspire others to work with you.

Personality Traits of Top Salespeople

While qualities and sales skills play an important role in excelling in the sales world, it can also come down to personality traits.

The best salespeople are:

13. Modest

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No one likes a bragger – and a great salesperson knows how to do their job without pushing their business onto others.

Modest salespeople position themselves as team players and are more willing to provide consultation to create value with prospects. When a sales guy is pushy and sell-y, it only deters prospects.

14. Goal-Oriented

Setting goals for yourself is a way to keep yourself motivated. And the best salespeople are constantly creating new goals for themselves to keep them on track and on top of their tasks.

Whether its finding right-fit prospects, running discovery calls, or closing a certain number of deals, a determined salesperson will set forth personal and professional goals to push them forward.

15. Inquisitive

While knowing how to answer questions thoroughly and easily is an important element of working in sales, asking questions is just as important.

A great salesperson knows how to ask deeper questions beyond just what the prospect wants, and they know how to interview people without making it feel like an interrogation.

16. Empathetic

Being in sales and closing a deal requires trust, listening, and respect. One trait that all great salespeople have when communicating with prospects is empathy.

Being empathetic helps you anticipate the needs of your prospects and allows you to get in their heads to understand how they're feeling. This, in turn, can help you provide better informed solutions and answers.

17. People Person

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Sales is all about connecting and engaging with prospects and customers. So, naturally, a strong salesperson knows how to strike a conversation and get along with anyone they may talk to.

It's more than just being a good communicator – anyone can learn to say the right things. The best salespeople have a genuine interest in helping others and finding the best solution to their problems.

18. Enthusiastic

People can tell when other people are just playing nice. It's another thing to actually be nice! 

Being an enthusiastic salesperson means you can always keep yourself motivated and striving to close more deals and get more customers for your business.

The Sales Function Will Never Go Away – It’s Just Getting Better

In a world where brands are embracing chatbots and marketing automation, it might seem like the role of sales is getting smaller. When you look closely at most organizations, however, it becomes obvious sales isn’t shrinking.

It’s just getting more agile.

Marketing is never – and has never been – intended as a rival to sales. A robust marketing team makes the salesperson’s job much easier by ensuring prospects are qualified and familiar with the brand before they ever need to take up your time.

But, sure enough, the sales pro will always be there at that key point in the journey, bringing that long-nurtured relationship to the next level.

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Rob Steffens

Rob Steffens

I am the Director of Sales & Marketing here at Bluleadz. I'm a recent newlywed who enjoys spending time with my wife vegging out and binging our favorite shows or getting some exercise on the Racquetball court.