5 traits that define a great salesperson

  • RK 
Reading Time: 4 minutes

What makes a great salesperson? Leaders might ask themself this question when looking to hire the best sales talent. Sales professionals who care about their profession may pose this question to themselves. 

If you employ a sales team, or manage sales people, these five traits should be high up on your list of qualities to look out for.

Great salespeople:

1. Ask good questions

Poor salespeople act as if they are ‘paid to talk’. The profession of Sales isn’t about talking: it is a combination of precise and well-considered questions followed by careful listening. Even some of the most experienced operators make the mistake of listening for the sole purpose of formulating a reply: that cheapens the engagement. A good question gets a good reply which is worth listening to properly.

Questioning to uncover a need

Take the right amount of time to dwell on your prospect’s current situation before even hinting at a solution. Find out their challenges and pain points. Don’t miss out on asking the ‘vision’ question: not every buyer is moving from a negative to a positive. 

A seasoned buyer can tell when you are asking about problems in order to spin your  product or service as the perfect solution for whatever they just said to you. Questioning to uncover need is meaningless unless it is genuine. At this stage of discovery, be prepared to tell your prospect that your solution or offering might not be the right fit.

Questions to build a solution

Solution building is a collaborative exercise. Great salespeople listen, understand the true position of their buyer, and also they manage to put themselves into their prospect’s shoes. What decision would you make if you were in the same scenario? What risks, alternatives, and options would you consider?

This steers a wide path from traditional “close the deal” approaches – and it is highly advisable if you want to engender trust. Customers who trust you will share more, give more time, and ultimately lend a hand in building a solution that has a good chance of success.

2. Create positive momentum

What is the next step? Great salespeople ask this question of themselves, their buyer, and their team, at all stages of the sales cycle. This separates the charmers from the performers.

Persuasion and charisma can get you in the door, and can get you through a meeting…but they cannot take a complex enterprise sale through from start to finish. Your goal should be to create positive momentum rather than to persuade.

Positive momentum in sales is created by:

  • Clear, two-way communication and expectation-setting
  • Meetings and deadlines set with both the customer and your delivery team in mind
  • Holding yourself to account first
  • Reminding your customer when the next step lies with them
  • Many small moves rather than one or two big ‘shoves’

3. Exhibit high emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is about how you’re feeling, knowing why you’re feeling that way, and what you show to others. It includes the emotional understanding of how we:

  • Make decisions
  • Solve problems
  • Communicate with others

Emotional intelligence can be described as the ability to take charge of your emotions (at least in the outside world). That means staying balanced even if a client is being downright unreasonable, or exhibiting frustration and rudeness. At the top end of town, some decision-makers have serious weight, and like to throw it around. Your emotional intelligence will determine whether you are able to interpret their behaviour as a “them problem”, or end up reacting and tarnishing your own professional reputation. In other words, it is the ability to stay cool under pressure.

Don’t allow other people’s bad energy to affect how you communicate or make decisions in a sales cycle. Emotional intelligence is helpful for anyone in professional life. For salespeople, it can be the difference between being good and being great.

When you step out of the interchange of emotions, you elevate the conversation. When the conversation elevates, it changes the relationship and probably the business outcome.

Great salespeople don’t need to be in a good mood, or be friendly, or always available for a chat. Great salespeople show calm and control regardless of mood or how time-poor they are. Calmness affects the entire room of people around you. Staying in control of yourself allows you to build your brand, among colleagues and clients alike.

4. Bring a positive attitude to failure and success alike

Every salesperson meets rejection on a daily basis. Even those who are at peak levels in sales sometimes lose great deals. That’s just part of the game.

If you’re going to hear “No” every day, what are you going to do? There is a  difference in attitude towards rejection between the average salesperson and the top performer.

The common salespeople do what is most natural. When we as humans hear “No” multiple times it’s normal to take it personally. It’s natural to start wondering why things aren’t in our favor and to feel insecure.

But you can change your attitude towards rejection. It’s all about how you deal with this discomfort. In reality, that’s what great salespeople do. They look at rejection from another perspective. They don’t take it personally.

Great salespeople take into account that buyers reject a concept, not a person. In turn, that belief gives them the perspective to take the approach of a researcher, an analyst. They try new sales tactics, new methods, and learn from failure, which leads us to our final trait of great salespeople:

5. Have a hunger for success

Top salespeople, in general, are not on the top by accident. They have developed the right habits, which help them to stay there. They also know that there’s always room for improvement.

Some elements of sales have never changed and may never change, particularly when it comes to attitude and behaviour. Persistence, precision and hard work never go out of fashion, either. Great salespeople know which behaviours have helped them achieve results.

In contrast, the tools that people use to play the game of sales are always changing. So are markets, industries, economies. Great salespeople realise that depending on a go-to-market that brought them success yesterday could be the reason they fail tomorrow. 

Average salespeople don’t need to read books, attend seminars, or join in courses. They can do just fine following the rest of the crowd. Great salespeople are constantly interested in learning. However, they know that the single act of reading a book, going to a seminar, or starting a new sales course won’t make any difference. The only way to change the results is by changing your actions.