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What Makes a Great Sales Person?

You might think it’s an impossible question, but research carried out by the Harvard Business Review claims to be able to tell you the personality traits of a great salesperson. Asking someone who excels at selling to pinpoint why they’re so good at it is tricky. You more than likely won’t be able to get one definable answer. Perhaps the people themselves don’t know but structured research into exactly this has yielded interesting results. It seems there are various key personality traits that top performers have in common, and which therefore can be seen to influence their selling style and their success at their job. Take a look at the seven top traits for amazing salespeople.

  1. No embarrassment

A lack of self-consciousness was found among the top performers assessed for the research. In fact, less than 5 per cent of respondents reported high levels of self-consciousness or embarrassment. Top salespeople are comfortable going for what they want. For example, they won’t hesitate to cold call, follow up leads or make high calls.

  1. Lack of discouragement

Remaining optimistic seems to be important. Less than 10 per cent classified themselves as getting easily defeated or overwhelmed. This seems to be linked with competitiveness, in that good salespeople can handle setbacks and just get back out there to compete even harder.

  1. Less gregariousness

You’d expect salespeople to be outgoing and gregarious but it seems the best are less so. The results seem to show that salespeople who are too friendly and ‘in your face’ get too close to their customers and can’t establish the leaderlike dominance necessary for them to follow their recommendations.

  1. High level of curiosity

An impressive 82 per cent of respondents in the top salespeople category scored ‘extremely high’ for levels of curiosity. This links to an active approach to selling (rather than reactive) in order to find out what their customers really want, and whether they can fulfil it.

  1. Fixated on achieving goals

This was another very high scorer, and shows that top salespeople continuously measure their own performance in order to beat their goals. They will also continuously adjust those goals and push themselves further without having to be told. They’re instinctively driven to talking to the right people at the right time, and have an innate ability to fit their sales pitch into their target.

  1. Highly conscientious

A strong sense of duty and being reliable scored highly, with 85 per cent of respondents reporting this. Feeling responsible for results and taking their sales seriously adds to their success. Top salespeople will take control of the whole process in order to make sure they achieve their goals.

  1. Modesty

The perception of sales people can involve seeing them as ‘pushy’, but 91 per cent of the best sales people in the study score highly for humility and modesty. It seems that sales people who are aggressively full of bravado make potential customers feel alienated. Not everyone is going to have all of the positive traits of a top sales person, but knowing what they are and learning from those who are at the top can only be a helpful way to improve your prospects, whether you’re new to the industry or looking to move onwards and upwards.

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