When viewed from afar, sales—or the ability to perform as a salesperson—may seem as inaccessible to the average person as climbing Mount Everest. But climbing Mount Everest doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes training and preparation and practice and discipline. Being a successful salesperson is no different. It too takes training and preparation and practice and discipline and tenacity and the list goes on and on.

The takeaway here is that being a great salesperson is a skill just like any other. And because it’s a skill, it can be learned. Here are 10 characteristics of a great salesperson (in no particular order) to start you on your path to sales success.

Being able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes is a hallmark of a great salesperson. This characteristic can help you see things from the customer’s perspective and identify areas where your product or service can make their life easier or better.

Simply put, tenacity is another word for determination. In sales terms, it’s the ability to focus on promoting your product or service over and over again (from different angles if necessary) until there are no more possibilities for a successful sale. Even then, the most tenacious will continue to work because they are certain that there is a beneficial solution out there somewhere.

Confidence comes in two flavors:

1. Personal confidence
2. Product or service confidence

Personal confidence means that the salesperson is comfortable in their abilities and with the task at hand. Product or service confidence means that the salesperson honestly believes that what they are selling can make life better somehow…even if just in a small way.

Personability is the quality or state of being personable. Personable, then, means having a pleasant appearance and manner. Underneath all of those fancy definitions though, being personable boils down to people skills. A personable salesperson is respectful, patient, easy to talk to, and picks up on social queues (just to name a few).

If you’ve been in the sales game for any length of time, you know that sales equals rejection. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Rejection is going to happen. The resilient salesperson doesn’t let these refusals get her down—at least not long term—and she doesn’t take rejection personally.

Discipline often manifests itself in doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. Whether it’s cold-calling prospective clients or following up after a meeting, discipline moves the successful salesperson to get it done and get it done on time.
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Drive can be thought of as the hunter’s mentality. It’s what makes a great salesperson keep pushing—never resting on their past accomplishments—and always on the lookout for the next big thing. Some might call it excitement. Some might call it desire. Whatever word you use, it’s all comes down to drive.

An excellent description of an optimist is someone who is slow to learn helplessness. At the extreme end of the scale, an optimist is someone who refuses to accept failure. A great salesperson needs a healthy dose of optimism in order to maintain his resilience and confidence.

A responsible salesperson does not bristle at criticism or place blame elsewhere when things go wrong. She owns her mistakes (and her triumphs), learns from them, and makes herself a better salesperson in the process.

The ability to adapt is an important characteristic of a great salesperson. But it goes beyond just the willingness to look at a different perspective and encompasses, what some call, coachability. If you are asked to do things differently, do you do it? Do you do it even if you don’t fully understand the reasons why? Do you take this new direction and do your best to make a success out of it? That’s adaptability.

Practice, Practice, Practice
It’s a given that no one exhibits all these characteristics…at least not at first. But because being successful in sales is a skill like riding a bike or playing a video game, all it takes is practice, practice, practice to get it right. So pick one characteristic that you feel you are lacking and focus on it. Set goals to be more resilient or more determined or more adaptable then get feedback along the way. When you feel confident in that skill (confident, not expert), add another skill to the mix and start again. Soon you’ll be practicing all the skills on this list and will be well on your way to being a great salesperson.

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