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What Makes a Good Salesperson? 20 Characteristics & Statistics

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, preparation, and discipline. Being a successful salesperson is no different. It too takes an ever growing list of skills, characteristics, and statistics.

Fortunately, being a great salesperson is a skill just like any other; it can be learned and thoroughly mastered. So, what makes a great salesperson?

Below you will find 12 characteristics that seem to resonate with top sales reps and 8 statistics to start you on your path to sales success.  Make sure you print this out and share it with both your inside and field sales teams.

What Makes a Good Salesperson?

1. Empathy

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.

2. Tenacity

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.

3. Confidence

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.

4. Personability

Personability is the quality or state of being personable. Let’s try that again. Personable, 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).

5. Resilience

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. Our blog post on what to do when a prospect hangs up on you might help you learn how to deal with rejection like a pro.

6. Discipline

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.

Veloxy will help you significantly in streamlining your daily activities. Veloxy will remind you to do things that might have fallen through the cracks, like a true personal assistant with a touch of artificial intelligence.

7. Drive

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. 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.

8. Optimism

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.

9. Responsibility

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.

10. Adaptable

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.

11. Informed Sales

Coursera has 497 total courses to improve your capabilities as a salesperson.  Continued online education, especially courses that are free, are empowering inside and outside sales reps, and sales managers, like never before.  With mobile apps to bring your sales education with you on the road, there really are few excuses preventing you from adding to your LinkedIn sales champion profile. Checkout these top 10 sales books every salesperson needs to own to keep you informed of what’s going on in the sales world.

12. Tech Savvy Salesperson

You know that we beat the drum for CRM Adoption, but we always beat the drum for sales technology that helps eliminate your non-selling activities while growing your sales and revenue faster and easier.

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and great advancements in personalization are driving personal sales quotas and team sales quotas like never before!  Try one of the latest, trending apps today and become your Sales Org’s quota champion this year.

Practice Makes the Perfect Salesperson

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, and more 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, 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 well on your way to being a great salesperson.

Sometimes you don’t need to read a book or attend a seminar to learn a thing or two about sales.  Sometimes, all you need are a few simple statistics to show you where you can improve in your quest for sales greatness.  Below are eight such statistics (in no particular order) that deserve some serious consideration for your field sales strategy or inside sales strategy.  Where are you on this list?

8 Statistics that will make you a better Salesperson

photo of a salesperson drinking coffee while checking email

13. Follow Up

Here are 9 sales statistics just on following up: 

  • 48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect
  • 25% of sales people make a second contact and stop
  • 12% of sales people only make three contacts and stop
  • only 10% of sales people make more than three contacts
  • 2% of sales are made on the first contact
  • 3% of sales are made on the second contact
  • 5% of sales are made on the third contact
  • 10% of sales are made on the fourth contact
  • 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelth contact
    source: Linkedin.com

Follow-up is key to sales success.  Two contacts is nowhere near enough.  And while three is better than two, you need to go further.  There’s treasure and success to be had when you’re persistent and make contact with a potential sale more times than you can count on one hand.  Don’t let sales slip through your fingers.  Be amongst the few salespeople who push on to double-digit contacts and watch your sales skyrocket.

14. Email Marketing

According to MarketingSherpa.com, digital communication is taking over as the method of choice when it comes to contacting potential sales.  With an ROI almost double that of cold calling and networking, email marketing should be the go-to method for salespeople looking to get ahead.  That doesn’t mean that you should forsake calling and networking (they have their place too), it just means first contact is more likely to happen with email than it is with the phone or face to face.  A successful salesperson will use all three methods (and others) to create and cultivate the leads necessary to excel in this business. This goes for both field and inside sales.

15. Visuals

Visuals (e.g., pictures, illustrations, drawings, and the like) are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text.  This makes sense when you think about it.  Before humans interacted with the written word, we transmitted ideas with crude images (or just with grunts and gestures).  Because of this, the part of the brain that processes images (regardless of complexity) has been working much longer than the part of the brain that processes text.

What lesson can you learn from this?  Use more visuals.  Incorporate them into your emails.  Make them the cornerstone of your presentations.  Even an image on your business card couldn’t hurt.  However you choose to do it, take advantage of how the brain is hardwired and use visuals to increase sales.

16. Stories

Business authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath provide this interesting statistic that all salespeople should note:  63% of listeners remember stories while 5% remember statistics.  How can you use that information to your advantage?  Don’t just present a long list of numbers, surround them with a story and they’ll make more of an impression.  Use stories in your email marketing, in your presentations, on the phone, even in face-to-face conversations to make your message unforgettable.

17. Endings

The most memorable part of any interaction is the last five minutes.  Successful salespeople capitalize on this fact and repeat the most important information at the end.  Whether it’s an email, a phone call, a presentation, or just a conversation, conclude with something memorable (a story?) that reinforces the main reason why you’re talking to that person (or people).

18. Speak to what they need

According to Impact Communications, 70% of people make purchasing decisions to solve problems while 30% make purchasing decisions to gain something.  If you can find out a client’s motivation early on, you can tailor your sales approach to appeal to that need.  While it may not always ensure success, it does increase the chances that a potential client will consider your pitch.  If you can’t determine the motivation, go with the odds and approach the sale as though your product or service can solve some problem.

19. Budget is Critical

In a recent study, over 55% of sales reps said that budget was among the top reasons why stronger opportunities in sales fall apart. A lot of sales people tend to overlook the budget portion of their sales process. By the time they’re talking about budget, they haven’t built any real value throughout the discovery conversations.

The key is to be stronger upfront in creating real value for prospects. Do this and by the time you start talking about budgets, you’ll be strolling in a level field as opposed to fighting an uphill battle. Of course, budget will always be a sensitive issue in sales. But it’s a conversation that should be worked seamlessly into the sales process and not feel forced or unnatural.

20. Ask for Referrals

According to Sales Insights, almost 60% of sales reps report asking for barely one referral each month. This is hands down one of the most upsetting statistics so far. That’s because referrals are one of the easiest, cost effective ways to expand your business.

Unfortunately, so few sales representatives are taking advantage of the fact. You want to be asking for introductions, testimonials and referrals whenever you can. There’s literally no downside to using this strategy. It’s all upsides that include getting a constant flow of new customers to boost business.      

Putting it all together to be the best salesperson

illustration of sales professional resumes

Success comes from a well-rounded approach that incorporates many aspects of the sales process.  The above statistics (and many others) can help you analyze how you sell, but other factors like scheduling and information-gathering need to be considered as well.

That’s where Veloxy comes in.  Veloxy is a cloud-based, predictive sales enablement platform and app that can provide your sales team with the information they need to get the job done right the first time.  Veloxy aggregates data from internal and external sources (e.g., corporate, CRM, geo-location, and social media) and presents it contextually with just a single tap.

Be sure to Download the Free eBook — Exceed Your Quota Faster as a Modern Sales Rep today!

Find out how Veloxy can help you reach sales success by visiting Veloxy.io for more details. 

Try Veloxy. It’s free for a limited time! https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/veloxy/id956431895

Samir Majumdar

Samir Majumdar

Samir is the CEO and Co-founder of Veloxy. After spending 20+ years creating corporate systems, boosting revenue, and eliminating inefficiencies, Samir started Veloxy to help sales professionals shorten sales cycles, accelerate pipelines, and close more deals.

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