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What Makes a Good Salesperson?

What Makes a Good Salesperson?

Because selling is such a vital part of the economy and business, psychologists have long studied the traits and characteristics of a successful salesperson. Much has been written on the subject, so much so that people can generally (and correctly) assume the traits that set good sales representatives apart from great sales representatives are confidence, persistence, focus, optimism, among other strong traits. But there are other important characteristics that sales managers may overlook when hiring new sales reps.

3 Surprising Characteristics of a Highly Successful Salesperson


The late Dr. Herb Greenberg, pioneer of the HR assessment industry and founder of one of the leading talent management consulting firms in the world, sought to uncover the inner-workings of truly great salespeople and distill them into a list of essential traits to look for in new sales reps. Through his firm, Dr. Herb Greenberg was able to conduct personality profiles of top sales representatives to pinpoint the traits that help them excel in their job. One particular study found that 95% of top-performers claim their sales style is relationship-oriented rather than transaction-based. Of those respondents, 72% say building relationships is, in fact, their key strength.

Relationship-driven salespeople:

  • Have an active presence during sales calls, meetings and presentations
  • Ask difficult and uncomfortable questions in order to uncover missing gaps of information
  • Recognize and respond to subtle verbal, non-verbal and behavioral cues
  • Adapt their personality style to others with different or non-complimentary styles
  • Identify with other people’s feelings and frustrations in order to understand their needs and pain points
  • Practice active listening and/or work hard on improving their listening skills
  • Have a consistent follow-up process
  • Use their competitiveness as a complementary trait to their strong work ethic
  • Utilize innovative tools, such as social media platforms like LinkedIn, that help build and nurture relationships with prospects
  • Understand that building sincere relationships is a vital element of successful prospecting
  • Recognize that people buy from people they trust and not slick sales professionals who are not customer-focused
  • Base their sales meeting interview questions on the needs of their customers and not their own need to make a sale
  • Communicate well on phone calls


According to the results of a personality study of 1,000 top salespeople in technology and business services, 84% of top performers scored very high in achievement orientation, or the fixation on achieving goals and continuously measuring their performance in comparison to their goals. Goal-orientation may also be described as “work drive,” or the effort one puts forth in order to meet the expectations of their position. Researchers have found a salient relationship between work effort and work outcomes in the sales profession, suggesting that sheer input of effort into sales enhances performance outcomes.

Goal-oriented salespeople:

  • Have the ability to design a sales process that articulates their goals and assign timelines
  • Focus on behaviors and relationships that help meet long-term objectives
  • Strategize their sales pitch about the needs of their potential customers instead of focusing on what they are selling
  • Have the sales skills to take command of the sales cycle process in order to control their own success
  • Are self-starters who are not afraid to exert pressure to influence others and close deals
  • Work closely with their sales team, including inside sales and admin support, to communicate their goals and garner the team’s support to meet those goals
  • Implement processes to utilize tools, such as a CRM platform like HubSpot, to aid in achieving goals and tracking relationships
  • Are not afraid to ask for referrals


Sales is an emotionally demanding career, given the constant stress involved in making cold calls, competing with other vendors and dealing with rejection. Salespeople also face pressure to reach ongoing sales targets in order to keep their jobs. For that reason, emotional stability is an important (albeit unassuming) trait of successful salespeople. Researchers investigated the relationship between personality traits and career satisfaction among salespeople and found resilience in the face of job stress and pressure to be one of the core aspects of sales success.

Emotionally-stable salespeople:

  • Persevere when faced with setbacks, obstacles or objections during the sales cycle
  • Anticipate consequences and evaluate alternatives before acting
  • Maintain a positive outlook towards difficult situations and people
  • Accept criticism and suggestions on how to improve their performance
  • Refuse to allow rejection from one sales call affect their confidence or ability to perform on the next
  • Understand the challenges and excitement of a sales career
  • Want to be sales leaders who inspire and mentor others
  • Understand the importance of small business customers as well as larger companies
  • Do not let “superstar” sales status get in the way of providing the best service and products to their customers

Bonus: Are Extroverts the Best Salespeople?

Conventional wisdom tells us that productive salespeople are likely to have extroverted personalities—assertive, enthusiastic and outgoing. And while extroverted people do tend to gravitate toward sales and are more likely to succeed than their introverted counterparts, surprising new research suggests that ambiverts are in fact the best suited personality types for sales.

A three-month study of 340 outbound call-center representatives tested the relationship between personality type (introversion and extroversion) and sales performance.

The metrics show that ambiverts achieved average revenues of $16,393.05, producing 24% more revenue than introverts and 32% more than extroverts.

  • Introverts earned an average hourly revenue of $120.10
  • Extroverts earned an average hourly revenue of $125.19
  • Ambiverts earned an average hourly revenue of $208.34

The author of the study suggests that because ambiverts naturally engage in a flexible pattern of talking and listening, they are inclined to listen and respond to a prospect’s interests and needs with sufficient enthusiasm to close a deal.

Quality Leads Can Help Salespeople Succeed

Some people are just better at selling than others, but it’s also true that higher quality leads make it easier to connect with people who are eager and willing to talk about your product or service. Intelemark delivers real, valuable, high-quality B2B business connections. If you need help developing your sales pipeline, contact us today to learn how a lead generation or appointment setting campaign can drive outstanding results for your company. Call 480-771-2552 to request more info or schedule a test campaign.

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