Working in Sales: 10 Traits You Need

“Character is the real foundation of all worthwhile success.” -John Hays Hammond

These days, I see two different schools of thought about what defines great salespeople.

One school revolves around the “Coffee is for Closers” mentality (Glengarry Glenn Ross anyone?).

And the other school subscribes to the viewpoint that “The sale isn’t about the salesperson. It’s about the customer.”

One school believes in ego and power while the other school believes in humility and service.

During one of my recent seminars, a gentleman mentioned that another trainer told him to follow customers out to the parking lot and keep closing until they drove away or purchased.

Although I believe you should ALWAYS ask for the sale, techniques like this are exactly why many buyers believe that salespeople are pushy, slimy, and manipulative. I happen to believe that great salespeople do more than simply ask for the sale.

Here are the 10 traits of truly great salespeople:

Great Salespeople are Humble. When you are humble, when you consider others before yourself, people are more comfortable being around you. In fact, it draws people to you. That means the opposite is true. Arrogant, commission-breath salespeople repel customers. Be humble.

Great Salespeople are Coachable. I met a real pro recently. He’s been in sales for 43 years. I asked him what his secret was. He told me, “I am always looking to improve.” If you want a great sales career… stay coachable.

Great Salespeople are Hungry. Sometimes we can become complacent. I don’t think you can totally avoid complacency, but the trick is not to stay there. Maintain your hunger for new goals and your own personal growth.

Great Salespeople are Curious. The reason sales should never become routine or mundane is because there is a different set of circumstances for every customer. Be curious about their lives and every day will feel different!

Great Salespeople are Empathetic. This is the tough one on the list. Empathy, according to Brene Brown, is “feeling with people.” That means you have to care. Yes, I actually mean that. Great salespeople invest in their customers.

Great Salespeople are Great Communicators. You can trace just about every relationship issue back to a breakdown in communication. The better you communicate, the stronger your capability for relationships. And the stronger your capability for relationships, the more sales you will make.

Great Salespeople are Responsible. It is human nature to blame others for our mistakes and not take responsibility for ourselves. I can recall telling my sales manager things like:

  • If my competition wouldn’t have done ________, I would have sold more.
  • Marketing didn’t do a good job so my traffic sucks.
  • I thought my sales partner was going to take care of it.

The problem here is you give away your power to fix it. Great sales pros take responsibility for everything they can because they know it empowers them to make it better.

Great Salespeople are Passionate. When I have come across great sales professionals I usually see a lot of passion. And not just to succeed but for many other things as well. Three come to mind.

  • Helping people
  • The product or service they are selling
  • Life in general

Great Salespeople Prioritize Properly. Have you ever burned out? I have. Great salespeople work hard but know how to keep their priorities straight – how to maintain balance in their lives. They often have a family-first focus. It’s likely the reason they have stayed in the game for so long. In other words, you don’t need to feel lonely at the top.

Great Salespeople are Grateful. Top sales pros aren’t just great at what they do. They are grateful for getting to do it. This helps them to achieve the first characteristic on the list; being humble. Gratitude keeps top sales pros from becoming bitter and entitled. Always maintain an attitude of gratitude!

I’m sure the list isn’t completely comprehensive, but I think it’s completely challenging!

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About the Author: Ryan Taft

Ryan Taft is consumed with a passion for helping others achieve breakthrough results in sales, business and life. With a career spanning two decades training and coaching sales teams from call centers to new home sales to Realtors®, Ryan combines his knowledge of human performance, psychology and sales skills development to deliver extraordinarily engaging, energizing and insightful training experiences that drive peak performance at all levels.  Learn more at and follow Ryan on Twitter.