Characteristics of a Good Salesperson

On a previous page you read about what I believe to be the top ten skills of professional sales people

In order to demonstrate those skills something has to be in place first.

To quote Zig Ziglar (and if you don’t know who Zig is I suggest you go and find out)

“You’ve got to BE, before you can DO and you’ve got to DO, before you can HAVE”.

BE – DO - HAVE that is the formula

So, to HAVE the SALES you want, you need to DO the act of SELLING (the skills from the previous page), but before you can DO that, you need to BE a salesperson.  

This is where a lot of the sales courses and programs miss out. They all talk about the skills you need. OK, but you could coach a 120 kg (260lb) man and give them all the skills in the world but they’ll never be a good marathon runner because that is not what they are! Nor is it what they want to BE.

OK, so who do you need to BE to be a good salesperson?
What are the characteristics of a good salesperson?

You may like to read the excellent book "The Greatest Salesman in the World" which also goes into some of the characteristics of an excellent salesperson.

Let me first ask you a few questions

When you go to visit a client is your focus on being interesting and presenting a good sales story or are you genuinely INTERESTED in what the client does?

Do you CARE about your customer and his / her business?

How much RESPECT do you show for the buyer? How do you show that RESPECT?

What do you think about the product(s) or service you sell, your company and selling as a profession ?

Do you really want to know about your prospect and their business or do you just want to make a sale ?

What is your Motive when you have a meeting with a prospect ?

When everything is going badly what do you do ?
Keep moving forward or go home early or go and have a drink at a coffee shop or a bar ?

When you walk into a sales call or make a cold call what do you expect to happen ?

What do you believe it takes to be a successful sales person ?

Have you got your answers … I mean, written them down and answered truthfully

So, let's talk about whom you need to BE in order to be a good salesperson.


Most people have a finely tuned sincerity detector.
They know if you are attuned to your own interests and not their interests.
If people sense you are self-serving your character will be in question

Would you buy something from someone you believed to be insincere ?
Would you buy from someone who was more interested in  making money than helping you ?

There used to be a saying that in sales you neecd to remember your ABCs.
Always Be Closing.
These days I think it's more about Always Be Caring.

As Zig Ziglar often said “People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.” (This quote actually comes from Teddy Roosevelt)

So, caring is a characteristics of a good salesperson.


People buy from sales people they KNOW, LIKE and TRUST.

How can you be trustworthy ?

As Stephen Covey of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" said  ...
People will assess if you are trustworthy based on your Character and your Competence.

So you need to know your stuff.
Your products or services.
You need to know the market you sell into.
This demonstrates your competence.

You need to have the right motives.
If people sense you are self-serving your character will be in question.

Trust is not what you say.
Trust is not even what you do.
Trust is "walking your talk".
Your actions always follow your words.


Being honest, being truthful.

After all, "Honesty is the Best Policy".

This can be in those times when an order is not happening right, when something didn’t get followed up correctly, or when you may have dropped the ball on something, you are willing to say, “Hey, here’s what went wrong. It's my fault”.

The willingness and humility to throw yourself under the bus.
Sometimes you put yourself under the bus if that’s what it takes because you’re upright and honest with the customer.

Offers Service - being there to HELP

My driving motive during my B2B selling days was to be of help to people.

I always enjoyed the sales where I made a big difference to a company. I didn’t always enjoy the big sales.

Incidentally, I have been told that the word sales comes from the Norwegian word “Selje” that translates literally into the word “Service”

If I can once again quote Zig Ziglar,
“You can have everything you want in your life, if you just help enough other people get what they want.” 

Plainly, to be a good salesperson you need to offer good service.

Is Curious - Interested

How curious are you about what your prospect does and the market they operate in?

Curiosity is just something I am naturally, always have been.

The difference it made to me in selling was that I asked more questions. Not just questions designed to set them up for me to sell to but questions about what their company did, challenges the company had and about them as individuals. I also made sure there was an understanding about what was said. If they told me they wanted “excellent service” I’d just have to ask “what is excellent service to you” or “what would you see if you were getting excellent service”. It also tended to make them be more specific. We use “lots of this stuff” would invariable lead to me asking “how much is lots” 

Incidently, Steve W. Martin, a professor at the USC Marshall School of Business and author of Heavy Hitter Sales Psychology wanted to find out how top sellers differed from average or struggling reps. 

He administered personality tests to one thousand B2B salespeople who worked at some of the world’s leading companies and he found that 82% of top sellers scored extremely high curiosity levels.

From those figures curiosity is a characteristics of a good salesperson

"You'll make a lot more sales being interested than you will by trying to be interesting" an old sales manager of mine


I don’t mean bouncing into your prospect’s office like you’d just won the lottery or exuding the “It’s a great day aura”.

The idea is to be just a little more enthusiastic than your prospect.

But what needs to be in the back of your mind is a genuine enthusiasm for the product or service you sell. A belief that it works.

It also helps if you are enthusiastic about the company you work for.

And finally are you enthusiastic about BEING a sales person ?
Having an enthusiasm for selling will create in you the desire to learn and do it better and help you get through the bad days. Having this enthusiasm about you will make you seem more Congruent. Your actions will match your words. You will probably be more believable and be considered more trustworthy. 

A Muse ... A Source of Valuable information

You need to be your client's Muse.

You have a deep understanding of their product or service, and they know the market and their competition well.

You want to actively work on research and development for them.
Bring them ideas.
You’re bringing them solutions and new ones that they would not have thought of. Because you understand their business so well, you’re seen as a person highly capable of bringing them keen insights.

Confident ... Expects a Good Result

When you talk to a prospect it helps if you are expecting good things to happen.
Sometimes that’s not easy if you have just made 10 phone calls and been rejected on them all.
But expecting a good outcome will affect your enthusiasm and the words you use.
It will literally make your words more influential.

If I were to get all technical I'd tell you there are two types of expectancy.
Outcome expectancy is a result of a person's estimate that a given behaviour will lead to certain outcomes.

Self-efficacy expectation relates to the conviction that one can successfully execute the behaviour required to produce the desired outcome. (i.e. Confidence)

Typically, a lack of outcome expectancy leads to a feeling of 'hopelessness', which causes the person to give up out of apathy.

The absence of 'self-efficacy' expectancy, on the other hand, leads a sense of inadequacy that makes the person feel 'helplessness'.

As a friend of mine often says,
"what are your expectations when you meet a prospect because ...
"no expectations" are "expectations of "no"".

Tolerance, Patience and Respect

How do you feel when the customer can’t understand the benefits of your product?

Do you think they are stupid?

How differently would you feel if you were explaining something to a 3 year old?

Remember people buy from those they know, like and trust. Treating your prospects and customers with respect is a good start to developing that like. Likewise a bit of patience and tolerance helps cement your relationship with the buyer. 

Courage and Determination

Finally, we all know there are days when you are a sales person when it all goes pear shaped.
Things go wrong:

  • appointments get cancelled at the last minute,
  • orders get cancelled,
  • deliveries get delayed,
  • buyers go missing,
  • you get stuck in traffic,
  • cars break down and so on.

How do you deal with all those situations ?
As a sales person you need to be able to shrug it off and keep moving forward.
You need determination.

I guess you could also include Persistence under this heading.
Sometimes make a big sale takes longer than you might have expected.
Successful salespeople don't give up easily.
They see rejection as a step closer to success and are persistent in their efforts.
Good salespeople "hang in there".


A good salesperson can adapt to the needs and reactions of different customers.
They can change their approach depending on the situation.

If you walk into a clients office and they are in a bad mood would you launch straight into a sales speel ?

When you are conversing with a prospect do you notice how they talk, what they pay attention to?
Do you know how they are thinking ?

Sales is a skill, like tennis or golf.
It requires practice to be good at it AND it requires adaptability.
Think about Roger Federer or  Novak Djokovic. 
They play on different types of courts against opponents with varying styles and in different weather conditions.
Do you think they would have been world #1 if they only played the same way with the same tactics every match.
No, they adapt to their opponent and the conditions and do what they have to do to win.

As a salesperson you have to adapt too.


In sales, self-motivation is often the difference between mediocrity and excellence.

Self-motivation is a key characteristic that sets successful individuals apart in any field, and it is especially crucial in sales. It's the inner drive that pushes you to go the extra mile, to make that additional call, to follow up one more time, even when things are tough. It's the force that keeps you moving forward when others might give up.

It's that inner desire to achieve, to meet or exceed goals, and to continually strive for success. 

It's about setting high standards for yourself and doing whatever it takes to meet those standards.

There will be days when you face rejection after rejection, when deals fall through at the last minute, or when you simply can't seem to make any progress. It's during these times that self-motivation becomes most important. It's what keeps you going, what helps you pick up the phone one more time, what drives you to keep trying, even when it would be easier to give up.

Good Communicator

Good salespeople are good listeners.
They listen more than they speak, understanding that they need to understand their customers' needs and desires in order to offer the best solution.
And to get that information they have to ask insightful questions.

Once they know what their prospect wants and realise their product or service can help they can clearly convey their ideas and the benefits of their products or services.

They are also good at building relationships and rapport with their customers.

(Actually, I'm not sure if this is a characteristic or a skill)


A good salesperson is professional ... what does that mean ?

They arrive punctually for meetings, respond promptly to calls and emails, and they ensure that their interactions are productive and focused. In short, they respect their client's time. 

They dress appropriately for their industry and maintain a neat and clean appearance. This shows respect for their clients and their own  profession.

They are well-organized and prepared. They manage their schedules effectively, keep track of client information, and they come prepared for meetings with all the necessary materials and information. They maintain all their tools in good order. (cars, laptops, business cards)

They treat everyone with respect, regardless of their role or position. They are courteous and considerate, and they value the contributions of others.

Basically, it's about being the best salesperson you can be, not just in terms of sales results, but also in terms of how you conduct yourself and how you treat others.

Characteristics of a Good Salesperson, Summarised

To summarise, the Characteristics of a Good Salesperson are:

  • Caring
  • Offers Service
  • Trustworthy
  • Curious
  • Honest
  • Enthusiastic 
  • Confident and they Expect to Achieve
  • Patient
  • Courageous, Determined and Persistant
  • Adaptable
  • A Muse ... a Sourse of Information
  • Self-motivated
  • Good Communicator
  • Professional

Other Viewpoints

Personality Traits of Successful Salespeople

Characteristics Every Successful Salesperson Should Have