Sales Motivation
Jun 24, 2020

Personality traits to be successful in sales

What are those essential personality traits that make sales people highly successful? Read on to find out.

Sales as a profession has transformed drastically over the last few decades. Selling techniques have also evolved - from spending days and months cold-calling customers and building relationship over ‘coffee meetings’ or ‘weekly golf sessions’, to selling value and providing solution to specific problems. However, the one thing that has remained unchanged is the fact that a best performing salesperson think and act differently from the rest, which makes them stand out in the crowd. Know the unique personality traits the make some people highly successful in sales.

Only 20% of the salespeople make up 80%

Statistics say that it takes only 20% of the salespeople to make up 80% of all sales, which means 80% of a sales force fights over the remaining 20% of business. The 20% of the top performing salespeople are the ones that possess personalities and abilities that best fit selling as an occupation.

So, what is it that these salespersons do right? Why are they more successful than the others? Are there any specific personality traits that sets them apart?

85% of a salesperson’s success can be attributed to their personality

Yes indeed! Personality does play a huge role in the sales profession. So much so that, a research from Ideal states that 85% of a salesperson’s success can be attributed to their personality, and only 15% to their brains. In this article, we take a deep dive into some of the key personality traits that make a great salesperson and understand how exceptional “Sellers” are different from “Tellers”. 

Secrets to being successful in sales: Personality traits that successful salespeople exhibit

1. Optimism 

“We become what we think about,” writes Earl Nightingale in his book The Strangest Secret. 
Best salespeople are optimisitic because they always believe that they can make a sale

The best salespeople always believe that they can make a sale. They are eternally optimistic and strongly believe in their abilities.

Salespersons with high optimism are also the last ones to learn helplessness. These are the people with great persistence – the personality trait that is extremely crucial for salespersons – especially because of frequency of rejections salespersons face. Optimistic sellers don’t take rejections and setbacks personally and maintain a sense of balance when things go awry. They are the one who ardently believe that a “NO” doesn’t mean a “NO Forever”, and the prospect is eventually going to come back. 

In a study of insurance agents, salespersons with optimistic outlook sold 37% more than the agents with a pessimistic outlook – only to prove how much of an impact optimism has on salesperson’s performance. 

2. Empathy

“We are all united by one single desire to be valued by one another” quotes Dale Carnegie in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age.
 successful salespersons are the ones who have spent a great amount of time listening to their prospects

Likewise, the most successful salespersons are the ones who have spent a great amount of time listening to their prospects to understand what their challenges, priorities, fears etc. are.  These are the people who go beyond sociability to empathize with their prospects and build a strong rapport. Great sellers make sure that their prospects feel respected and valued in any situation. 

For instance, a prospect mentions that they lost their biggest customer in the middle of a sales pitch. An empathetic salesperson in this situation picks the queue and tries to genuinely comfort the prospect in their tough times, while subtly selling the value of their product or service to help improve the prospect’s business.

Empathy doesn’t mean that the sales person is selfless or compromises on the sale – they still have selling as their highest priority. It just means to say that the salesperson thoroughly understands all the behavioral aspects of a prospect and is in the best position to sell the highest value. 

3. Ego-drive

"There is always room at the top." said Daniel Webster
Successful salespeople truly believe in Ego-drive

Successful salespeople truly believe in this principle. They come with a certain level of aggression, energy, persuasion and willingness to work hard. They constantly strive to close deals, not just for money, but to boost their ego from within and to feel the sense of superiority amongst their peers. For the star-sellers, it’s all about competitiveness. For them it’s all about persistence to constantly succeed, above all winning.  

Successful sellers have a high ego-drive and love seeing their name on top of the leaderboard almost all the time. This doesn’t mean they feel the need to beat their teammates performances to be on the top, but it’s more about beating their own records of deal size, deal value, quota achievement, time taken to close the deal etc. 

4. Grit

“Obstacles can’t stop you. Problems can’t stop you. Most of all, other people can’t stop you. Only you can stop you” writes Jeffery Gitomer in the Sales Bible. 
Grit  is the kind of attitude extraordinary salespeople display

This is the kind of attitude extraordinary salespeople display. They have high levels of grittiness and maturity to overcome any roadblock, disappointment, setback etc., even in the toughest of the sales environment. They are the ones who will hang-in there and push-through, no matter what. 

For instance, a Hubspot research shows that It takes an average of 18 calls to actually connect with a buyer. Only the sellers with high grittiness refuse to give up and pursue a deal through the cold-to-sold process. They are the trailblazers who keep coming up with creative solutions to improve the old practices with their new approaches. 

5. Conscientiousness

"Outstanding people have one thing in common: An absolute sense of mission." -Zig Ziglar
Conscientiousness is the most important personality trait of successful salespeople

Conscientiousness is one of those traits that is hard rooted in the personalities of outstanding salespeople. Conscientious sellers display characteristics like persistence, accountability, dependability, responsibility and honesty. They are the ones who take their jobs very seriously and feel deeply responsible for the outcomes.

Salespeople with a high level of conscientiousness take complete ownership of the sales process and are known to churn greater sales volumes than the rest.   

6. Focus

"The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus." -Bruce Lee
Focused salespeople are also extremely demanding of themselves and are highly self-motivated

When you compare successful salespeople across organizations, the one thing you are sure to find in common amongst all of them is their laser sharp focus. They don’t easily get distracted with office gossips, emails or instant messages. They know exactly what needs to be done, when and how it needs to be done. They take complete control of the sales process with their single-minded focus.

Focused salespeople are also extremely demanding of themselves and are highly self-motivated. They are capable of organizing their work in am optimal fashion to achieve the best possible results.

7. Inquisitiveness

“Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It is courage that counts.” -Winston Churchill
Great salespeople are extremely inquisitive

Great salespeople are extremely inquisitive and don’t hesitate to ask for the deal. They are the ones that know how to ask the right closing question and are tenacious to always bring a closure to their discussions. They know the importance of asking the power-questions to connect with the prospects and to get the answers they need to seal the deal. 

Inquisitive sellers not only ask the right questions, but are also great listeners. With the right sequence of questions, they get to the real root of the buyers’ challenges and empathize with their needs. This not only helps them sell efficiently, but helps build great relationships.

8. Data Driven

“What gets measured, gets managed” – Peter Drucker
Successfu salespeople are fact-driven, goal-oriented

It comes as no surprise that salespeople who are data-driven significantly outperform the rest. 57% of overachieving salespeople rely on analytical data, compared to 16% of their underperforming counterparts says a research by Salesforce. 

Highly analytical salespeople are fact-driven, goal-oriented and analyze any situation based on the data available to them. They refuse to blindly follow the most popular or loudest opinion, and use data to question, inform and derive meaningful insights to help them win deals. They practically live and breathe numbers.

9. Learning 

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." -Albert Einstein
Extraordinary salespeople never say no to learning

Extraordinary salespeople don’t easily get complacent with their success or achievements. The constantly look for opportunities to learn, to improve their skills and knowledge, ask for trainings and coaching etc. to improve their own selling abilities. This obviously pays them off well by keeping them ahead of the game – always. 

Tellers Vs. Sellers

Now that we have seen what traits extraordinary “sellers” have in common, we need to understand what makes them truly different from the “tellers”. 

“Most people think ‘selling’ is the same as ‘talking’. But the most effective salespeople know that listening is the most important part of their job.” – says Roy Bartell. 

Although many people call themselves great “sellers”, in reality, they are just “tellers”. Here is how you can differentiate a seller from a teller. 

The Top Ten Ways to Know You are a Teller or a Seller by Terri Levine‍
Source: The Top Ten Ways to Know You are a Teller or a Seller by Terri Levine


Sales as a profession is extremely challenging and demanding, and being an outstanding salesperson is never easy. Now that we have seen the personality traits of best performing salespeople, when you look around in your own organization, you are sure to find that the them – and they are bound to exhibit most of these personality traits, if not all. 

While identifying the best performing salespeople is one part of the story, keeping them engaged, motivated and enthusiastic about their job is a whole other game. That is where Compass can help you. 

Compass helps turbo-charge incentives to your salesforce and channel partner network. It helps align people to targets, digitize incentives and communication, and provide error-free payouts on time, every time. Book a Demo to experience the Compass now.

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