What qualities make salespeople successful?

  • Sales
Answering as:
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Mike Pilcher
Chief Sales Officer

Salespeople must have drive and empathy. They need drive to push past obstacles and risks that customers, competitors, and their own company, put in their way. They need empathy so they can think like the customer, understand what is motivating the customer and so the salesperson can see the customer’s problems from the customer’s perspective. For superstar salespeople, you need two additional attributes, inquisitiveness to have them search and seek for more information and to fully understand problems; finally, you need intellect because the more you can solve the customer’s problem the more successful they will be.

What salespeople can do to be successful is to think like the customer so they can understand their customer’s problems. They need to take the time to think, not simply react and respond to a customer’s demands. Finally, they need to be proactive. It is not the customer’s job to buy our products – it is their job to do their job, successful salespeople do a lot of the work the customer needs to do in evaluating our products for the customer.

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Jayson Webb
Sales Director
Telsa Media

Sales is about relationships, when a relationship is in harmony there is trust , empathy and integrity. The best sales people work tirelessly on themselves which always includes there own integrity and relationships with people in their own personal lives
Those who do not project their wants onto others and truly help deliver an answer to the prospects problems, will achieve greatness.
I was once too salesperson out of 450, when asked how I done it, I replied I removed myself and ego from all interactions.
Happy Selling People
Jayson Webb. Telsa Media

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Nicholas Davis
Director of Sales & Marketing
St. James's Hotel And Club

Critical to success is to ensure that the interactions and solutions we offer are highly relevant to our customers, and one of the greatest ingredients and quality of any sales person is the ability to truly listen.
When engaging with prospect clients, or current ones alike, 80% of the interaction should be dedicated to the art of listening, and only 20% of the time should be spent talking – ‘talking time’ in which high gain questions are posed. This way sales people can truly identify what makes their client’s tick, deeply understand their needs, and then propose relevant and valuable solutions. Build relatedness, Listen, Tailor solutions, Make it relevant! It’s the path to competitive advantage.

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Charles Lawson
VP Commercial Sales

Self-Awareness and Curiosity are the two most important attributes in my experience.

Self-awareness is key because in any engagement, people ultimately want predictability. They want to have confidence that they will reach a predictable outcome and that calls for their sales counterparts to behave consistently. If someone is not comfortable in their own skin and trying to embody something they are not, it’s apparent to others and reduces confidence in those interactions. This is not just a cliche’, truly–just be yourself.

Genuine curiosity in others is such a powerful tool–genuine being paramount. When combined with self-awareness–I have rarely seen a person like this struggle to be successful. A salesperson who is genuinely interested in the person/company they are selling to will end up getting to know that person and organization on so many levels, it puts the salesperson in a position to be a true partner. And because the person you are selling to trusts in who you are, they will let you.

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Ryan Hyde-Smith
Head Of Sales
Funding Options

There are many traits that are needed to ensure success in sales.
However, the qualities
that remain constant and
in abundance in the most successful sales people is a high level of emotional intelligence, curiosity, resilience, modesty and a strong competitive spirit.

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Tom Austin
Sales & Marketing Director
South Downs Leisure

Empathy, Integrity and Ego. Successful sales professionals take the time to understand the client needs in its entirety. They present to the client with the assumption they will be their next referral and have, in abundance, an ego drive to close the sale. Combine those qualities with a tenacious appetite to succeed and you’ll have a successful career in sales.

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Rik Page
Sales & Marketing Director

Nobody buys from people they dislike – learn to build good rapport and relationships with your targets.

Nobody buys from people who don’t know what they’re talking about – learn all you can about your products, what they can do and where they can help. Then try to think of a few more problems they might address.

Learn all you can about your target’s company and industry – show you understand the issues. This will also help with the first two points.

Read two books – How to Win Friends and Influence People – Carnegie and the eMyth by Gerber

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Andy Mcdonald
VP of Sales

Success in sales comes from a variety of skills that create sustainable and repeatable high performance. Agility and social intelligence, the ability to be able to understand your prospect’s needs and relate to these whilst adapting your style to suit each and every situation. Sales is tough so resilience is one of the vital skills essential to this environment. The very best will learn from failures and accumulate these skills consistently throughout their careers. Taking risks and trying new ideas will lead to better results whilst at the same time taking advantage of all of the sales effectiveness tools provided by the company.The top sales people use these tools and also learn from others and value coaching the highest. Hard work is a given with the ability to self-generate opportunities and provide long-term pipelines.

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Alan Thorpe
Sales and Marketing Director (EMEA)

If property is ‘location, location, location’ then selling is ‘qualify, qualify, qualify’. So often I’ve seen late stage bids land on the compost heap simply because an obvious question wasn’t asked early on. Or, worse still, the answer was ignored. Here’s my qualification ‘cheat sheet’. Use it to navigate your treasure map. Free yourself and your team from wasted time!
Lead source:
Relationships we have:
Challenge & Success Criteria (KPIs):
Identified Decision Makers:
Decision Maker Access Y/N:
Value annum:
Selection Timeline:
Selection Process:
Incumbent pitching Y/N:
What’s missing ‘now’ versus ‘desired’ future:
Competitors – number & names:
Existing relationships with these?
Any barriers to selecting your outfit?
How will they know that they have the right provider?
Opportunities to kill the pitch (i.e. POC, Business Case etc):

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Matt Lane
Sales Director

Being Successful in sales isn’t down to luck. Great sales people know their customers better than the customer knows themselves. Do your research before the meeting, be confident, clear and focused in the meeting, and most importantly ask relevant questions, LISTENing and READing the customer’s body language during their response to improve your chance of closing that opportunity.

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Paul Scratchley
Sales Director
Jersey Post

You need to see your clients business through there eyes, understand what they are trying to achive and what their customers want. If you can demonstrait the ability to align yourself as a strategic partner, delivering benifit and growth, your job is done. See your customers as your customers customer.

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Stephanie Wells
Head of International Sales and Business Development

Being able to build and nurture authentic, mutually beneficial relationships is an undeniable asset in sales. Every day, sales representatives communicate with diverse personalities, with different needs, expectations and motivations. The key to navigating this is empathy. Ask questions and really listen to what is being said and find mutual interests to forge personal connections.

Translating a prospect into a sale can often be a journey, and, like all relationships, there will be bumps in the road. It is important to remember that that is ok, it happens in all relationships in life. It is how we rise to a challenge without seeing ceilings, respond to set backs with resolve, tackle frustration with emotional intelligence and persevere with patience. It is about always being the best partner that you can be.

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Tim Lee
Sales And Marketing Director
Town & Country Fine Foods

To understand what qualities, make for successful salespeople, firstly we must understand what makes for an unsuccessful salesperson. Phrases such as “the gift of the gab” make me cringe. Great salespeople listen first, seeking to understand. It’s only then they can tailor a product to a need. Above all though, the most important lesson I have learnt, is to be yourself. Any good buyer will always see through insincerity.

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Dan Byrne
Director of Sales
The Directory Guys

Determination, a positive attitude and a belief in the product they’re selling. Any mug can peddle rubbish. An ability to not take oneself too seriously and understand that even the best salespeople get knock-backs. An ability to relate to people is essential – people by from people, after all. Above all, know your customer!

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Bernie Mcphillips
Sales Director

Many people consider the craft of a salesperson to be a dying art but not me! Instead, the role of a salesperson has and will continue to evolve into more of a trusted advisor who listens intently to what a customer needs before offering relevant & appropriate solutions to genuine problems.

Listening to your client has become just as important as what you say, this ensures any potential solution is entirely in context & allows you to spot opportunities that others won’t see. I would recommend not launching straight into a sales pitch about your products, instead take part in a two-way conversation about your potential client’s business. Ask what keeps them awake at night or how they stay ahead of their competition & think about how the features of the products in your portfolio could help.

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Anthony Pollock
Sales Director
Float Glass

A successful salesperson will listen to and understand their customer’s requirements and where possible adapt their product or service accordingly. Confidence in the product or service you are offering is a must. Constantly working to goals and measures as a reference point keeps consistency month by month when working to targets. Even when working in a team it is important that you are accountable and people can recognise your contribution to the task.

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Mike Waldon
Head Of Sales
Isalon Software

The best sales people have a desire to be successful and work on a variety of activities to make this happen. It’s no coincidence that the best people are also top of the charts when it comes to calls, quotes, emails, etc. They recognize that there is no single magic thing to do or say but it is a collection of everything that they do.
They have confidence in themselves and in their product or service that borders on the right side of arrogance.
Finally, as well as having fun and enjoying what they do, they know that success breeds success and it’s as much about selling something no matter how small as it is about the one big deal.

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Billy Jones
Director of Sales and Marketing
Allan & Bertram

Preplanning your next call, confidence in your brand and product. Under promise and over deliver will guarantee your next order.

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Majid Shahzad
Director Of Sales And Business Development

Be true to yourself and to your customers! Never push to close the deal if you know the customer is not sure because a force sell will always come back and bite you in one way or another. A successful sales person solves the problem for the customer and makes sure the customer is satisfied because it is because of the customer you are getting paid so treat them like your BOSS.

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Corelia Maskell-Moseley
Head of Sales Management

Do your research and understand who and what is your target audience. Believe in your product 100% and know it inside out. Be confident without being arrogant. Learn the art of listening as opposed to just ‘hearing’. Engage with your teams be it sales, marketing, accounting or administration – everyone helps achieve the end result – cash in the bank! Brainstorm regularly and openly. Acknowledge others success and learn from it. Never stop learning. Watch the competition avidly and be prepared to move with the market as needs be. Take feedback and learn from it. The customers perspective is more than useful and often overlooked – engage and use it to your advantage. Learn when to switch off and recharge – learn the art of delegation!

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Lloyd Withey
Head Of Sales
Madley Property Services

There is such a spectrum of characteristics that all intertwine into what makes a great salesperson, it’s hard to whittle it down to a few! However, if I had to pick a top 5 (not in any order) it would be Ability to problem solve, a solid work ethic, product knowledge, understanding the clients need and resilience.  

Problem solving – The reason most deals don’t happen is that there is an objection or a problem standing in the way, your scope to identify that problem and its solution is key to the deal. Problems or objections are often not even identified and mistaken for a client just not being interested, meaning a lot of deals that could have happened fall by the wayside without people even realising!  

Work ethic – Simply put, a large part of any sales job is a numbers game, the more opportunities you present yourself with, the more chance of success.

Product knowledge – It sounds so simple but it is also so crucial. Providing generic information isn’t selling and will see you end up as a transactional salesperson. Knowing your product and market inside out not only enhances your status as an expert in your field but also increases your ability, through effective communication, to make the client understand why what you’re offering is beneficial to solving their problem.

Understanding the true client need – A sales basic but how can you close a sale without knowing what problem your product is solving? A lot of people associate salespeople as being chatterboxes, yet an astute salesperson has the client talking more than they do in order to unveil, in depth, what the need/problem is and why they are trying to solve. As a result, you should then be able to demonstrate (using your product knowledge!) more effectively why what you have will help fulfil that need/solve that problem!

Resilience – Being able to shake a no off and continue hunting that yes with positive energy is a skill every successful sales person has. Rejection is part and parcel of any sales related job and the sooner you can overcome that fear of the answer being no, the sooner you’ll start hearing “yes!” more. 

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Chris Britto
Head of Sales
Real Estate Worldwide

From my experience, people buy from people, don’t try and sell, be an expert & be knowledgeable in your field and don’t take short cuts. Understand the client your speaking with, listen to their needs their motivations, build rapport and generate a connection. Always come away from a conversation thinking, what could I have done differently?

Always ask for recommendations & referrals!

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Nicola Harper
Head of Sales
Beds With Ease

A successful sales person is always themselves, people buy from people. They also have to have the ability to adapt to their audience and their environment. Passion is also a key to success if you are passionate about the product you sell this will shine through, it also reinforces your integrity as a person as you have to be trusted to be a successful sales person.

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Naomi Broughton
Sales, Marketing & Client Services Director

Conviction! Absolute belief in what you’re saying/selling, and a genuine desire to understand how you can help your customer.

Also – the best salespeople I’ve ever met have a chameleon-like quality about them

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Elena Gurgul
Head of Sales
Newbury Racecourse

I always jokingly repeat one phrase to my team. “Close your mouth and open your ears”. A very simple yet useful thing to do especially when we are talking to prospect business. Everyone can be a salesperson but it’s hard to be a good one if you cannot listen and be interested in who you have in front of you. This relates not only to clients, but to your colleagues and your team. Then add some empathy with confidence and a pinch of passion and you have the perfect recipe to be and make a difference.

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Helen Staples
Head of Sales
Scoot Business Directory

Looking for a good sales person can be tough…. some people will interview exceptional and deliver nothing? Others will deliver with bells on! You cant always get it right but looking out for key characteristics will help.
The key qualities to look for are : Enthusiasm, Work ethic, Honestly, Integrity, Passion, Want-Hunger to Succeed and be Successful. Someone who has taken the time to research the company, ask questions about what success here looks like and ask about who is the best already and why? Someone who listens with intent, products and services can be taught but these qualities are within. Do not expect all good sales people to be the same, typically we think, Confident, Loud, Outgoing is what we are looking for but sometimes we find fantastic sales people who are low key but BRILLIANT, to be able to listen is key. Good Luck with your search.. and remember once you find them make sure you take care of them, treat them well and nurture them. Helen Staples

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Roderick Wellington
Head Of Sales


Without being overly technical or prescriptive there are clearly a number of different types of sales people. We all share some common qualities though…Perseverance, an ability to form engaging relationships, honesty, and a whole non exhaustive list of others.
One also needs a type of bloody mindedness and thick skin as Sales is quite often a turbulent ride!
We get too bogged down with acronyms and buzzwords, B2B, B2C, C2C, they are all the end client and it’s your/our job to understand their needs and make a decision on if we can really add value and solve a problem or assist them.
We have targets, quotas and revenue to consider but that should never cloud your sales decision making as bad decisions only come back to bite you on the posterior!

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Miles Robinson
Head Of Sales

The most successful salespeople are those that deliver outstanding Customer Service. The ‘gift of the gab’ is something of the past, successful sales people need to be highly organised, highly efficient, highly tenacious and lastly highly skilled in delivering exceptional service to their Customers. The salespeople that can listen intently, ask the right questions to understand the customer requirements and deliver on it will ultimately be the most successful.

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Chris Algie
Head of Sales & Business Development

Personability… You must be able to adapt to the individual and situation and be relatable.. People Buy From People!

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Sinead Moynihan
Head Of Sales
Mint Bridging

1. Assertiveness
This allows you to move a sales situation forward without offending or frustrating the customer.

2. Self-Awareness
You need to be able to identify your own emotions, understand how they work, and then use them to help you build stronger customer relationships. This is a four-step process:
Identify the emotions that you’re feeling,
Based on experience, predict how those emotions will affect your sales effort.
Compensate for negative emotions that might hinder the sale.
Expand your positive emotions that might help you make the sale.

3. Empathy
This entails adapting your behaviour to the customer’s moods and emotions. It begins with listening and observing, but simply knowing what the customer might be feeling is not enough. You must be able to feel what the customer is likely to be feeling.
Both responses to the event make business sense–but if you want to build a better relationship, you’ll be empathetic and imagine your contact’s sense of fear and confusion. Then, depending on your emotional reading of the customer, decide whether the customer would prefer to commiserate, complain or (alternatively) be distracted from the situation.

4. Problem Solving
The desire to solve a problem helps you create new ways to satisfy the customer’s needs, both financial (the ROI of your offering) and emotional–such as the customer’s need to be convinced that your and your firm are reputable and can be relied upon. Problem solving is a four step process:
See the customer situation as it really is. (Never try to solve a problem before you fully understand it.)
Help the customer visualize a more desirable situation.
Devise a way to move the customer from the ways things are today to the way the customer would like them to be.
Communicate that solution in a way that makes it easy for the customer to make a decision.
While those steps might seem obvious, they’re the exact opposite of old-school selling, where selling entails “giving a great sales pitch.”

5. Optimism
Optimism helps you maintain a sense of balance when things go awry. It proceeds directly from the (often unspoken) rules that you use to interpret daily events. For example, if the first sales call or meeting of the day goes poorly, your performance for the rest of the day will be different if you have this rule…
A bad first call or meeting means that I’m off my game this will be a bad day.
… rather than this rule:
Every sales call or meeting is different, so the next will be better.

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Scott Pickering-Jones
Sales Director
Airtime Solutions

The quality I look for the most is the ability to actually hear what is being said (not just listen), and then react.

Most salespeople are just waiting to talk, to show off their immense knowledge. When they do this the ‘hearing’ part of the sales process gets lost.

Talking is, or can be, an overrated part of the sales journey. Sales is very psychological, and the most successful salespeople out there know this.

Anyone can work hard, or be single-minded, or goal-orientated – all great traits by the way – but without the skillset to be able to guide the customer to close themselves, they’ll just be the average salesperson in your office doing just enough to keep their seat.

I firmly believe that the most important person on the sales journey is the salesperson. If what you have to offer is going to be beneficial in any capacity, then the customer has to be interested regardless of whether they were looking or not at the time of your contact, right? The most successful salespeople I have come across know this. They truly believe in the product, themselves and the process they are going through.

Above all else the most successful salespeople enjoys what they do, being successful allows them the luxury to do this!

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Ian Gilroy
Head of Business Development

Successful sales people do certain things and they tend to do them consistently.
At its most basic it can be described as ‘Seeking first to understand, then to be understood’.
Understanding the issues facing the prospect, ensuring the prospect understands just how serious those issues might be and presenting a solution is basic stuff for successful salespeople.
We have 2 ears and 1 mouth; using them in that ratio is generally helpful to being successful in sales.
And successful sales people tend to forget all about closing deals.
(There is way too much written about how to close deals).
If everything is done well beforehand, the ‘close’ should be a non-event.
Essentially, the qualities that make salespeople successful are being able to listen, understand, summarise and present.

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Duncan Peel
Head of Sales & Operations
Opt Pensions

Get to know your audience. People don’t buy your product, they buy you, so be yourself, be relatable, and above all, be genuine. Get that right, and everything else will follow.

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Joshua Reding
Head Of Sales
Cover Me Happy

Listening is the most important part of any sales process. The ability to ask provoking questions, get your prospect speaking, and practice reflective listening will elicit the prospect’s pain points, arm you with the knowledge to close the deal, and get the prospect to trust you. I also believe a high level of emotional intelligence is a critical skill to possess if you wish to be good at sales. Being able to understand, predict, and act based on your knowledge of your client’s feelings is pivotal for success. When you couple this with the ability to build empathy it enables the salesperson to find the problems and needs of the client and recommend a product to fit those needs.

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Ben Willcocks
Sales Director
Best Energy

Selling is far more about listening than speaking. I used to believe in popular misconceptions like: ‘being a great salesman is about having the gift of the gab’ and ‘selling just comes naturally to some people’. However, during my 20-year sales career I have learnt this to be totally false.

Sure, you need to be able to communicate coherently, but the most important part of this in a sales environment is listening to what the client actually needs or wants, so that you can show them how your product or service fits them.

Over time, pound for pound, a good listener will destroy a good talkers’ sales numbers.

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Craig Herrett
Sales Director
Provu Communications

“Be happy. Know your stuff. Be relentless.”

Approach with a smile (metaphorically). People like people who give them energy and make them feel good. Know your target, know your offering and it’s value.

Research – Ask questions before you pitch. Does your audience like golf? Do they have kids? Build rapport on something you both have a genuine interest in.

Understanding – Share how you and your offering add serious value – if it doesn’t then move on.

Finally, understand that no rarely means no. It means ‘Not Now’, ‘Try Harder’, ‘Do something different’. So be ever-present and relentless.

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Max Holland
Sales Director

To be the king, you’ve got to defeat the king.

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Tonia Baldwin
Sales Director
A1 Comms

In my experience, successful salespeople know how to listen to their customers and understand their requirements and work when your competitors are not.

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Jermaine Abel
Sales Director
Venatus Media

A true salesperson must have the courage to challenge their clients if they want to stand a chance at driving more sales for their company. What opportunities have they missed? What are their competitors doing? What can you propose to help meet business objectives and KPI’s?
This helps build trust, opens up new avenues of thought and shows you are selling something that will improve someone’s business/life. You may not be the most liked person in the room but you’ll be heard and respected for your knowledge.
Have faith in your product, show your passion, and the sales will follow.

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James Hooper
Sales Director
Black + Blum

In my experience, the best salespeople know how to listen to their customers, to ascertain what their current priorities are, and what they are trying to achieve for their business.

They do this before they launch into any presentation or product demonstration. You need to be tooled with the knowledge of your customer’s business in order to provide them with relevant information.

Another important quality to have is perseverance to keep going despite receiving rejections from prospects. Think of creative ways to maintain communication with the prospect, so that you keep them on friendly terms for the moment when they are ready to commit.