8 Characteristics of Great Salespeople

Posted on March 8, 2012.

Managing salespeople is a lot like herding cats. If you can get them going in the same direction, you’ve won half the battle. But your sales force generates revenue and without them you can’t succeed. So when you’re trying to hire or identify talented salespeople, what should you look for?

Inc. Magazine once identified their 10 greatest salespeople of all time. In looking through the list, several characteristics jump out at you about these 10 people:

  1. They’re control freaks.  Handoffs create anxiety for top salespeople, whether the handoff is to the credit department, fulfillment, or support.  It’s not a bad thing as long as they remain professional, respectful and don’t break a lot of glass along the way. Ensuring the company exceeds the customer’s expectation is always their goal.
  2. They love learning. For great salespeople, the thirst for knowledge is never quenched.  They raise their hand for every training opportunity and read all the top books on selling and influencing.  More importantly, they take the time to know as much about the competition as their own company.
  3. They’re never boring.  Someone once said, “interesting people are interested”.  A great salesperson is a great listener and shows genuine interest in the lives of their customers, both personally and professionally. It’s not an accident that many long lasting friendships are formed between a customer and their salesperson.
  4. They’re motivated by incentives. Everyone has different drivers for performance. For some, it’s recognition or a great work environment.  For great salespeople, it’s a commission or bonus.  It’s not so much about the actual dollar amount, although more is better, but what it represents- winning.
  5. They have confidence.  Great salespeople not only have to believe in what they’re selling, they have to believe in themselves.  You can’t introduce yourself to a prospect and not project an aura of confidence that’s contagious.  No one wants to do business with someone who’s not self assured.
  6. They have passion.  Great salespeople love what they do. It’s not just about selling a product or service, it’s about the challenge, it’s about helping others by filling a need, it’s about building relationships. 
  7. They have vision. A great salesperson will often see what customers need before their employer. It’s not an accident that so many salespeople become entrepreneurs.  They have a vision about what’s missing and how best to fill the void. This is a talent that becomes invaluable to a company that will take the time to listen to them.
  8. They don’t sell products.  Great salespeople sell experiences or benefits.  They don’t tell you how something works, they show you what you’re life will be like after you make the purchase.  It’s important to understand the specific features of the product or service, but that’s not what people buy.

Finding a good salesperson isn’t hard. Finding a great salesperson is not so easy.  If you find someone that possesses the characteristics above, you won’t be disappointed.  But be prepared. Managing great salespeople has its challenges, so here are a few tips- Managing High Performing Salespeople.