15 Characteristics Every Successful Salesperson Should Have


For the uninitiated, selling may seem like a relatively simple task: Contact a prospect, pitch them on your product or service and close the deal. While this is a basic overview of the steps needed to make a sale, there’s a lot more nuance and skill involved to be a successful salesperson.

As leaders in their respective industries, the members of Forbes Business Council understand what it takes to excel in the art of sales. Below, 15 members share the most important characteristics of a good salesperson and why these traits are so essential.

1. Asking The Right Questions

Conventional wisdom will normally dictate that listening is the best characteristic to look for in a good salesperson. I think this is only part of it, as the most effective salespeople are also good at questioning. Questioning not only uncovers needs, but it can also be the most effective skill for reframing a prospect’s understanding of their own problem. – Glenn Gaudet, GaggleAMP Inc.

2. Having Problem-Solving Skills

A problem-solving mentality is key for a good salesperson. They should be able to actively listen to a prospect, ask guiding questions to truly identify personal pain points and use that knowledge to tailor a solution for the individual customer. It sounds elementary, but it’s incredible how many “sales professionals” start to have word vomit as soon as the introductions are over. – Ben Heffron, PRIZM SOLAR


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3. Anticipating Customer Needs

I think that a good sales person recognizes a person’s pre-existing wants and needs and helps them find the solution that works for them rather than trying to convince them that they need your product or service. They have the ability to listen closely to a person and engage in dialogue instead of subjecting them to a monologue. This approach builds more trusting, long-lasting relationships. – Tara Milburn, Ethical Swag

4. Being Patient

I know this isn’t what most people will want to hear, but patience is key for a good salesperson! All salespeople want urgency, but you can’t force or fabricate it if it’s not there. The prospect is in the driver’s seat, and you’re going at their pace. Without patience, you risk alienating them without properly creating a complete business case for the sale. We all want a two-week sales cycle, but that isn’t always possible. – Veronica Buitron, TangoCode Inc.

5. Being Consistent

In sales, there is no one on top of you to make sure you are hitting your appointments, following through on your next steps and keeping up with your pipeline. A consistent salesperson will have sales and deals closing on a regular basis. It is lower stress and the money is more predictable. When you combine those two things, you have a much more effective salesperson. – Sam Kaufman, On The Level Construction, LLC

6. Adapting To Change

One characteristic that makes a good salesperson is the ability to adapt. A good salesperson never stops learning, and they can adjust their strategy and approach to fit their audience and the situation. They’re able to adapt to changes in the market and make adjustments as needed so they always have their finger on the pulse of what’s going on around them. – Chris Kille, Payment Pilot

7. Having Interpersonal Skills

Being a salesperson in a tech company is very different from the traditional concept of salespeople. It requires interpersonal skills, creativity, an in-depth understanding of a product that constantly evolves in a market that changes constantly and requires customization for clients’ needs. Listening is the most crucial characteristic for sales, knowing your product and your audience. – Ron Jaworski, Trinity Audio

8. Being A Good Listener

Someone who has strong listening skills is a great salesperson. There is a misconception that salespeople do a lot of talking, but a good salesperson actually does more listening. By listening, a salesperson can understand what a potential client truly wants and understand their concerns. The salesperson can then use what they have learned to best describe their service or product. – Josh Thompson, Thompson Construction

9. Having Emotional Empathy

Empathy can play into success. The higher the cognitive empathy, the greater the margins accounted for in the business. Emotional empathy tended to provide lower margins as it moved toward feeling-based sales vs. logic-based empathy. There needs to be a sound level of understanding that comes from listening to understand the other and presenting well. – Paul L. Gunn, KUOG Corporation

10. Accepting Delayed Gratification

The one characteristic that makes for a great salesperson is the ability to accept and tolerate delayed gratification. In nearly all industries, there are two basic types of sales: those to your target market and those to a less than desirable market. When a salesperson is patient and able to delay their gratification, they will bypass the small/insignificant sales and win the great ones. – Matthew Davis, GDI Insurance Agency, Inc.

11. Acting As Caring Industry Experts

The best sales people care. They’re client-centric, and doing the minimum is never in their vocabulary. Since sales is more about leading than selling, good salespeople are experts in their industries and able to provide knowledge, advice and guidance to their clients or customers. They build relationships, provide support and typically exceed their sales goals. – Adam Povlitz, Anago Cleaning Systems

12. Staying Curious

So much of sales is finding out exactly what it is that drives a prospective client or customer and aligning your pitch there. Curiosity begets curiosity, allowing both sides to gather the information needed for a mutually productive conversation. – Dominic Dinardo, Aforza

13. Reading Customer Behaviors

A salesperson who understands the needs of a customer and is able to relate on a deeper level will have a much better chance of gaining their trust than a salesperson who just wants to hit another sales target. You need to be able to accurately read the customer’s emotions and behavioral cues. This makes them feel safe and helps them open up about what they are really thinking and experiencing. – Meg Yim, MSA Security

14. Actively Listening

Far too few people understand just how important listening is to being able to sell. The best salespeople gain a deep understanding of their prospects’ needs and wants. The more implicitly you understand your customers, the more when you do start to “sell” you can focus on the things you know matter to your prospect, because you listened to what they wanted. – TJ Tham, TJUFOO

15. Communicating Well

A good salesperson must know how to listen. Communicating and having a personal relationship with the client won’t happen if you do not listen. It can also show a person’s sincerity if he listens. However, the ability to hear is different from listening. – Lane Kawaoka, SimplePassiveCashflow.com



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