Traits of Top Salespeople

"Top salespeople are coachable: they are willing to listen and learn from their superiors and peers."

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15 Career Success Principles For Salespeople

15 Career Success Principles For Salespeople

Sales is one of the most challenging and rewarding careers a person can choose. It takes hard work, determination, and a robust set of career success principles to be successful in this field. This post will explore fundamental principles that lead to success in a sales career. Understanding and applying these principles gives you the best chance for success in your sales career.

  1. Identify your personal brand and develop a strong message
  2. Build a professional network and stay connected
  3. Stay current on industry trends and changes
  4. Develop marketable skillsets
  5. Maintain a positive attitude, even during tough times
  6. Stop selling and start helping
  7. Find a professional mentor to guide you
  8. Believe in yourself and your ability to sell
  9. Commit to continuous learning
  10. Be a resource for your clients
  11. Focus on solutions, not problems
  12. Build relationships of trust
  13. Manage your time and energy effectively
  14. Take the initiative and be proactive
  15. Be persistent and never give up

1. Identify your personal brand and develop a strong message

There’s no doubt that personal branding is essential for salespeople. In a world where buyers have more choices than ever before, it’s vital to stand out from the crowd and make a strong impression.

But what exactly is a personal brand, and how can you develop one? Simply put, your personal brand is how you present yourself to the world. It’s the sum of all the experiences and interactions people have with you, starting with how you communicate your message.

If you want to develop a strong personal brand, it’s essential to start by articulating your unique selling proposition. What makes you different from other salespeople? What value do you bring to the table? Once you’ve answered these questions, you can develop a strong personal brand that will help you close more sales.

Remember, there are three things that every salesperson sells in every deal:

  • Your product
  • Your company
  • Yourself

Since most products have competition that solves the core of the same problems, products rarely win the deal by themselves as the second best product usually has enough features/benefits to achieve the prospect’s goals.

Since most companies are of high quality, the company’s reputation rarely wins the deal. Yes, there are times when the customer will only buy from a specific vendor (the adage that no one was ever fired for buying from IBM is long over).

The significant variable in all sales opportunities is YOU. You can show you are a better partner and advocate than the other salesperson.

Customer loyalty isn’t what it used to be. When you have a relationship with a customer, everything is more straightforward. People don’t return simply because it’s where they purchased previously. They re-purchase because salespeople took the time to build a relationship. They gave the customer a reason to buy from their company.

But remember, even one mistake can cause a loyal customer to leave. It is up to you to sell them on your company, sell them on your professionalism, and then keep them sold through simple, consistent communication.

2. Build a professional network and stay connected

As a salesperson, it’s essential to have a strong professional network. After all, your network is your lifeline to potential customers and sales leads. But building and maintaining a professional network can be challenging, especially if you’re always on the go. Fortunately, you can do a few simple things to make sure you stay connected.

First, make an effort to attend industry events and meetups. This is a great way to meet new people and stay up-to-date on the latest trends.

Second, use social media to connect with other salespeople and professionals in your field. LinkedIn is a particularly useful platform for salespeople, allowing you to connect with others in your industry easily.

Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to your contacts regularly. Whether you’re staying in touch via email or meeting up for coffee, maintaining regular communication is key to maintaining professional relationships.

3. Stay current on industry trends and changes

Salespeople need to stay current on industry trends and changes. The sales industry is constantly evolving, and salespeople who don’t stay up-to-date on the latest changes are at a disadvantage.

In addition, knowing about the latest industry trends can help salespeople be more successful in their careers. By being aware of new products, sales strategies, and other changes in the sales industry, salespeople can adapt their own tactics to better meet their customers’ needs.

Furthermore, keeping current on industry trends shows potential employers that salespeople are committed to their careers and are always looking for ways to improve their skills. Therefore, salespeople should make it a priority to stay current on industry trends and changes.

4. Develop marketable skillsets

In today’s competitive job market, it’s more important than ever to have a set of skills that will make you attractive to potential employers. While some jobs may require specific training or experience, there are a few skillsets that are prized by salespeople across industries.

One of the most important sales skills is the ability to build relationships. Whether you’re selling a product or selling yourself in an interview, your ability to connect with others and create rapport will be essential to your success. In addition, salespeople need to be adept at problem-solving and be able to think on their feet. The ability to quickly assess a situation and find a creative solution can be the difference between making a sale and losing out to the competition.

Finally, salespeople need to be able to handle rejection. In any sales process, there will be times when you don’t close the deal. The ability to pick yourself up and keep going despite setbacks is essential for any salesperson who wants to build a successful career.

5. Maintain a positive attitude, even during tough times

One of the most critical things salespeople can do is maintain a positive attitude, even during tough times. A positive attitude will not only improve your sales numbers but also make you more enjoyable to be around. Your clients and customers will remember how you made them feel, and they’ll be more likely to come back and do business with you again in the future.

A positive attitude is also essential for your career growth. You’re more likely to take risks and seize opportunities when you have a positive outlook. You’ll also be better equipped to handle rejection and setbacks. So next time you feel down, remember that a positive attitude can make all the difference.

6. Stop selling and start helping

Most salespeople see their job as nothing more than a numbers game. The more people they talk to, the more likely they will make a sale. But this isn’t necessarily the most effective way to sell. It often leads to salespeople becoming pushy and aggressive, which turns potential customers off.

A better approach is to focus on helping potential customers rather than selling them something. People are much more likely to buy from someone who is interested in helping them, not just making a quick buck. So, if you’re looking to improve your sales career, start by focusing on helping people, not selling them. You’ll be surprised at how much more successful you become.

It is important to remember that without customers, there is no business. Companies rely on new and returning patronage to succeed; therefore, the customer’s needs should always be the priority. The foundation of a healthy customer base begins with earning the trust and respect of prospective consumers.

When we focus on selling, we’re thinking about ourselves. A salesperson focusing on selling to the customer is thinking about targets, their car payments, and the holiday they’re aiming for. The customer becomes a means to an end. A sale from them is a step in the direction the salesperson would like their life to go – another step towards achieving their sales target and lying on that beach in Fiji.

Helping our customers develops trust, which translates to deeper customer relationships. When we focus on helping our customers, we blow the competition out of the water. Who wouldn’t want to deal with someone focused on helping us meet our needs and goals? This is where you’ll hear your customers’ actual pain points, the real reasons why they can’t say Yes to your proposal right now.

7. Find a professional mentor to guide you

A mentor can be a valuable asset for any salesperson, providing guidance and advice on how to succeed in the sales industry. A mentor can help you develop your sales skills, set goals, create a plan to reach them, and stay motivated throughout your career.

Finding an experienced and professional mentor can help you take your career to the next level. There are many ways to find a mentor, such as networking with sales professionals, attending sales conferences or workshops, or participating in sales training programs. In addition, a mentor can introduce you to new ideas and perspectives and provide outside advice on your sales strategies.

Once you have found a mentor, nurture the relationship by meeting regularly and staying in touch even when you are not actively working together. A mentorship relationship can be a valuable source of support and knowledge to help you succeed in sales.

8. Believe in yourself and your ability to sell

Salespeople are often told that the key to success is believing in themselves and their ability to sell. This may sound like simple advice, but salespeople must internalize this message. After all, selling is all about persuasion, and it is difficult to persuade someone to buy something if you do not believe in it yourself. A salesperson who does not believe in their own ability is far less likely to be successful than one who does.

Likewise, a salesperson who doubts their ability is much more likely to give up when faced with rejection. Belief is a powerful tool, and salespeople who believe in themselves are more likely to find career success.

9. Commit to continuous learning

Salespeople are always looking for new leads and ways to increase their sales pipeline. In order to stay ahead of the competition, salespeople need to continuously learn new sales strategies and keep up-to-date with the latest products. Additionally, salespeople need to be able to adapt to changing market conditions.

By committing to continuous learning, salespeople can develop the skills they need to succeed in their careers. There are many ways to commit to constant learning, such as taking courses, attending seminars, and reading sales books. Salespeople who commit to continuous learning will be better equipped to handle whatever challenges they face in their careers.

Obviously, a great way to learn is to subscribe to this site and follow me on LinkedIn ( You should also purchase and read my book Eliminate Your Competition. The reality is that at the end of every sales cycle, every competitor has been eliminated but the one that received the order. Don’t let someone else eliminate you from a deal that you want to win.

You may purchase my book Eliminate Your Competition from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

10. Be a resource for your clients

Being a good salesperson is about more than just making a sale. It’s also about developing relationships and being a resource for your clients.

The best salespeople are always looking for ways to help their clients, even if it doesn’t result in an immediate sale. They build trust and credibility by demonstrating their expertise and knowledge and create long-term relationships by always putting their clients’ needs first.

To be successful in sales, adopt these habits and traits. Show your clients that you’re more interested in helping them than in making a quick buck, and you’ll reap the rewards in the form of loyalty and repeat business.

11. Focus on solutions, not problems

As a salesperson, it’s essential to focus on solutions, not problems. This habit can help you stand out from the competition and build trust with potential customers. When you focus on solutions, you demonstrate that you’re resourceful and capable of finding creative ways to solve problems. This is an essential trait for salespeople, as it shows that you’re committed to meeting your customer’s needs.

In addition, focusing on solutions shows that you’re proactive and can think on your feet. Customers will appreciate your ability to find innovative solutions to their problems, and they’ll be more likely to do business with you in the future.

12. Build relationships of trust

With the advent of the internet, it’s easier than ever for consumers to find information about products and make informed purchase decisions without even speaking to a salesperson. However, that doesn’t mean that salespeople are no longer important. In fact, salespeople who build relationships of trust with their clients can be incredibly valuable, forming bonds that last long after a purchase has been made.

A trustworthy salesperson is someone consumers can rely on for accurate information and recommendations. This type of salesperson doesn’t just try to make a quick sale; instead, they take the time to get to know their clients and understand their needs. As a result, clients are more likely to come back to this salesperson in the future and recommend them to others.

Building trust takes time and effort, but it’s well worth it for salespeople who want to create lasting relationships with their clients. Habitually truthful salespeople with strong communication skills are more likely to succeed in building trust than those who don’t possess these traits. By making an effort to build trust from the beginning of every relationship, salespeople can set themselves apart from the competition and create lasting bonds with their clients.

13. Manage your time and energy effectively

The best salespeople are the ones who know how to manage their time and energy effectively – they are effective time and energy managers. They don’t waste their time on things that don’t matter, and they take care of themselves so they can be at their best when it comes time to sell.

Great salespeople know how to prioritize their time, master the art of follow-up, are disciplined with their self-care routine, and always have a positive attitude.

Good salespeople know that their success depends on their abilities to focus and work hard, so they develop habits that help them make the most of their time and energy. For example, they might wake up early to get a head start on their workday or take a break after every sales call to regroup and recharge.

In addition, salespeople typically have high levels of self-motivation and optimism, which helps them stay focused even when things are tough. By developing these time-management skills, salespeople can set themselves up for success.

Being a salesperson is a demanding job. Many salespeople develop habits that sabotage their productivity. For example, some salespeople spend too much time on the phone or social media, while others allow themselves to be interrupted by email and text messages. The best salespeople have mastered the art of time management and know how to focus their energy on the task at hand. In addition, they know when to take breaks and how to use downtime effectively. They understand that sales is a numbers game, and they prioritize speaking with as many potential customers as possible.

14. Take initiative and be proactive

I am occasionally interviewed about my book Eliminate Your Competition. In those interviews, I am typically asked to summarize the differences between the 4 types of salespeople (Farmer, Hunter, Gatherer, and Trapper).

As I describe in my book, a Gatherer is a superior version of a Farmer and a Trapper is a superior version of a Hunter. That superiority comes with a lot of enhancements but primarily it is that a Gatherer is more proactive than a Farmer and a Trapper is more proactive than a Hunter.

You may purchase my book Eliminate Your Competition from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

Being a salesperson requires more than simply being good at sales. To be successful, a salesperson must also be proactive and take the initiative. This means always looking for new sales opportunities and taking the initiative to follow up on leads. Additionally, a salesperson must be able to think on their feet and come up with creative solutions to problems. These traits are essential for any salesperson who wants to be successful. By taking the initiative and being proactive, salespeople can ensure they are always one step ahead of the competition.

Any salesperson worth their salt knows that being proactive is a vital part of the job. That means taking the initiative, being assertive, and always looking for new opportunities. After all, the best salespeople are always one step ahead of the competition. While some people may be naturally inclined to be proactive, others may need to work a little harder to develop this habit. However, it’s important to remember that anyone can learn to be more proactive with a little effort. By cultivating the traits of a proactive salesperson, you can set yourself up for success in any sales situation.

Being proactive is the second most essential trait of all things that are needed for a great sales career. When I look at poorly performing salespeople, they are almost always reacting to things that are around them rather than driving those events. The most important trait is coming up below: persistence.

15. Be persistent and never give up

A salesperson’s job is not easy. It requires a lot of skill, charisma, and, most importantly, persistence. Persistence is the last trait that I list for two reasons:

  1. I think it is probably the most essential trait of successful salespeople
  2. Only those persistent readers will make it through to this last listed trait!

I often bastardize this great quote by President Calvin Coolidge:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence [in sales]. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful [salespeople] with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius [in sales] is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated [failed salespeople]. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent [in sales]. The slogan ‘Press On!’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race [especially when it comes to selling and making quota].”

Slightly edited and enhanced quote by President Calvin Coolidge

I have written about persistence before and explained how persistence won orders for me when I was a quota-carrying salesperson.

Have you ever tried to learn to water ski? In my experience, the most common advice for new skiers is to hang on to the ski rope until you almost can’t take it anymore, and then hang on a bit more. For new skiers, it is right when they feel like the rope will be ripped from their hands that they are about to be lifted from the water and beginning to glide. If they just hold on for one more second, success will happen.

The same is true of sales. Success is right after the next phone call. Success is only one more email, Twitter post, or LinkedIn connection away. If you stop now, you will not enjoy the result of this effort as you will have given up just one instant too early.

A salesperson must be able to handle rejection after rejection and still maintain a positive attitude. They have to believe in their product or service and never give up, no matter how often they are told “no.” This is not an easy trait to develop, but it is essential for success in sales.

The good news is that persistence is a habit that can be learned. With practice, salespeople can develop the skills and traits necessary to succeed in this challenging field. There is no doubt that sales is a tough gig, but with perseverance, anything is possible.

The best salespeople are persistent and never give up. They understand that sales is a numbers game, and the more people they talk to, the more likely they will find someone interested in what they’re selling. They also know that it takes time to develop relationships and build trust, so they’re patient and never give up on a potential customer.

Don’t ever give up. No means not yet. You will never be column fodder if you understand what is important to your prospect. You must be prepared to explain how you help your customer achieve their goals, even if the customer doesn’t want to hear it. The opportunity will come with persistence and perseverance.

These traits are essential for sales success, and the best salespeople have developed them into habits. They know that if they keep working hard and never give up, eventually, their efforts will pay off. So if you’re thinking about becoming a salesperson, remember: persistence and tenacity are key. Never give up on your dreams; eventually, you’ll reach your goals.

Get Started

These are just a few of the principles that can help you sell more effectively. If you can implement these principles into your career, you will be well on your way to achieving success as a salesperson. It takes hard work, determination, and a robust set of career success principles to be successful in this field.

If you want to learn more or need help implementing any of these concepts, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Use these tips as a foundation to build the successful sales career you deserve. What principle resonates most with you? How are you going to apply it to your own professional development? Let us know in the comments below!

Header Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Brian G. Burns Interviews Sean O’Shaughnessey On How To Win Large Enterprise Deals

Brian G. Burns Interviews Sean O’Shaughnessey On How To Win Large Enterprise Deals

Brian Burns interviewed me for his podcast, The Brutal Truth, which can be found at

This version of the video doesn’t have the automatic transcription of the original podcast. I have created a better transcription below. I encourage you to read it here.

Brian’s podcast was titled The Top 3 Things You Need To Do To Close Large Enterprise Deals. We summarize those three things in the final moments of our conversation:

  1. Practice at being a well-rounded person. 
  2. Practice at being a business person. 
  3. Be able to relate to your customer in a way that makes them successful.

I would also add a 4th attribute that we discuss in the podcast, but Brian doesn’t emphasize in this podcast (but he does in his other episodes):

ABL – Always Be Learning

I hope you enjoy the podcast. The transcript is below the video.

Brian G. Burns  

Sean, welcome to the show. As a way of getting started, tell us about yourself.

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

Thanks, Brian, I enjoy being here. I am Sean O’Shaughnessey. I’m currently the Chief Revenue Officer for Agile Stacks, a startup company based in California. I’m in the Midwest, though, because I cover the entire world. I can be anywhere.

I have a long history of selling enterprise IT solutions. I have worked for many large companies that are names everybody’s heard of on your program.

Brian G. Burns  

It was kind of weird that before I looked at your profile, I was expecting an Irish accent.

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

A lot of people say that, but I’m a seventh-generation Irish. I have a lot of German blood in me as well. But I’m the seventh generation. The first generation O’Shaughnessey that came over on the boat was back in about 1820 or 1830. Something like that. So we have been in America for a long time. I didn’t look like an Irish man. I’ve got gray hair, of course, but blonde hair originally.

Brian G. Burns  

You can pass as an Irishman. But yeah, you spell your name the same way my brother does. And yes, so he grew up with everyone calling him “seen.” Yeah. Have you experienced that?

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

Absolutely. Thank goodness for Sean Connery. I think I’m actually named after Sean Connery. I think my mother, God rest her soul, had a crush on Sean Connery. 

Brian G. Burns  

How did you get into sales? 

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

My father was a salesperson. My brother was a salesperson. I was originally trained as a mechanical engineer. I realized that I didn’t want to be a mechanical engineer. My last day of being a mechanical engineer is when I walked across the stage to get that diploma. I immediately went into sales.

I went to a really great program put out by Allen-Bradley, which was a whole year of sales training. It was almost like getting a Master’s in Sales. And I never looked back. I never wanted to be a mechanical engineer. I was more on the business side. I’m technically adept, but I just enjoy selling. I enjoyed being with people. I definitely don’t like being stuck in the office, like I am now with this stupid COVID thing where I can’t go to see customers. 

Brian G. Burns  

You miss the traveling? 

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

I do. When you’re traveling, you hate it. When you don’t travel, after doing this so long, it just feels wrong. I think my suitcase is dusty.

Brian G. Burns  

That’s it. You get used to looking at bad TVs and bad hotel food and not waking up not knowing where you are.

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

Exactly. I think the biggest thing is my wife is saying, “Get out of the house!”

There is more to read. Go to the following pages to read:
Why does Sean like the sales profession?
The transition from salesperson to sales manager
Growth milestones
Rep radar and Always Be Learning

Stop Selling and Start Helping

Stop Selling and Start Helping

Zig Ziglar frequently told his audiences and students to stop selling and start helping. This is great advice. This is one of the critical steps of becoming a Trapper as opposed to one of the traditional salespeople: a Farmer, a Hunter, or a Gatherer.

I spend a lot of time in my book talking about starting the sales process early in the sales cycle. You cannot just show up at the last minute, make your pitch, and then expect to win. Sure, that scenario happens but it also ends in defeat more times than not.

In my book, Eliminate Your Competition, I discuss the decision-making process. Since all buying is merely making a decision and all selling is just influencing a decision, it is critical that you understand how a typical organization makes decisions. It is even more critical that you understand how your prospect makes decisions.

You may purchase my book Eliminate Your Competition from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

When you are spending time with a prospect early in their decision-making process, you aren’t asking them for an order. Your prospect is not ready to buy so asking for a rush to the decision is merely a waste of your time. If you conclude that they are not prepared and walk away until they are ready, they will learn about the capabilities of the products in your space from others and not from you.

So it is essential that you help the raw prospect learn about your product and your industry. It is much better to help the prospect through that process and be patient with the evolution of their thought processes. It would help if you created standard documents, reports, and white papers to help the buyer become more informed about your product. You want these to be readily available for the customer because you don’t want to work at the education too hard. Essentially, you need to map out the key elements that all of your customers and prospects need to know and send this information to them over time. Think of this plan as a weekly lesson on your marketplace – every week you send prospects that are interested, but not quite ready to buy, a new lesson.

You also want to teach prospects that don’t even know they are prospects yet. People that you think will eventually need your product, but today they just haven’t acknowledged that they have a problem that you can solve. To do this, you need to show up and see them on a regular basis, not to sell them but instead to offer your assistance. What can you do for them today? You also need to send them a regular newsletter on your industry that makes them more intelligent about what is going on. This newsletter isn’t to sell them, but instead, it is to help them become more intelligent. As Zig famously said, “Stop selling and start helping.”

Header Photo by madsmith33 (Pixabay)