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A great sales person is hard to find. In fact, how do you know one if you found one? What is a great sales person? Do you have any on your sales team now? Of course, a great sales person is one who always achieves her sales goals, right? Partially. A great sales person not only achieves and exceeds her sales goals, but also does it in a manner that makes the buyer happy purchasing the seller’s product or service. It is a win-win exchange leaving both parties satisfied that value was received.
We have identified eight traits and characteristics of a successful sales person:

  • Ability to hone in on the key issues affecting the buyer’s decisions
  • Empathetic, with the ability to “walk in the shoes” of her customer
  • Active listener
  • Kindred spirit
  • Passionate, with a positive “can do” attitude
  • Persistence
  • Outstanding time management skills
  • Honesty, ethical

Creates a Relationship with the Sales Prospect

Have you ever wondered how some sales people create an immediate bond with a potential customer? It is because that sales person relates to the challenges and issues surrounding the prospect. She understands the other person’s feelings and thoughts, and that empathy comes through to the sales prospect. A shared relationship develops because the prospect believes the sales person understands the key issues.
Listen. Listen. Listen. Average sales people are so eager to talk about their product or service that they do not listen to the sales prospect’s concerns. A great sales person listens intently, asks questions throughout the conversation to ensure understanding, and summarizes what the prospect has said to demonstrate comprehension. In so doing, the sales person gains credibility and respect. Not only has a kindred spirit developed between the two parties, but also the sales person has demonstrated that she understands the issues the prospect is confronting.

Manages the Sales Process

Once a bond has been formed between the sales person and the prospect, it is time to begin “selling” your product or service. A great sales person asks lots of questions, then “sells” based on the responses to those questions. The goal is to find out exactly what her prospect needs. For example, if a sales prospect answers a question with, “Yes, we are unprofitable and way below our profitability budget this year,” then the sales person outlines how her service saves money and increases profits for her customers. If a sales person’s questions result in determining that the prospect is not prepared to purchase, then conclude the meeting courteously and avoid wasting everyone’s time.
A great sales person bridges the gap between a prospect’s needs and a sales person’s product or service. The last step in the sales process is to close the sale. Great sales people do not get excited and shove a contract and pen in front of the prospect.
A great sales person also knows that not every sales call results in a purchase. Yet despite repeated rejections regarding her product or service, she perseveres and moves on to the next sales prospect. A great sales person views rejections as an opportunity to learn and practice her skills. She gets up and goes out again to “practice,” just as a basketball player practices free throw shooting between games. When she is in a tense situation with little time remaining, she needs to make that free throw.
Of course, inherent abilities such as communication skills, a sense of humor, and “stick-to-it-iveness” are helpful in achieving sales success. However, it is easier, faster and – in the long run – cheaper to train a novice sales person who has a positive attitude and fire in the belly than an experienced one who lacks persistence, passion, and empathy.
–Peter M. Guyer
Peter M. Guyer is the Founder and President of ATHENA MARKETING INTERNATIONAL (, an international marketing, consulting and business development firm serving food and beverage manufacturers. Tel. (206) 749-9255.