What makes a good salesperson? (With key skills and traits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Pursuing a successful career in sales requires a good understanding of consumer psychology, along with intuition and skills. If you know some basic persuasion techniques and have the ability to read and understand people, you may have a chance of becoming an effective salesperson. Discovering and reviewing key characteristics that the most effective salespeople have is a great way to assess your strengths and develop new skills. In this article, we explain what makes a good salesperson and list 16 characteristics you can develop for a successful career in sales or marketing.

What makes a good salesperson?

A good salesperson knows how to use their strengths, skills and natural abilities to reach their desired sales targets. Salespeople can combine their knowledge of psychology with negotiating skills to identify customer's needs and persuade them to make purchasing decisions. Succeeding in this field also requires extensive knowledge of the most effective sales methods, including warm and cold calling, social selling, and upselling.

Related: What are the most important sales skills?

Key characteristics of a good salesperson

Depending on your natural talents and the industry you're in, you may consider developing some unique skills, but it's also important that you pay attention to the universal characteristics of an effective salesperson. Here are some characteristics you may focus on:

1. Active listening

Active listening makes it possible for salespeople to better understand their target customers' needs and wants. By listening to what people have to say, you may have a chance to develop more effective communication strategies and use language that aligns with their values and beliefs. To create more active listening opportunities for yourself, consider asking people open questions that motivate them to share their thoughts, problems and experiences with you.

2. Adaptability

Adaptability makes it possible for you to feel comfortable and quickly adjust to any work environment. It also gives you a flexible outlook that you can use to react to various customer problems. When your sales techniques are adaptable, you can quickly switch between different communication methods and messages to react to people's behaviour.

Related: What are adaptability skills and how can they benefit you?

3. Charm

Charm is a characteristic that makes you enjoy meeting new people and winning them over. Typically, you can accomplish this by making a lasting impression on people while presenting products or convincing them to make purchases. Although some people are naturally born with it, charm is also a skill that you can learn by engaging in certain activities that improve your confidence and self-awareness.

4. Communication

If you're an aspiring salesperson, communication is one of the most important skills that you'll use daily when working with clients, suppliers or other salespeople. While developing these skills, pay attention to written, verbal and non-verbal communication techniques, including body language. Noticing subtle signs in someone's behaviour helps you understand their emotions and thoughts better.

Related: How to be a good communicator (16 steps for you to follow)

5. Confidence

The core of a successful career in sales is being confident in your abilities and believing that what you're offering is the single best solution to someone's problems. Customers recognise confidence and tend to mirror it, which enables them to trust their salesperson. Developing confidence over time is possible and usually requires an in-depth analysis of your strengths and weaknesses, which you can use to better yourself.

Related: How to write about yourself confidently and effectively

6. Emotional intelligence

People who are emotionally intelligent can easily understand, use and manage their emotions to communicate effectively and emphasise with others. When pursuing a career in sales, you can use your emotional intelligence during almost all interactions with your buyers. It allows you to connect with them and shape your conversations to reach a desired effect, which usually leads to a purchase.

7. Enthusiasm

When you're enthusiastic, you have the ability to remain positive, optimistic and excited regardless of the situation you're in. Enthusiasm is an important sales quality because it keeps your tone of voice and communication lively, which may help you make your buyers more interested in what you're offering. When you present a product or service in a genuine and passionate way, they will be more likely to respond actively and positively to your pitch.

8. Focus

Focus is a useful ability that makes it possible to engage in the same activity for an extended period of time. When you're focused on a certain goal, such as a sales target, you're determined to accomplish that goal as soon as possible. You may also benefit from being focused when you're performing tasks in which you might not be particularly interested, like researching new products or creating sales reports.

9. Honesty

Honesty may help you build relationships with new buyers and secure long-term contracts. When you're honest, you typically focus on providing solutions that your clients truly need because you realise that dishonesty may ruin your business relationship with them. When buyers recognise you as honest and trustworthy, they're more likely to recommend you to other people.

10. Independence

To succeed as a salesperson, it's important that you know how to work independently. This characteristic may even benefit you if you're currently looking for a job. This is because employers prefer salespeople who are independent and can work on developing their own client portfolio, as it helps them support that employer in achieving greater organisational goals.

11. Optimism

When you're optimistic, you know that there's always a chance of success. As a salesperson, you may work on commission, which means that your salary might vary from month to month. Optimism is a great way to keep your enthusiasm and motivation up even when you fail to accomplish your goals for a certain period of time.

12. Persistence

In many cases, persistence is the key to succeeding in sales. Persuading some clients and building lasting relationships with them may require a series of meetings and using different sales techniques. When you're persistent, you're also unlikely to give up, and can push forward until you accomplish your goal.

13. Problem-solving

Logical reasoning, debate skills and creativity in offering solutions to all kinds of problems allow good salespeople to close the gap between the client's problem and the product the salesperson is offering. Intuitively figuring out the sequence of events that lead to a successful sale is a unique skill that allows salespeople to excel. If you're interested in improving this skill, consider working on your logical and analytical thinking.

14. Resiliency

Resiliency is the capability to quickly recover from any mistakes or difficult situations that you may encounter in life or at work. If you're aspiring to become a good salesperson, it's critical that you keep looking for new ways of achieving your sales targets and career goals. Although developing resiliency usually requires a lot of experience, you may start working on it by becoming more flexible and optimistic.

15. Responsibility

A responsible person manages to get things done regardless of the circumstances. When you show that you can take responsibility for your actions – both successes and failures – you position yourself as a more trustworthy employee and salesperson. This personality trait is also helpful when accepting constructive criticism and taking care of other people's projects or tasks.

Related: The difference between responsibility vs accountability at work

16. Self-awareness

Although people in most industries can benefit from having this characteristic, it's especially important among salespeople. When you're self-aware, you easily identify and analyse your skills and qualities to work on your weaknesses and improve your strengths. It also makes you more aware of the impact that you have on clients and allows you to connect with them.

Additional tips for developing important sales skills

Developing skills that may help you succeed in sales takes time and effort, but it's a rewarding process that can be beneficial even if you decide to change careers one day. Here are some additional tips you can follow to make the best out of this process:

  • Ask for feedback: Even when you're self-aware and know which skills you want to develop, sometimes it just makes sense to reach out to someone who has more experience in the field. You can ask them for advice or even to become your mentor during the first stages of your career in sales.

  • Practice introducing yourself: If you learn how to confidently introduce yourself, you may have a higher chance of persuading more buyers to invest in what you're offering. To achieve this, it's important that you believe in yourself and enter meetings with a smile on your face.

  • Focus on building long-term relationships: Although it may make sense to build multiple short-term relationships with buyers, it's usually the long-term ones that make you more successful as a salesperson. Focus on building trust and reach out to your existing clients regularly to see if they want to purchase something from you.

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