6 Traits You Need to Be Successful in Sales

Sales is a tough gig. It takes a special type of person not only to be successful in a sales position, but also to enjoy it. People in sales need to have a particular set of skills and traits to not only be happy, but to succeed.

I know what makes someone thrive in this business. As the Director of Sales at eZanga, I’ve seen all types of people walk onto my sales floor and walk away from it. It’s a tough business, and I’ve found that the people who succeed are like-minded.

When I’m looking to add new members to our team, here’s some of the traits I look for:

1. An Entrepreneurial Spirit

People with an entrepreneurial spirit look at sales as building their own business. Even when working for a company, they’re proving their worth as an employee. A good salesperson understands the size of their paycheck is directly related to the amount of business they bring in.

They know their sales not only affect their bottom line, but the company’s bottom line, too. They work the phones, jumping right back on the phone after finishing up with a client. And they’re not afraid to prospect, participating in online communities to build additional leads. Clients love them because they go above and beyond to get the sale, and they treat their clients like their only client.

If you want to work in sales, you need to have a desire to be an entrepreneur, or at the very least, the eagerness to act like one.

2. A Hunger for Success

In sales, you can’t be satisfied with the status quo. You’ve got to want it. You’ve got to need it. You’ve got to be hungry. 

When you make a big sale, you don’t sit back and ride the wave of that success, do you? That’s the difference between an okay salesperson and a successful one. Hungry sales people are constantly looking for the next big thing, but will likely never settle, either.

So what makes a salesperson hungry? Here’s some examples of what I look for:

  • Someone who isn’t afraid to ask questions. This shows that they’re trying to learn the business, and they want to be successful.
  • Someone who’s willing to problem solve. Sales is much more than just selling a product to a client. When clients call you months down the line with an issue, you have to be willing to fix it for them.
  • Someone who doesn’t get too hung up on success and failure. Whether they just had a big win or a big loss, they always approach the sales process as if neither of those things happened. After each call, the slate is wiped clean, and they start over.

3. A Competitive Drive

Aggressive salespeople thrive on competition and want to be the top salesperson on the floor. If they aren’t on top at first, they’ll be there in the blink of an eye.

As in any career, salespeople consistently have their performance tracked. The only difference is once their performance is documented, it’s shared with the entire company. With gamification programs in place, anyone can see who is making the most sales at any point in time. The person bringing in the most sales is then rewarded. Sales drive the success (and failure) of a company, so everyone wants to be the top performer.

To be that top performer, I look for someone who’s bothered by being the low man on the totem pole. Not being on top gives them a fire in their belly and an aggressiveness to climb to the top. They do whatever it takes to be #1. They’re going to ask themselves, “What do I need to do to be the top salesperson?”

This isn’t to say that the best salespeople are jerks. Instead, it means that they have a healthy sense of competition. To be the best, they know they have to go above and beyond. That’s why they take calls after hours, or check their email from home. They know the clients’ schedules aren’t always in sync with theirs, and salespeople go above and beyond to accommodate that.

They also have a supreme understanding that the sale isn’t over once the sale is made. Sales is building a relationship with customers so that they come back to you later. It’s keeping in touch so you can address their needs after the initial sale. And they understand that good relationships often lead to great referrals.

A competitive drive isn’t a trait that everyone has nor can it be taught. It’s that certain je ne sais quoi that makes or breaks sales folks.

4. A Thick Skin

Suddenly, a client calls you up and has all sorts of issues. This person is irritated and yelling insults at you. Can you handle that? Better yet, can you turn around and give a quieter client the respect she deserves? In this business, your last client interaction cannot impact the next.

In addition to showing clients respect, take rejection in stride. In sales, a majority of the people you speak to on any given day will say no. It’s a fact. You’ll be rejected more often than you’re going to make a sale. You just have to have a thick skin. Don’t dwell too much on rejection. For every “no” that you get, you’re one step closer to that “yes.”

5. A Social Chameleon

In sales, you come across a variety of personalities everyday and you have to deal with each one differently and effectively.

You must be a chameleon. A successful salesperson won’t handle a fast-talking New Yorker with the same tone as an easy-going Southerner. An ambitious salesperson can adapt to each personality type and match that demeanor.

Have you ever heard an American talking with a British client? You might hear the American say “cheers” or ask about “football” (a.k.a. American soccer). When chatting, they’ll use the client’s vernacular and interests to form a connection. Mimicking the actions of clients is called social mirroring, and it’s a great way to form stronger connections.

The most important thing for a social chameleon to do is to always stay positive. If the interaction stays upbeat, the customer is left with good feelings about the sales rep and the company.

But being a chameleon doesn’t end with the client. To be the best, salespeople have to be imitators who change their approach, their thought process, and their actions to emulate the top salesperson in an organization. They’ll study what makes another salesperson successful, and might view that person as a mentor. However, salespeople feed off each other, and they will try to stay one step ahead of one another.

6. A Knowledge of the Product

A good salesperson doesn’t just sell a product, they know the product. How can you sell something you know nothing about?

Knowledge is power in sales. Do research. Study your product catalog and don’t be afraid to ask your manager questions.

But studying your products is only half the battle. Clients who are considering your product want to know how you can solve their problems. Study the client too. Read their company blogs and see if you can identify areas where they struggle. Look at the strengths and weaknesses within their brand. Is there something happening in their industry that will hurt the client? Know about it and how your service can help them with that pain.

Lastly, stay on top of the industry you’re in. Are there changes happening in your own industry that could affect a client? They might ask for thoughts or opinions on the latest news. For instance, someone in digital marketing may ask an account manager about Mobilegeddon. If the account manager has never heard that term, we just lost the sale.


Not everybody has what it takes to succeed in sales. It’s a fine art, much like painting a masterpiece. But if you think you can cut the mustard, try your hand at it. You may find you’re the Leonardo da Vinci of the sales world!