Key Qualities of a Great Salesperson

UPDATED: March 4, 2009
PUBLISHED: March 4, 2009

So why are some salespeople unable to hook a buyer as masterfully as they seal a deal? And why do many salespeople struggle to do both?

Two words: Personal constraints. Personal constraints are those things that limit us as individuals – that hold us back.

So what does a great salesperson looks like? While this varies across industries and even across salespeople in the same organization, the following are the most common traits:

Driven: Has a sense of urgency and a need to accomplish the task at hand
Confident: Believes in own abilities and can handle rejection
Outgoing: Projects a great first impression and is energized by social interactions
Assertive: Effectively controls interactions and doesn’t cave in easily
Funny: Engages customer emotions, is likeable and memorable
Structured: Leads the customer through the process, is organized and follows through
Relational: Cares about the person, not just the sale; effectively identifies customer needs
Focused: Doesn’t get sidetracked; knows the final destination

Notice that openers and closers are both driven and confident. However, successful openers must also be outgoing, assertive and funny, while closers must be structured, relational and focused.

In working with hundreds of salespeople over the years, I have discovered that the following killer constraints seem to be the most damaging for salespeople:

Low passion and drive (Flatliners)
Resistant to change (Turtles)
Low self-image; can’t handle rejection (Ostriches)
Overly dominant, pushy or abrasive (Bulldozers)

The key question is, can a more insecure or reserved salesperson eliminate the constraints that keep him or her from becoming more outgoing and assertive? Is it possible for them to slay the Ostrich? The answer is, absolutely. While some constraints may be more difficult to overcome than others, change is always possible.

For example, an Ostrich might make a list of 10 of his or her greatest strengths and review them every day. In addition, he or she might commit to avoiding self-deprecating language, or not publicly expressing disappointment in his or her performance. However, before eliminating a constraint, it must first be identified. Once the constraint is identified, it is necessary to create and execute a plan to break it. This plan requires commitment to specific, measurable behavioral steps, with an established timeline for the completion of each step. While the task may appear daunting at first, there’s nothing big and scary about it. It just requires a little thought and the commitment to completing a few easy steps. You may just find yourself with an entire team of “naturals”!

You can identify the other Top 10 Killer Constraints and action steps for each of them by reading my book, The Flip Side. For an excerpt of The Flip Side, visit