Six attributes of top performing sales people

6 attributes of successful sales people

We’ve worked with many organisations recently to help them, among other things, take a long hard look at their sales performance. Hiring sales people is almost always a risk, and something that most managers or business owners have gotten wrong more than once.

Often, sales people are great at selling themselves to potential employers. They seem to tick all the boxes: they’re friendly, confident, have a strong track record and seem to ‘get’ your organisation and its products or services.

Then, all too often after 6 months or so, it becomes clear they’ve over-promised and under-delivered. They’re not meeting targets or your expectations. In some cases, we end up going back to the drawing board and starting the whole recruitment process all over again.

Are there any traits that characterise the top performing sales people? In our experience and based on expert opinion, these are some of the attributes you should be looking for.

6 attributes of top performing sales people

  1. They are customer focused

There’s been a lot of talk over the past few years about how we’re living in the ‘age of the customer’ and businesses are no longer selling B2B – it’s now B4B. In other words, businesses only exist because they’re offering a product or service that solves the problems of their customers, and they do it more effectively than anyone else.

Top sales people have excellent communication skills: they know how to listen to customers and tailor their own communication to meet the customer. They can put themselves in their customer’s shoes and understand their problems from the customer’s perspective.

  1. They build relationships

The very best sales people also have a good amount of emotional intelligence. They know how to build relationships with their customers based on mutual respect. They’re open-minded and able to relate to people on many different levels.

Most importantly, they’re able to earn the trust of their customers by genuinely understanding their concerns and working with them to address them.

  1. They’re tenacious

Of course, effective sales people have to be persistent and goal focused. They need to keep their eyes on the prize and be committed to doing what it takes to earn it. They also need to be able to learn from and recover well from setbacks and failures.

It goes further though: the best sales people might believe themselves to be optimists but in reality they’re actually quite pessimistic. This helps them to continually re-assess situations and adjust their approach as required to get to a desired outcome.

  1. They’re flexible

The best sales people need to be able to roll with the punches and be able to adapt effectively to unforeseen circumstances. They also have to be willing to evaluate their technique and try new ones to achieve their goals.

  1. They’re goal focused

It might seem obvious, but it’s all too easy for sales people to get distracted by day-to-day events or keeping up with reporting or a myriad of other things which take their focus off their ultimate goals. The best sales people are accomplished at setting and achieving realistic goals and know how to stay on course to meet their targets.

  1. They take a broader view

The very best sales people know their stuff: they have an excellent knowledge of their industry and their customers’ problems and goals. They keep themselves informed and aware of what their competitors are doing and what’s happening in their industry as a whole.


As mentioned at the beginning, hiring salespeople is always a risk and even someone who meets all of these criteria might still underperform.

The very best way to determine whether someone has the right combination of skills and attributes to succeed in a sales role in your organisation is simple: profile your top performers and then assess your applicants against the same criteria. You’ll soon see patterns emerging that show you what your top performers look like, and you’ll be able to identify people who share those attributes.

To show you how the process works, we’re happy to offer you complimentary evaluations for two of your existing people. It’s a good idea to evaluate one of your star performers alongside someone who isn’t quite ‘getting it’ so you can begin to uncover the differences that contribute to sales performance for your business.

Get your free evaluations now or contact us for an obligation-free conversation about how we can help you identify, hire and develop the best sales people for your organisation.