Do talented salespeople have specific personality traits? Are they born with a sales instinct, or can they achieve sales success through effort or by learning new techniques?

The answers to these questions are revealed through research carried out by Sales Linguistics expert Steve W. Martin, who analysed the behaviour of 1,000 successful salespeople.

He estimates that more than 70% of top salespeople are born with “natural” instincts that play a critical role in determining how successfully they sell. On the other hand, less than 30% have triumphed in their career as a result of effort and learning.

So just what type of personality increases your chances of becoming an outstanding salesperson?

The 7 personality attributes of successful salespeople

1. Modesty. The study reveals that 91% of top salespeople on average scored high in modesty and humility. The conventional perception of the sales rep as someone pushy and egotistical, who only cares about closing as many sales as possible… is totally false.

2. Conscientiousness. 85% of top salespeople were aware of the true value of the word ‘trust’. They have a strong sense of duty, take their work very seriously and feel deeply responsible for their results. They naturally take charge of the sales cycle process in order to control their own destiny.

3. Achievement orientation. 84% of the sample was completely focused on achieving objectives. They measure their performance and compare results. This instinct helps them identify key decision makers – those with the purchasing power. They focus their strategies on the people they are selling to rather than on product functionality.

4. Curiosity. Someone born with a thirst for knowledge will become a genuine source of inspiration. 82% of the top sellers studied by Martin are extremely curious: they’re not afraid to ask their customers difficult questions because they know that if the sale doesn’t come about, it won’t be due to lack of information.

5. Lack of gregariousness. A star salesperson obtains the buy-in of their customers by knowing how to earn their trust, e.g. through helpful recommendations and advice. People who are excessively friendly and close to their target customer have difficulty in controlling the sale. The secret lies in achieving a balance of sociability.

6. Lack of discouragement. Less than 10% of the salespeople studied showed high levels of discouragement or said they were often deeply affected by sadness. The research showed a direct correlation between sports and sales success. A salesperson that has practiced sport is better able to manage emotional disappointments, bounce back from losses and prepare mentally for the next opportunity to compete – fundamental values in the sales arena.

7. Lack of self-consciousness. Self-consciousness is the measurement of how easily someone is embarrassed. The by-products of a high level of self-consciousness are shyness and inhibition. Less than 5% of top performers in the study had high levels of self-consciousness. And they’re not afraid to cold call prospects because, as we know, they are achievement oriented.

What do you think of the personality traits outlined above?

For further reading on the subject, check out our blog Blueprint for a successful salesperson, based on our daily interaction with dozens of sales directors and sales agents – and which concluded with a look at Grant Cardone’s book “Sell or be sold”. It seems it’s not all down to the qualities of a professional. Their perspective and how they cope in the field are also important.

Look out for our next blog on the key factors that determine the destiny of a self-made salesperson.

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