SalesTech Star

The Top 20 Attributes of a Successful Salesperson [Based on a Survey / Research]

By Tom Lavery, Founder and CEO of Jiminny

The top attribute of a successful salesperson is confidence. That’s according to a new survey of 207 sales professionals.

Confidence received 11% more votes than any of the more than 30 possible attributes listed. That ranges beyond the 7% margin of error for this survey.

Why confidence? As one respondent wrote in an open-ended comment, “If you are not confident in what you’re selling, it’s typically very clear to the buyer.”

The top 20 sales attributes

We asked respondents, “Which of the following do you believe are the top three characteristics or attributes a person needs to be successful in sales?”

The results revealed the top five attributes are confidence (44%); ambition (33%); adaptability (25%) self-motivation (17%); and honesty (16%). Here is a breakout of the top 20 attributes and the complete list of answers that registered responses is as follows:

  • Confidence – 44%
  • Ambition – 33%
  • Adaptability – 25%
  • Self-motivated – 17%
  • Honesty – 16%
  • Competitive – 15%
  • Determination – 15%
  • Assertiveness – 11%
  • Outgoing – 10%
  • Enthusiasm – 9%
  • Empathy – 9%
  • Goal-oriented – 9%
  • Composure – 8%
  • Creative – 8%
  • Patience – 8%
  • Aptitude – 6%
  • Focus – 6%
  • Open-minded – 5%
  • Resourcefulness – 5%
  • Charity – 5%
  • Growth mindset – 4%
  • Resilience – 4%
  • Responsibility – 4%
  • Curiosity – 3%
  • Initiative – 3%
  • Tenacity – 2%
  • Conscientiousness – 1%
  • Modesty – 1%
  • Optimism – 1%
  • Skills Development – 1%

Several respondents wrote in to identify attributes that were not listed among the possible answers. This included modesty and an innovative mindset. One respondent indicated success in sales depends on simply calling people back – which may be reflective of conscientiousness.

Another respondent noted successful salespeople need to have product and market expertise. While we believe that’s certainly true, we also think it’s a subset of aptitude. For example, product and market expertise can be taught during sales onboarding but the individual must have the aptitude to learn.

It is worth noting the survey tally was a plurality and not a majority. We believe this speaks to both the broad set of attributes modern sales professionals need to be successful – and the views salespeople have as to which attributes are required. Indeed, as one respondent wrote in, a successful salesperson “probably needs all of these.”

Read More: Multichannel Logistics Market Survey Reveals That Entire Logistics Industry Will Set A Path-Breaking…

The rationale behind the top attributes

We started thinking about sales attributes as we were putting together a questionnaire as part of a larger survey. We wanted to identify the top attributes of high-performing salespeople.

A search of articles and literature on the topic returns millions of ideas. We reviewed many of the top search results and found all but one was largely based on opinion. The only research-driven view we saw was an article published by Harvard Business Review in 2011 – more than a decade ago.

So, we launched this survey which provides a useful statistical analysis to help provide quantifiable answers. However, we also asked respondents for qualitative feedback.

In an open-ended follow-up question, we asked respondents, “Of the attributes you selected, which one do you believe is the most important and why?”

Of the 207 respondents, a whopping 198 wrote in to share their perspectives. Below is a representative sample of their answers.

  • Adaptability as things can change during a conversation and one might have to change direction.”
  • Ambition. I believe that just develops into other attributes.”
  • Aptitude. One must understand the client, product and the process.”
  • Competitiveness will help you overcome a lot of barriers.”
  • Confidence – you need to be able to express to the buyer your knowledge and expertise in the product you’re selling.”
  • Creativity feeds innovation, and innovation will lead to success by offering something others don’t.”
  • Curiosity: this attribute allows a salesperson to ask questions and be able to delve into why someone might need or want a product or service without having to sell.”
  • Determination – if you give up without a fight, you’ll never make it in sales.”
  • Empathy. It’s important to understand what a person needs and not to just try and sell them something they don’t need to make a sale. To get repeat business you have to have a level of compassion and understanding.”
  • Enthusiasm is a contagious attribute that affects other people and encourages them to believe in the product or service being offered.”
  • Focus because it involves being present and following through.”
  • Growth mindset because it’s a broader way to define all of these specific attributes that come together to be a person who wants to grow.”
  • Honesty. Without honesty, you have nothing else.”
  • Mindset – if you believe that you will do well in the particular program, it definitely helps you to reach the goal.”
  • Open-minded because people need to be able to listen to other approaches and can’t be stuck only in their ways.”
  • Outgoing. Today so many people are not comfortable in approaching others and this is the first step in becoming successful in sales.”
  • Resilience because you have to be able to snap back from rejection or other things that have gone wrong and move on.”
  • Self-motivation is important as you can’t wait around for sales to come to you.”
  • Social awareness – need to know how well people respond to approach.”
  • Tenacity because you can always fight harder.”

Read More: SalesTechStar Interview With Bob Gault, Chief Revenue Officer At Auvik

About the survey:

Jiminny polled 207 U.S.-based sales representatives in June 2022 using an online panel furnished by Survey Monkey. The survey panel has a margin of error of +/-7% at 95% confidence.


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