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What Makes a Successful Salesperson

In the early days of my company Crystal, the adaptive selling platform, we got some data about what makes a successful salesperson.

The data showed exactly the opposite of what I expected.

When looking at it through the lens of the DISC personality assessment, people tend to think of sales reps as being really high in D and I: dominance and influence. And it’s true. If you look at the hundreds of thousands of sales reps who have completed assessments in Crystal, you will see that this applies to the overwhelming majority of them.

The funny thing was, when we did a study to find out what makes a successful salesperson, it was actually the S types: the ones who are steady.

There’s definitely some bias built into that, because S types are not the natural sales persona. S types who choose to pursue sales are probably just more skilled than the people who are always told, “You should be in sales because you’re charismatic.” If somebody who doesn’t have a typical sales personality is in sales, you know they’re there for a reason.

What I also get from that is, sales is far more about listening than it is about speaking. So someone who has a natural bent towards listening and empathy may also have the makings of a successful sales rep.
Sales Success with Adaptive Selling

Being able to effectively listen to customer needs and then turn that into a solution, as opposed to just being really good at presenting or pitching, is a real asset based on where sales is going today.

I’m a huge proponent of adaptive selling, a behavior-based approach that empowers salespeople to tailor their messages and processes to meet the individual needs and preferences of each buyer. You’re not solely relying on the natural charisma of the salesperson, and you’re not beholden to a rigid process, either.

Instead, you’re recognizing that every prospect is unique and has their own preferred ways of communicating, and those preferences inform your approach within the guidelines of an established framework.

To be a successful salesperson, you should treat people how you’d want to be treated and communicate with them how they’d like to be communicated with.

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How to Be a Good Salesperson

To summarize from above, I see good salespeople having six key qualities:

  1. Have a steady presence.
  2. Listen more than you speak.
  3. Show empathy towards your prospects and customers.
  4. Turn their problems into solutions.
  5. Treat people how you’d want to be treated.
  6. Communicate with people how they’d like to be communicated with.

What Makes a Successful Sales Leader?

What’s interesting is, what makes a successful salesperson doesn’t necessarily make a successful sales leader (and vice versa). If you were to look at it through the lens of the behavioral framework, DISC, my guess is that the people who tend to be more on the S (steadiness) and C (conscientious) side would probably be effective managers, because they’re going to be the ones who listen and are more organized and methodical.

I think you’d also see those personality types be attracted to jobs, later on in their careers, that tend to be more stable, require them to have more interaction with the people around them and focus on building long-term relationships.

To learn more about becoming a successful salesperson, watch my full-length video on adaptive selling and B2B sales.

Sales Team Structure Template

Set your sales org up for success with the templates and frameworks in our free GTM strategy playbook.

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Sales Team Structure Template

Set your sales org up for success with the templates and frameworks in our free GTM strategy playbook.

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