The Most Important Trait of Successful Salespeople

If you own or manage a business or, if you are a salesperson working in any industry you have probably asked yourself:

‘What trait is most important in winning new business and building a company?’

Of course, many large organizations have studied and analyzed the best sales performers to find how sales success happens to develop training programs that would magically make star performers out of mediocre salespeople.

After one exhaustive study, it was found that the best performers asked more questions and ‘solution selling’ was born. Ask the questions, uncover the pain, present a solution and win the business. Unfortunately, mediocre salespeople taught this technique only improved marginally. Solution selling is not the solution.

In fact, studies have shown that sales training when applied to mediocre salespeople only delivers slight improvement. However, sales training when delivered to star performers results in even greater performance.

Training results in the average becoming slightly better than average and the sales stars becoming truly stellar.

The best sales performers are not necessarily the smartest, best educated, tallest or the children of the most privileged.

What trait determines the highest level of success in selling?

The answer may surprise you!

It is ‘grit’!

Grit means pluck, spirit, firmness of mind. The passion and power of perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is stamina and sticking to a challenge, day in and day out not just for the week or month but year after year.

I read about a thousand CVs every week and the vast-majority of salespeople show a disturbing trend – frequent job changes – increasing in frequency over career history. These candidates are not getting better. They are demonstrating less and less resolve over time resulting in shorter and shorter tenure with each role.

These candidates may have the looks and presentation skills to land one job after another but lack the resolve (the grit) to get through the tough days and win in the long haul.

There are many skills involved in successful selling: presentation, product knowledge, emotional intelligence, networking and more. But none of these valuable skills deliver real long-term success.

Selling success has more to do with motivation than talent.

Grit is living life as if it is a marathon and not a sprint and sales success is often about making the calls week after week, month after month, year after year until the customer is won. Salespeople with grit follow through on their commitments and simply just don’t give up.

How to recognise grit?

First, the salespeople with grit stays until they win and so their CV should show a winning progression of jobs, with a minimum of 2-3 years at each job and each progressive job with a better companies and at higher earnings. Their history is one of consistently exceeding targets.

  • Have they struggled with challenging territories and how did they meet success?
  • Have they pioneered new territories and build strong businesses for their employers?
  • Have they failed and gone on to great achievement learning for failure?
  • Have they pushed the envelope and shown initiative to win or keep a customer?
  • Have they run a marathon, played in team sports or learn a skill like a second language or a musical instrument that requires a long-term commitment?

A large part of being successful in sales is about showing up, working harder than the competition and not giving up. It’s about the will to win. While it is hard to teach, and develop, you can make Grit one of the factors you hire for. 

How to develop grit? Start by building simple disciplines.

  • Make your bed the moment you wake.
  • Go to the gym three days per week.
  • Make the one extra sales call when you feel done for the day.
  • Prepare for your week on Friday afternoon.
  • Prepare your wardrobe the night before with shoes polished.

Determine not to give up but to find a solution. Don’t make easy choices but look to what will deliver results in the long run. Grit is not about being stubborn. It is about consistently putting in the effort required to get results. For some of us this means longer hours and more work than anyone else will deliver.

Want to find the best salespeople? Contact us!