Winning Attributes and Skill Characteristics

Why do some salespeople seem effortlessly successful?  What motivates them?  What is the secret that makes them different from other professionals?  And most importantly, where do I get in line for my ticket to the winners’ circle?

To enter the winner’s circle, there are four winning sales attributes that must be part of your “sales DNA”. These four factors provide a bedrock foundation needed to make it in this profession.

What are sales attributes? They are qualities, personality, or characteristic traits that are either innate or have been learned.

What this essay presents a fact-based analysis of the most important attributes and that all consistent winners have in common.

So if this is of interest to you, lets set the niceties aside, look at the data and figure out what you need to know and how you can apply it.

The research
This information comes from thousands of hours of research, study and personal interface with salespeople in a variety of different sales positions in businesses of all sizes. I discovered that the consistent winners never rely on sales tricks, fads or fashion.

Instead, the real source of the winners’ success was based on the bedrock fundamental principles and natural laws underlying all sales and selling.

Also, with such people, lying far beneath the surface, are deeply rooted personality traits and skills acquired from hard-won experience. This gives them a solid foundation to ride out the rough seas and to take advantage of good times to come.


1. Goal Orientation

Salespeople are motivated by money and orientated to this goal. But don’t mistake this motivating factor as an insatiable, self-indulgent, materialistic greed. Rather, they often gravitate to this profession because of the clear measures of success used in this environment. You close the deal, you get paid. It’s unambiguous and apparent to everyone. It’s the old “chicken or feathers” analogy.  Sales = you eat chicken. No sales = you eat feathers. Clear and simple.

Sales effectiveness is specifically measured and rewarded in financial terms understood by all. But, what is even more important is that he or she maintains maximum personal control of this measurement and reward system. Salespeople are competitive and have a burning desire to win, although not necessarily to vanquish or to dominate peers.

The hidden reason

This reason may have never been clearly stated before so pay attention, as it’s important. Here it is: Salespeople are driven by a hitherto unsuspected internal element at the root of their success:

Winners are in constant competition with themselves.

Their goals and targets are established internally. Money is only one way to keep score in the game and it is not necessarily the end goal. They’re playing to win a game they have set up with themselves: To be better than their previous best.

Often, they already are making more money than necessary to survive very comfortable by most standards. But that’s not the point. Can they do better than they did last time? Can they beat their own personal best score? Can they outdo themselves? These are the goals that are at stake in this game.

More than anything else, this powerful need and desire to excel supplies the emotional, physical and mental energy and determination, which motivates them to succeed. Their demonstration of competence along these lines is what ultimately influences their morale, sense of worth and fulfillment for better or worse.

2.  Recognition

A close second to the goal orientation is responsiveness to recognition. Acceptable recognition may come in many forms: Titles and labels, formal performance recognition programs like “President’s Club, Sales Exec of the Year,” etc. are examples of such programs.

Recognition is a strong motivator and many salespeople thrive on this so the reward to the company in terms of increased sales cannot be ignored.

Sometimes just the casual acknowledgment from their peers is all that is needed to know that their contributions and successes are recognized. Whatever form it takes, this important element must not be ignored.

3. Responsibility for others

Along with thinking of themselves as entrepreneurs, top salespeople often accept responsibility for everything in their environment, even including things over which they have no direct control. They really do care about their customers. They often feel that they represent the entire company to their customers and prospects and position themselves as a virtual proxy for senior management.

This factor often translates into demands for greater quality and performance that can be harnessed to help the entire company improve.

However, poorly performing or non-responsive company personnel or resources can cause salespeople far more anguish than any other factor in the company. After all, this not only hits at their paycheck but their sense of responsibility for their clients.

This natural assumption of responsibility is a characteristic and quality that should be carefully nurtured and strengthened.

4. Belief in Self

Ultimately, most effective salespeople possess an abiding belief in themselves. This confidence is passionately felt and is contagious. It can inspire similar feeling in others around you as well as in the customer, opening the door for a sale where one may not have existed previously.

Often the customer only needs to trust that you believe passionately that you deliver what you promise. And this alone is sometimes all that is required to close the deal.

The sales environment, more than any company function, thrusts people into situations requiring a high degree of personal confidence, belief, and intensity. For they are often placed in situations that expose their weaknesses when in the spotlight of a sales presentation is shined their way.

Sales management and training people must at times provide correction and change, but at the same time, being careful not to undermine the self-confidence and beliefs of individual salespeople for they are sometimes a delicate breed in spite of their outward bravado. When management errs and allows its salespeople’s core beliefs to be threatened, performance suffers and salespeople cannot survive in such an environment.

If management respects the salespeople’s belief in themselves and the intensity with which it is felt, it becomes a path to motivate and drive people to higher levels of performance, which helps everyone in the company.

These four winning attitudes are the vital components of the winning salesperson.

But that is not all there is to this story. There is such a thing as the “skill” of salesmanship. This is the application of the attributes described above, when applied to the real world of preparation, appointments, clients, presentations, objections, reaching an understanding and mutual benefit, closing and wrapping up the deal.

In addition to the four winning attributes above, the following six skills characteristics provide the combination necessary for entry to the winner’s circle.

Sales skills characteristics

  1. Knowledge is required to understand selling and to be able to work with others in the field. Selling cannot be reduced to a mechanical, rote procedure. It is a skill that draws from art and science and is a combination of the best of each field. It is also needed to how to handle both failures and successes.
  2. Efficiency is the ability to perform with a minimum of effort and maximum result. It implies the ability to perform a task with fluency, smoothness, and grace. Since the most efficient form is also the most effective, the skill of efficiency is the bedrock upon which all other skills are based. Without efficiency in your sales form, being encumbered by force and effort will compromise the message you are seeking to convey.
  3. Automaticity is the ability to perform without conscious awareness, mental effort, or monitoring. Without a doubt, it is one of the more important components of skill, for without it, we would be enmeshed in having to monitor the actions we take for granted. 
  4. Timing is the ability to do something at the proper moment in the proper sequence.  This component contains all the elements of efficiency but contains the additional factor of being able to do a thing precisely when it is required. This allows us to coordinate our actions with others to achieve the desired results. Without it, efficiency is lost and the results are inconsistent.
  5. Adaptability is the ability to perform under diverse or adverse conditions or circumstances. If you are not able to cope with the changing environmental factors involved with top-selling opportunities, high-level performance will not be possible. 
  6. Practice is the time-honored route to skill retention and mastery. Bad habits are easy to acquire and hard to get rid of. So, while you practice, avail yourself of good, positive evaluation and/or correction from a trusted professional and you’ll develop winning patterns.

Practice is focused, structured repetition, which results in learning and expertise.

Excellence in any complex skill, such as selling, requires a mastery of the fundamentals. The master salesperson is one who can do the basics, uncommonly well.

The natural laws of selling are at work in every sale. These laws apply from the simplest, one-on-one situation to the most complex, multilayered corporate sales environment and everything in between.

You cannot properly utilize a skill until you have mastered it. For example, if, on a scale of 1 to 10, you’re at a “5” in your skill level, you’re halfway there.

But, this also means that 50% of what you’re doing is working for you, and 50% against you, for a net result of zero. You’re wasting time and effort due to lack mastery in the basics, often creating more problems than you solve. Skill refinement offers entry into the level of sales mastery and is only attained from protracted practice.

Advanced techniques are not skills that replace a more rudimentary skill. Advanced skills are a refinement and coordination of the basics.

Complex skills involve a series of refined skills, or a heightened refinement of one skill.

Don’t try to rush to the advanced and neglect the basics. Sales excellence is built upon the fundamentals, which are the basics. When you’ve sufficiently mastered the basics, the natural laws of selling, the more sophisticated skills suddenly become accessible.

Any new student of selling should begin with a mastery of the basic style and stick with that style until you’ve mastered the basics of the discipline. Then move on to the next. Once you master that level, you can then integrate both levels.

If you want to achieve sales mastery, don’t discard the basics; for therein lies the magic.


One Response to “Winning Attributes and Skill Characteristics”

  1. Mary South Says:

    It’s hard to find well-informed people in this particular subject, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks. Mary

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