While AI, machine learning, and automation continue to change the process of selling, the nature of sales continues to beat with a human heart. This holds true, even in a remote-first or hybrid work environment where reliance on tech is greater than ever. In B2B sales, where both buyers and sellers are people, our humanness and personality are as important now as before.
When hiring new sales reps, recruit applicants with the right personality traits for the job, not relevant skills. You don't have time to teach classes on how to have a winning personality.
A Harvard Business Review article stated it succinctly: “In sales, hire for personality, then train for skill.”
Skills and traits are both important in a sales career. They might sound similar but they refer to very different aspects of a professional person. Business writing is a skill, for example. On the other hand, self-motivation is a trait. Skills can be learned, trained, and acquired with relative ease, but traits are inherent or learned over time through repeated experiences, and are very difficult to develop.
A sales personality encapsulates the positive characteristics that are correlated to selling success. A person with a sales personality tends to embody all of the traits that lead to superior sales performance: inspiring genuine trust, building strong relationships, finding the right solutions to the right problems, consistently following up, showing grace under pressure, and closing higher-value deals faster.
Here are ten sales personality traits that will help you push the horizons of your selling career.
This trait features prominently in many studies that explore human success. Endorsed by acclaimed author and academic Steve W. Martin and billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffett, conscientiousness encompasses many characteristics such as responsibility, accountability, honesty, and dependability. Conscientious people plan and organize for success, own their mistakes, and hold themselves accountable for their performance. Conscientious people are recognizable for their ability to fulfill their side of the bargain.
Virtually any sales skill can be learned, but to master a skill, a learner must be curious. A seller with innate curiosity tends to be more open to new things and is happy learning new techniques, tools, and methods. Sales is a constantly evolving field and most top-tier professionals find joy in discovering new knowledge and learning new tricks.
Obviously, low motivation will dampen your performance. If you're not enthusiastic about something, it will show one way or another. But how do you remain upbeat in a field notorious for bringing everyone down? You draw inspiration from within, not from the external circumstances you can’t control. Self-motivated sellers retain the energy and competitiveness they need to smartly engage customers and beat their performance metrics. Remember, you don’t want to have to keep an eye over their shoulder to foster motivation. Truly driven salespeople won't struggle to maintain their drive in a remote-work environment even though they have less day-to-day management.
Successful sellers not only have a goal in mind, they also persist in achieving that goal. Being goal-oriented means sellers make and execute effective plans that move them closer to their team’s overall business objectives. For example, if an account requires the nod of seven decision makers, goal-oriented sellers will target each decision-maker and use the right personalized tactic to secure everyone’s sign-off. High sales performers relish the experience of pursuing goals and visualize the rewards for achieving them.
New sales environments demand a different creature. In the digital economy, only sellers with high levels of sociability and adaptability can thrive. Today, it takes a game plan played out by many stakeholders to close a single deal and succeed as a team in B2B sales. Professionals who don't enjoy teamwork and who lack the flexibility to adapt to new tools, approaches, and tactics will struggle in B2B sales.
To achieve excellence, today’s sellers must go beyond sociability. They should possess enough empathy to accurately see where different people are coming from, which experiences truly delight them, and which pain points hurt the most. Because business has become buyer-focused, sellers should translate their empathy into a customer-centric mindset. Sellers with high levels of empathy are better at listening, negotiating, and closing deals with customers.
Contrary to the B2B SaaS "sales bro" stereotype, many high performers actually exhibit high levels of humility. In the new buyer-centric B2B market, many prospects prefer professionals who are approachable rather than aggressive. Humble sellers tend to give credit to others and have better relationship-building skills.
To thrive in a tough sales environment, salespeople have to be tougher. Grit makes it possible for a seller to continue striving for the goal even after repeated rejections, disappointments, and setbacks. Sellers with grit have the ability to bounce back and sell the next meeting as if it were their first.
Nothing beats a positive attitude. Optimistic sellers are easier to relate to and easier to work with. Buyers can pick up on their positive energy and are more likely to feel good about your product when they feel good about the seller's attitude. Even if no sale happens, at the very least they'll have made a connection. One study of MetLife sellers revealed that professionals with a positive outlook outsold their pessimist peers by as much as 57%.
Finally, the vast majority of professionals who succeed in sales come to love the craft, even if they started out hating it. You can’t remain in sales very long unless you develop affinity and affection for selling. Whether it's the thrill of the sale, belief in the company's mission, relationships with customers, or something else, successful salespeople have a reason to keep coming back to work each day. That reason is rooted in ambition and passion.
While it might be possible to develop some traits over time, they are largely inherent and may take more effort than it's worth to acquire. That's why the sales reps you want on your team are those who are coachable. Of course, this also requires a level of humility and ambition as we covered above. Those who are serious about their sales career aren’t afraid of receiving constructive feedback in the name of growth. Today, the right tech and tools can help leaders better coach their reps and elevate your sales performance.
In a new remote-first (or hybrid) sales environment, reps must rely on tools like CRMs, sales engagement, and AI more than ever before. Anyone who refuses to adapt to changing buyer and market conditions will get left behind. Sellers who are tech-savvy will embrace new tools and leverage tech to empower them in their day-to-day grind.