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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Personality Traits of Top Sales Performers


Reading the Harvard Business Review just makes you feel smarter, and you are because of the insights you’ve gleaned. An article written by Steve W. Martin, called “The 7 Key Personality Traits of Top Salespeople,” was published on June 28, 2011. 2011 seems like a lifetime ago, and many studies have been done since then on the subject of talent themes of of top performers. The results seem to be similar and timeless.

When a successful salesperson is questioned on what makes them stand out above the rest, most don’t have specific answers. The reason seems to be because these high performers are doing what comes naturally to them. These are not skills that can be taught or learned. It’s about behaviors that “fire naturally” in client-facing sales situations.

Specific traits are sales accelerators. Mr. Martin gave 1,000 uber-successful salespeople a personality assessment. The purpose was to measure five traits:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Negative Emotionality

The fact is that in similar situations not all salespeople can achieve top performer status. The results of the study strongly suggest that personality traits of super-salespeople play a significant part in their success. The 7 Key Traits are as follows:

  1. Modesty – 91% of top performers had medium to high scores in modesty and humility. Bravado alienates clients. These salespeople tend to be very team oriented.
  2. Conscientiousness – 85% of top performers have a strong sense of duty and responsibility. They take control of the sales cycle and maintain control of the account.
  3. Achievement Orientation – 84% scored high in achievement. Achievement is paramount. They are always aware of their performance to goal. To achieve this they tend to be customer-focused as opposed to product-focused.
  4. Curiosity82% scored high in curiosity levels. They have an “active presence” during sales calls, and they are good listeners who ask thought-provoking questions that uncover needs as well as potential problems.
  5. Lack of GregariousnessTop performers had 30% lower gregariousness scores than the below average performer. They establish proficiency as a sales professional and become an asset, and as a result, their recommendations are taken seriously and followed. They present as experts and solutions providers and not as “friends.”
  6. Lack of Discouragement – 90% experienced infrequent or occasional sadness and their competiveness is a factor. Top performers tend to play or have played sports, which enables them to bounce back from losses and to look ahead to the next opportunity to win.
  7. Lack of Self-Consciousness – less that 5% had high levels of self-consciousness. Top performers are comfortable in engaging customers they disagree with. They are courageous and action-oriented.

Find these people, vet them, and hire them. Egotists and narcissists need not apply.

Talent is only a strength when the fit is right.

Topics: hiring salespeople sales performance