Should I Work in Sales? Pros Share the Traits Needed for Success

illustration of man working at computer but envisioning himself presenting a sales pitch

If you’ve ever sold lemonade from your driveway as a kid or worked at your favorite clothing store in the mall, you’ve probably considered a career in sales. You love meeting new people. You’re driven, and you aren’t afraid of a challenge. But you may be wondering if you really have what it takes to succeed as a professional salesperson.

Working in sales can be a very lucrative career choice, but it’s not for everyone. To help you get a better idea of what this field is all about, we asked sales professionals to share their insights on what makes a good salesperson. If you’re asking yourself Should I work in sales? or Do I really have the qualities needed to be successful? take a look at this list and find out for yourself.

Should I work in sales? The qualities that make a good salesperson

You may have some idea of what makes a good salesperson—charisma, confidence, communication—but take it from these professionals—there’s more to it than you might think.

1. You’re genuine

Though some salespeople give the profession a bad rap, being loud, pushy and slimy is far from what you need to be successful in this field. To truly thrive, your most important asset is simply being yourself. If you try to be someone you’re not or sell a product you don’t believe in, customers will quickly catch on.

If you’re an introvert, you don’t need to pretend to be an extrovert. In fact, Lynell Ross, founder and managing editor of Zivadream, points out that there are advantages to both.

“While extroverts love to go out and be with people and often are very successful at selling, introverts can make great salespeople too because of their thoughtfulness and willingness to listen.”

It’s important to adjust your approach with different customers, but ultimately sales is about building trust and rapport. And that requires being genuine. John Moss, CEO of English Blinds, offers some encouragement as you find out exactly what that means for you.

“If you’re considering sales, remember that there are many approaches, techniques, and training formulas in the industry and they don’t all suit everyone equally. Take your time to find your niche and approach, and if you find a product or working model that doesn’t click for you, try another instead.”

2. You’re observant

It may seem like sales is all about saying the right words and having the perfect pitch, but building solid customer relationships starts with observing first. Ask questions and actively listen to what your customers have to say. Not only will this help you develop more genuine connections but it can help you improve your sales approach.

“When you listen to the customer's expectations and pressure points, you will help match their desires with the company's service,” says Dr. Vikram Tarugu, CEO of Detox of South Florida. “This ensures that the exchange will be more important to the consumer and more oriented to a solution.”

By being observant, you can read the customer and adapt your sales style to their comfort level. If a customer’s body language seems guarded, for example, you may want to take the time to ask more questions before bringing up a pitch. If they are more direct, you can mirror them and get right to the point.

“The best salespeople are excellent listeners,” says Moss. “They are great at reading people and can tell when to pursue a seemingly disinterested lead versus when a prospect simply won’t convert and is not worth wasting either party’s time on.”

3. You’re resilient

As a salesperson, you need to be prepared for rejection. Often, for every ten pitches you give, you’ll make one sale. That means you may have to hear “No thank you” or “Not today” nine times in a row. It’s up to you to be able to brush it off and move on to the next pitch. This can be difficult for new salespeople, but as you learn more about this field, you’ll understand just how common it is.

“It takes many rejections to make a sale,” says Ross. “Vision is what will pull you through. If you set goals and know why you are setting them, your vision of success will motivate you to keep going.”

If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t take things personally and can remain positive no matter what, then sales might be the perfect place for you. Kevin Bazazzadeh, owner of Brilliant Day Homes, offers his advice on evaluating your mindset.

“I think you have to look at how you take rejection and failure. Can you overcome it and move on quickly, or do you spend a lot of time dwelling on it? Are you willing to put yourself in a position every day where you are regularly met with rejection?”

4. You’re organized

As a salesperson, you could be making 30 calls a day, keeping appointments, researching leads, and following up with existing clients. So, it’s important to stay organized. You need to be able to keep track of short and long-term goals, know what’s up next and always stay one step ahead. These sharp skills are what will help you keep a steady stream of clients and ultimately succeed in the fast-paced world of sales.

“Great salespeople are prepared,” says Ross. “They research their prospect’s business and know as much as they can before making a call. Organized salespeople plan their day, route and schedule to maximize their time…. They have everything they need to make a polished presentation, helping them feel confident.”

If you're the type of person who thrives on color-coordinated binders and in-depth research, sales could use a skilled professional like you.

5. You’re always learning 

Learning how to read people and communicate well is a lifelong pursuit. Thankfully, there are plenty of opportunities to grow in the field of sales. Being coachable and diligent is one of the best ways to improve.

“Everything else in sales can be taught and learned,” says Dennis Vu, CEO and Co-founder of Ringblaze. “But being coachable is something you need to have by nature. The best sales professionals aren’t afraid to try out new approaches, learn new things and get instructions from people who know their way around sales. To become truly good, you should be ready to learn every day, be great at taking feedback and implement it straight away.”

If you are the kind of person who enjoys being challenged, taking a chance on something new, and is not afraid to fail, then you have what it takes to succeed in sales. One way to get started is by reading books from those who have done it before. Ross suggests her top picks:

  • How to Win Friends and InfluencePeople by Dale Carnegie 
  • The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy 
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Peopleby Stephen R. Covey 
  • The Success Principlesby Jack Canfield 
  • The 5 Great Rules of Selling by Percy H. Whiting

Find success in sales

Now that you’ve learned more about working in sales, can you see yourself being successful in the field? Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, it’s your dedication, resilience, and openness that will propel you forward. And if you’re asking yourself Should I work in sales? you likely already have some of these traits. The question now is how are you going to use them?

To learn more about the career options available to you, check out our article, “9 Ways a Marketing Degree Can Boost Your Sales Career,” and see just where this career path could take you.

About the author

Hannah Meinke

Hannah Meinke is a writer at Collegis Education. She enjoys helping people discover their purpose and passion by crafting education and career-related content on behalf of Rasmussen University.

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