Key learning outcomes:

  • Learn that successful salespeople are passionate about their products or services.
  • Acknowledge that administrative tasks are as important as selling, particularly in the area of compliance.
  • Implement accurate and up-to-date systems for building relationships with customers.
  • Recognise that you can learn as much from your successes as your losses.


So, you have a great personality, you love talking to people, you look pretty good and everyone tells you that you were born for sales. While those are all wonderful attributes, they will only take you so far if you want a long sales career featuring consistent success. At Absolute Best we have been exposed to salespeople from a variety of industries over many years. This has given us a unique insight into what makes a successful salesperson. Use our top 10 tips as a checklist to ensure that you take your innate talent for sales and turn it into a long-term successful career.

1. Believe in what you sell

The most successful salespeople believe in the product or service they are selling. If a salesperson doesn’t believe in what they are selling, their words tend to come out sounding hollow and lack enthusiasm or passion, and this does not translate into high conversion rates. On the other hand, when you are dealing with someone who does believe in what they are selling, you can hear the passion in their voice and see it sparkling in their eyes.

Be mindful of taking a sales job that requires you to sell something that does not interest or excite you. If you do, you are probably setting yourself up for failure. Likewise, if you are employing someone to sell your product or service, it is essential to ensure that the person actually likes it and would want to buy it for themselves.

2. Be a time management guru

Without doubt, time management is one of the areas that have the greatest impact on sales success. Successful salespeople make every minute count towards getting a result or moving a deal forward. As sales positions are almost always people-related, it is easy to waste time with longer than necessary phone calls and appointments. Additionally, salespeople by their nature usually prefer people over paperwork, which means that they waste time socialising and are easily distracted.

To be great in sales you need to be able to make your available time work for you. We provide a number of learning articles, tips and tools that can help to maximise your productivity. We suggest that you look at our article on creating an “ideal week” as this will add structure to your schedule. Additionally, our article “Dollar Productivity” will help you to determine where your time is currently being spent and what changes can be made so you focus on the activities that will bring the greatest results.

3. Be disciplined

Again, by their nature, salespeople tend to be the more outgoing and creative types. This usually means that they tend not to enjoy a structured environment and often have administrators chasing them for paperwork or other details that they find boring or feel are irrelevant to them. To be a success in sales it is essential to recognise the value of things such as compliance, and understand that if paperwork is done right the first time, it will actually save time in the longer term and can even help to generate income. Creating a discipline around completing documentation flows through to all aspects of the role, and more often than not the number one salespeople in a business are the ones that are always on time and letter perfect with their contracts and agreements.

4. Work to a system

Hope is not a strategy and unfortunately large numbers of salespeople fail to understand this concept. One of the great things about salespeople is that they tend to have an optimistic nature, and while this is what can get them through the hard times, it can also hold them back from success. Operating on hope and luck may sometimes work, but to be consistently successful in sales you need to work to a system.

You should have a system for tracking your prospective customers, noting their situations and the next step you need to make to move them closer to a sale. You should also have a system that allows you to contact past customers as this will allow you to continue building a relationship long after the deal is done to encourage repeat and referral business. An added advantage of building your systems is that it allows you to more accurately plan for each year. For example, if last year you saw 100 prospective customers to get 20 sales, and this year your goal is to make 30 sales, then you  either need to increase your conversion rate or see 50 more prospective customers. This information enables you to better plan and work towards achieving your desired result.

5. Stop telling and start asking

One of the real keys to sales success is to guide your customer so they conclude that you or your product or service is the solution to their problem. Average salespeople will spend a lot of their presentation telling the customer what the features and benefits of their product or service are. And despite how good this dialogue or presentation might be, this method of selling will only be successful if the customers’ needs happen to match the sales pitch.

If you want to be a success in sales you need to learn how to ask rather than to tell. In the first half of any sales presentation, you should be speaking significantly less than your potential customer. Remember the old saying that you have two ears and only one mouth for a reason. The key is to ask as many open-ended questions as you can. These are questions that your potential customer cannot answer with “yes” or “no”. This allows you to find out as much as you can about their situation and requirments. You can then match and sell the features and benefits of your product or service that are most likely to appeal to the customer and that will best satisfy their needs. Our articles “Benefit Selling” and “Questions-based Sales” will help here.

6. Be a big picture thinker

By their nature, salespeople tend to focus on the immediate. To illustrate, let’s imagine as a potential customer you said to five salespeople that you were ready to buy today, they would all be keen and would all follow you up. If you told them that you were going to be ready to buy in one to two months, most of them would be good and would follow you up. But if you told them that you were going to be ready to buy in six to twelve months, only the really good ones would still show genuine interest and would follow you up over that period of time.

To be a great salesperson you need to be a big picture thinker. You need to look beyond the immediate and look to build your business for the future. It is important to treat every potential customer the same, regardless of when they have said they may be in a position to make a decision or to buy. People’s circumstances change all the time and you want to be the salesperson of choice when this happens.

7. Be courageous

When training and coaching salespeople, we have found the most difficult thing for many is building the courage to ask for the business at a sales presentation. Salespeople are often full of confidence and bravado; however, deep down they fear rejection and do not want to hear the customer say “no”. It is important to remember that if you do not ask the question, the answer will always be “no”.

To be a great salesperson you need to learn the art of trial closing. This not only allows you to ask the customer if what you are offering sounds good to them, but will also allow you to uncover any potential objections they may have. Quite simply, if you do not identify the objections, you are unable to overcome them. Use our article “Handling Objections” to learn how to win more business.

8. Learn from your losses

You will often hear a salesperson say things like “I did not want that business anyway”, “they went with the other guy because he offered a cheaper fee” or “they decided to go with the other guy because they had a previous issue with our business”. Most salespeople do not enjoy being told that they did not win the business and the natural reaction is to deflect the blame onto others. It is important to understand that in business, sport and life you will learn much more from your losses than your wins.

As a salesperson you need to carefully reflect on every deal or situation where the customer chose someone else. Think beyond any reason that they may have given you and start to think more about what you could have done differently. It is very rare not to find some areas for improvement. Most often there are one or more things that if they had been done differently might have altered the final result. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes and to explore the options, as this may make the difference between winning and losing the next time.

9. Be transparent

Operating ethically and transparently will ensure that your career is more successful over the long term. Too often a salesperson will take a short-term gain without thinking about how it might affect their reputation over the longer term. It is important to remember that just because something might be technically right, it does not mean that it is morally the right thing to do. It is important as a salesperson to think about doing “good business”. If this is your focus, you will find that over time you will build up a loyal customer base that will come back to you and will refer their friends and family to you.

Never be afraid to tell someone that you are sorry but what you have to offer is not the best solution for them. They will respect your honesty and may even alter their needs to make your product or service fit. Regardless, by being transparent you have avoided having a dissatisfied or disappointed customer out in the marketplace. It is also important to remember that if things have gone wrong, you are infinitely better to be upfront rather than try and cover up. Chances are, even if your customer does not complain, it is likely they have noticed that there was a mistake or issue, and this will influence whether they come back to you and how they portray you and your business to others in the future.

10. Have some fun

Lastly, it is important to have some fun. To be successful in sales you need a high energy level and a positive attitude and these are much easier to have when you are enjoying yourself. This goes back to tip number one to some degree – make sure you are selling something that you are passionate about and make sure you are doing it for someone that you respect as having a positive outlook is much easier.

The great thing about sales is that you can have some fun with setting yourself some targets or to set up some games and competitions with your colleagues. For example, if you are focusing on achieving a particular target you could set up a group goal to celebrate when you reach it, such as going on a fun outing or for a nice dinner.

There is no doubt that a sales career is one that can be rewarding both personally and financially. It is the ideal choice for those that enjoy dealing with people and have a high level of performance orientation. However, the key to success in today’s marketplace is to take the traditional sales traits of someone who is a good talker or deal maker and layer this with some additional skills and attributes. Like many things, the old saying that “hard work will beat talent if talent does not work hard” rings true in sales. We often find the person who is the most successful is not the one who talks most confidently and comes up with the odd sensational deal, but the one who works to build a better business over the long term. You will find a number of learning articles in this section of the website that will assist in building the sales skills required for long-term success.

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