In my experience as a CEO of a sales business, top sales people possess four traits, which enable them to push through boundaries to reach their targets and build relationships and revenue. These traits can be developed individually and as a team.

Traits of top sales people: INNER SELF-BELIEF

Top sales people have immense inner self-belief in their own abilities and their value as a salesperson and this inner self-belief is evident in the way they go about their work.

Inner self-belief – control

Top sales people usually have a crystal clear life purpose, which gives them a rock solid belief in what they are doing and its value. This sense of control means that they rarely rush their work or appear flustered or self-conscious.

Inner self-belief – preparation

This sense of control invariably leads to top sales people being well prepared and organized.  Having researched and planned their routines and prepared the presentations and collateral required to inform and impress their clients, they know what they need to do.

Inner self-belief – professionalism, responsibility and reliability

Top sales people take themselves and their profession seriously which leads to them approaching their work in a reliable and responsible manner. They will look to understand their clients’ problems and try to professionally determine the best fit for their needs.

Traits of top sales people – DRIVE

Top sales people are highly self-motivated to succeed, goal orientated, tenacious and resilient.

Drive – self motivated

Top sales people are always incredibly self motivated and driven by their need to fulfill their aspirations or achieve certain goals. These goals can be many and varied but top sales people are prepared to make immense sacrifices to achieve them and then once completed move onto the next one.

Drive – goal orientated and tenacious

Top sales people are fixated on setting goals and then doing everything they can to achieve those goals. They are incredibly disciplined and tenacious in following up leads, conversations, meetings and all related details as they know this will help them achieve their goals. Top sales people will always have daily and weekly to do lists and know how to prioritise their efforts to ensure they achieve their targets.

Drive – resilience

Top sales people are incredibly resilient because they need to be. Rejection is a big part of selling and top sales people are able to overcome this rejection often by positively viewing a knock back as being one step closer to success. Whilst the best performers don’t over dramatize the losses, they don’t over celebrate the wins either by keeping everything in perspective and placing their trust in their process. As well as keeping their own emotions under control they don’t let those around them affect their moods or their approach. They are incredibly self-motivated to keep on going and they don’t give up on their goals and targets.

Traits of top sales people – ADAPTABILITY

Top sales people are incredibly adaptable in their approach, being able to learn quickly and provide workable solutions to a variety of problems.

Adaptability – flexibility

Top sales people can effortlessly adapt to new situations and are flexible enough to be able to think on their feet to deal with unexpected events and provide solutions to solve problems. They are not intimidated by changes in their routine and will take in their stride new clients, new products or pricing, effortlessly and without apparent stress or friction.

Adaptability – learning agility

Top sales people learn quickly and deeply, which means they can confidently exploit new opportunities ahead of their competitors, are used to taking calculated risks and are successful in doing so most of the time.

Adaptability – preference for new situations and surroundings

Top sales people are inquisitive and interested in new situations and opportunities in which to prospect. They see new business development as an integral part of being successful and are ‘hunters’ by nature.

Traits of top sales people – CONFIDENCE IN DEALING WITH PEOPLE

Top sales people are confident in social situations and they can influence others by using empathy to build rapport and create trust.

Confidence with people – self-confidence with humility

The control, clarity of purpose and sense of responsibility possessed by top sales people (and referred to previously) inevitably leads to increased confidence in themselves and in dealing with people. This means they inevitably seize more opportunities and know how to convert them. They are comfortable in challenging their clients and handling their objections, treating them with respect but rarely deference.

They are rarely the bombastic and gregarious stereotype and are more likely to be modest and humble which stems from their sense of professionalism responsibility and reliability.

Confidence with people – empathy, rapport and trust

Top salespeople are often empathetic, listening more than talking, picking up on the non-verbal clues, and showing they care about the outcome of the discussion or situation for the client. This ability to understand and connect with their clients enables them to build rapport, and from there create a bond of trust. Once the client trusts the salesperson they will become more loyal and less susceptible to make changes for minor reasons.

Confidence with people – ability to ask great questions

Top sales people ask great questions because their drive to win the business pushes them to be interested and inquisitive. By asking more insightful questions, and more of them, they gain more information, which enables them to match the client’s needs more effectively.

Confidence with people – ability to influence others

Top sales people will have the confidence to stand their ground in-group discussions by arguing their case with conviction and be sufficiently persuasive to be able to influence others to achieve a certain result.


These observed four traits of top sales people are reflected closely in the mental toughness personality trait as defined by the rock stars of mental toughness, Professor Peter Clough and AQR Managing Director, Doug Strycharczyk.  Their reliable MTQ48 psychometric measure comprises the 4C’s framework of:

  • Control
  • Commitment
  • Challenge
  • Confidence

which corresponds closely with the observed traits listed above:

  • Control = Inner Self Belief
  • Commitment = Drive
  • Challenge = Adaptability
  • Confidence = Confidence With Dealing With People.

Mentally tough people have been proven to be more productive, more positive, more engaged and more able to manage stress and pressure than most others and for this reason they make top sales people.

Using the MTQ48 you can test for mental toughness and whether you or your sales team possess the four traits of top sales people and then develop it.

Published by Paul Lyons – Paul is an experienced chief executive, leadership coach and mental toughness professional and you can reach him via and at or and the Mental Toughness Partners website

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