A few years back, Steve W. Martin wrote an article for The Harvard Business Review about the sales personalities and sales personality traits that were common among the highest performing sales reps. His analysis sought to measure the “main personality traits [of salespeople] to better understand the characteristics that separate them [from] their peers.”
Martin gave personality tests to tech and B2B sales professionals during workshops and on President’s Club trips. From there, “responses were then categorized by percentage of annual quota attainment and classified into top performers, average performers, and below average performers categories.”
His findings indicated that there are definite sales personalities and sales personality traits that indicate top-performers and successful sales reps. It inspired me to speak with our own sales team at PhoneBurner and explore the conversation around sales personalities further.
What we found was that sales professionals have varied backgrounds, personalities, and life experiences. At the same time, our team ultimately agreed with Martin’s hypothesis and test results that show distinct characteristics and sales personalities that are often shared by top performers.
Some sales personality traits are innate while others can be taught, learned over time, or instilled through experience and mentorship. However, I want to be clear that none of these skills, either by themselves or working in tandem, are a guarantee of success.
At the same time, a lack of a specific sales personality does not promise failure for a rep. What’s important for you here, as a sales leader, is how the different types of sales personalities can be used to build a well-rounded, high-performance team.
13 Sales Personalities and Sales Personality Traits to Help Build Your Team
Below, we’ll explore 13 different sales personalities and sales personality traits that you can use to help evaluate the current state of your team and reps. It doesn’t matter if you’re in B2B sales, inside sales, inbound sales, or outbound sales—use this list to ultimately build a team that’s founded on complementary skill sets.
When a salesperson is on the phone, you want them to be naturally curious. Why does their prospect have certain pain points? Is there a unique way to apply your product’s features to overcome the prospect’s challenges? What’s being said “between the lines”?
Being inquisitive and curious like this contributes to a highly effective discovery process. It also makes for more interesting sales conversations because your prospects will feel that the sales rep legitimately cares about them and wants to understand their situation.
Curious people also like to know how things work, and that spirit of exploration will go a long way toward motivating your sales development representatives and account executives to learn about your product. Curiosity can also contribute to a wider knowledge of industry trends and the competitive landscape.
Last, almost any other sales personality trait or skill can be learned by a salesperson with a curious mind. That’s why we put this one first. Often, that sense of curiosity helps someone be more open to new techniques, tools, strategies, and methodologies.
Drive, gumption, entrepreneurial spirit, or the ability to self-start—these are all forms of the sales personality trait ambition. It’s at the heart of success in almost any field, but it's truly at the heart of the sales world.
An ambitious salesperson will go the extra mile to ensure they reach their goals. Then, they’ll pick up the goal posts and throw them further down field in an attempt to exceed their goals.
These are the people who love the craft and the art of the deal. Maybe the excitement of getting a contract signed fires them up, they’re diehard believers in the company’s mission, or they truly love building relationships with their prospects.
Regardless of the reason, ambitious salespeople wake up each day and bring a level of energy to your entire team that fires everyone else up. When the going gets tough, these are the reps you want in the trenches with you.
When building your dream sales team, you want reps who are hungry to close the deal. You don’t want reps who will close the deal at any cost though. Successful sales reps hold fast to integrity as the moral compass that guides their actions and decisions.
There has to be a sincere focus on the path taken to achieve sales goals. A salesperson who uses pressure, dishonesty, questionable tactics, or misleading claims is guaranteed to crash and burn. And they might bring your entire sales organization down in flames with them.
Sometimes, integrity can be taught and drilled into reps. However, you can’t be afraid to make a tough decision around the future employment of a sales rep who simply doesn’t have any integrity.
The good thing about integrity is that it’s highly visible. You’ll know it when you see it and you’ll know it when it’s absent as well.
Did you know that 80% of sales close after about five follow ups? However, roughly 66% of sales reps give up trying to reach a prospect after only one or two touchpoints.
You want the sales rep who isn’t going to think twice about following up. For them, if they secure a deal on the first attempt that’s great. But if there’s no connect that first go around, they’re not stopping—they’re just going to get more fired up and drive harder to get in touch.
What’s interesting is that salespeople who willingly and systematically stay on top of their pipeline with follow-ups and continuous touchpoints consistently overachieve.
Pro Tip: Here’s a sample sales cadence that shows how frequently reps should be reaching out. Feel free to send this to your reps, or adapt it to fit your team’s specific needs:
- Day 1 ASAP: Call 1, Script 1, Voicemail 1, Email 1
- Day 2 morning: Call 2, Script 2, Voicemail 2, Email 2
- Day 3 morning: Email 3
- Day 5 afternoon: Call 3, Script 3, Voicemail 3, Email 4
- Day 7 morning: Email 5
There’s nothing wrong with a celebration when your team crushes quota or a rep closes big deals. It becomes a problem when success goes to sales reps’ heads though, and they start to walk around like they own the place.
Humility is crucial for success in both individual sales reps and teams. If someone is ostentatious, filled with bravado, or egotistical, they’ll alienate both customers and team members alike.
The hard part is that you can’t teach humility. So, be sure to screen potential hires to ensure they’re able to recognize weaknesses and not take strengths for granted. You want the rep who’s ready and willing to lose with dignity and win with grace.
6. Well Organized
Almost every salesperson has a massive book of contacts that they have to work through every day. Their prospects also fall into different stages of the sales cycle and constantly move from one stage to another.
Organization translates into focus and planning. If someone can’t stay organized, leads may potentially fall through the cracks, they’ll have a hard time managing time, customer demands will be left unaddressed, deadlines will be missed, and it’ll be hard to form lasting relationships.
Thankfully, this sales trait can be learned by almost anyone willing to put in the time and effort. Consider hosting a quarterly book club that focuses on honing organizational and time-management skills.
You might also want to invest in the right technology to help. Power dialer software and sales CRMs can be game-changing for your reps.
If your sales reps can shift their perspective and walk a mile in a prospect’s shoes, they’ll have a much higher chance at consistently closing deals. That’s because they’ll truly understand a prospect’s pains, challenges, and desires.
Empathy is the key sales personality trait that will ensure they ask the right questions, closely listen to needs, and forge lasting relationships over the phone. It takes their skills far beyond sociability and ensure they cultivate a customer-focused mindset at every stage of the sales cycle.
A goal-oriented salesperson will start their sales process with a robust sales strategy session, where they map out elements of the deal like decision makers needed to close the deal, alignment of the deal to company goals, and how to personalize outreach. Then, when the conversations begin, they’ll march forward with minimal obstructions and persist in achieving their goal.
Maybe your rep will need to speak with C-Suite executives or board members to get a deal signed, create custom content that maps the value of your product for the prospect’s company, or plan creative outreach strategies to get a prospect on the phone.
Reps with this sales personality trait will focus on achieving their goal, whether it’s a signed deal or booking the next meeting, with a healthy zeal. They’ll also proactively measure their performance along the way toward achieving this goal to ensure future attempts are effective and data driven.
9. Team Player
B2B sales have permanently changed over the last few years. Sales reps may have been able to previously close deals by themselves, but today it’s a massive team effort that often spans different departments at your company.
They’ll often work with marketing, onboarding, customer success, or account management to optimize their deals. At the same time, they need to work well on their nuclear team and with other salespeople across your organization.
Peers can help with outbound strategies, managers can help with difficult phone conversations, and leadership can quickly approve asks for discount requests. And when deals close, your reps can lift each other up to celebrate the win. A rising tide lifts all boats.
A lot of people talk about how important it is to have “grit,” but not many people clearly define it. At its root, someone with grit has fortitude, resilience, and courage in spades.
The best basketball players have a short memory when they shoot. If they’ve missed 10 three-point shots in one night, they’re not going to let that stand in the way of sinking their next attempt. That’s grit.
When the chips are down and the deals are falling through, grit will keep your sales reps dialing and cold calling. The ability to bounce back from rejection, disappointment, and setback is incredibly valuable, but this isn’t a sales personality trait that everyone will possess.
Pro Tip: As a team leader, VP, or manager, you’ll need to ensure you ask potential new hires questions that can tease out their level of grit, like: “Tell me about a time when you overcame massive obstacles to achieve a goal.”
Let’s be honest: sales is a challenging world. It can discourage even the most steadfast reps, which is why it’s so important to have team members who thrive on optimism. Positive attitudes are infectious, and one diehard optimist has the power to carry your entire sales organization through its worst day.
But optimism doesn’t only shine when things are tough. In fact, optimistic sellers are easier for your prospects to relate with—their positive energy makes someone want to make a deal with them.
With an optimist, no matter what happens in their conversations with a prospect, there’s always something of value to be gained. Even if the deal falls through, they’ll be excited to have a dedicated touchpoint that can be re-engaged in the future.
Think of the times when you’ve been around someone brimming with self-confidence. They stare challenges directly in the eyes and smile, knowing that nothing will stand in their way. Things always go according to plan. Everything always works out for them.
After being around them, you begin to feel the same sense of calm, collected, control. You don’t just want confident sales reps on your team, you need them.
To be clear, you don’t want someone who is over-confident to the point of arrogance. That will have the opposite of the intended effect and begin alienating both prospects and fellow team members.
And remember, you can build confidence, brick by brick, in every sales rep on your team—even the ones who are self-conscious. Take time to discover the way each reps prefers to be recognized, since everyone is motivated by different factors, and then adapt your appreciation efforts accordingly. Over time, you’ll be able to develop a powerhouse team of closers.
Prospects can smell a sales pitch from 100 miles away. That’s why the beginning of your cold calls are so important. Your reps need to grab a prospect’s attention, hold it, and guide them toward a desired outcome.
However, if your reps are clumsily banging a prospect over the head with a sales pitch at every step of their interaction, it’s not going to work out. The best salespeople are the ones who can sell without it ever feeling like they’re selling.
Encourage your reps to subtly educate, solve pain points, and build relationships with prospects during their conversations. When the prospect “buys” your sales rep’s opinions and personality, they’ll be more apt to buy your actual product. Subtlety is truly an art form, and it takes time to master.
Find the Best Sales Personalities
The goal of this list of sales personalities and sales personality traits isn’t to collate, quantify, and force every sales rep at your company into a specific bucket. People are a mixture of backgrounds, styles, and personality types, and your sales reps will all have a distinct mixture of all the personalities and traits listed here.
Use this list as a strong starting point to identify where you might lack important skill sets, opportunities to double down on effective sales personalities, and optimize your sales team’s dynamic. Discover what personality type is most important for sales at your organization, and then align your hiring efforts to recruit the best reps possible.
When you pay attention to types of sales personalities, you’ll be able to create a high-performance, powerhouse sales organization that thrives on collaboration.
Along with asking the right questions and listening to needs, successful salespeople tend to empathize with their prospects. Empathy builds trust and forges stronger, more meaningful relationships.
The ability to understand a prospects' pain points also goes a long way in creating credible solutions that result in sales.