Two Exceptional Traits of Great Salespeople

The best salespeople share certain characteristics. Some of these traits aren’t popular, but it’s my experience that they are necessary. Here are two of the biggest.


The first attribute is combativeness.

I have never had a top producing salesperson who wasn’t combative. I don’t mean competitive; that’s something different. I mean that they were willing to fight, to argue their point, to go to battle for what they wanted.

The best-performing salespeople I have ever led fought with me over things they believed to be important. They argued with me over strategy, tactics, customers, deals, and execution. They were productive arguments, constructive disagreements, not just arguments for argument’s sake.

These same salespeople argued with clients too. They argued about what the client needed to change. They fought for the things they needed to gain a competitive advantage. They fearlessly defended their pricing, not in a way that destroyed relationships, but in a way that honored the relationship.

They also fought for their clients when operational changes were needed. If they needed to ruffle feathers, feathers were ruffled. If they need to go up the org chart to get changes, up they would go. This doesn’t mean that they weren’t also capable of being extremely nice, extraordinarily charming, and that they didn’t also show appreciation for the work that the people on their teams did to support them and their clients. It doesn’t mean that didn’t work well with others all the time, nor does it mean they didn’t collaborate.

Every high performing salesperson I have ever managed was difficult to “manage.” But this “downside” comes with a major advantage. And this brings us to the second attribute.

Desire to be Led

The second attribute was that these salespeople are easy to lead. You don’t really manage top producers; you lead them.

These high-performers didn’t need me to motivate them to do their jobs. They didn’t need me to tell them what to do. All they needed to know was their goal and our strategy to win. Once they were given direction, they managed themselves. They want to be led. They want to win. They want everyone to play as hard as they do.

Being successful requires that you sometimes make people uncomfortable, that you have the difficult conversations, and that you fight for what you believe to be right.

Are you too worried about being perceived in some way that you avoid these things?

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