Inspired Incentives

Salespeople — What Makes Them Tick?

Posted by Devin Ferreira

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 @ 11:30 AM

What makes a good salesperson? What is it about the sales mentality, the attitude of selling, that makes salespeople unique members of the workforce? Obviously, these are big questions with complex answers, and one successful salesperson isn’t identical to another. With that being said, however, a number of studies do seem to point to a collection of characteristics that predisposes one to the artful act of selling.

For example, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), a good salesperson will be in possession of the following two basic qualities:

(1) Empathy:Having empathy does not necessarily mean being sympathetic. One can know what the other fellow feels without agreeing with that feeling. But a salesman simply cannot sell well without the invaluable and irreplaceable ability to get a powerful feedback from the client through empathy.”


(2) Ego drive: “His feeling must be that he has to make the sale; the customer is there to help him fulfill his personal need. . . . To the top salesman, the sale—the conquest—provides a powerful means of enhancing his ego. His self-picture improves dramatically by virtue of conquest.”  

In effect, these two qualities are the buckets into which all other subordinate sales attributes fall. To reinforce this theory, HMI went ahead and posed the original question to its top salespeople, and the consensus indeed echoed the HBR study:

  • According to HMI sales reps, successful salespeople are highly competitive(2), with a tendency towards perfectionism(2).


  • They are adaptable to each client’s subjective situation(1), and this includes being capable of understanding diverse business models, communicating in the jargon of various industries, and developing creative solutions to different client challenges(1).


  • Finally, salespeople possess a preternatural sense of ownership and responsibility for their work which makes them incredibly results-oriented(2); thus, their success can often be determined by their ability to maintain confidence in the face of disappointment and constant rejection(2).


All of the above holds true for HMI’s incentive sales force, with one added wrinkle: unlike a raw commodity, which may limit the creative scope of a sales strategy, selling an incentive solution requires a more consultative—and thus more empathetic—approach. These unique industry demands have shaped HMI’s salespeople into a team that is flexible and dynamic, able to tailor innovative incentive solutions to match the special needs of its clients. Innovative products, after all, require innovative salespeople, and with HMI, that’s exactly what you can expect.

HBR Study:

Topics: Sales Growth

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