A car salesman is trying to sell a car to a female customer.

12 Characteristics of a Successful Sales Professional

Do you enjoy sales and want to become a better salesperson? Becoming a seasoned, experienced, and educated sales professional doesn't happen overnight. But there are many ways to polish up on your sales skills, no matter if you have no experience or 10 years of experience.

Whether you're selling a top-of-the-line form of technology during a tense meeting, an everyday service over the phone, or a homemade product at a local farmer's market, having the right characteristics to successfully sell your product is key.

Here are 12 successful sales characteristics

Understand the product and its benefits

If you don't know a lot about the product you're selling, chances are that it will show. To keep from embarrassing yourself while trying to sell an item, make sure you know pretty much everything about it. Know how to use it, know why you'd want to use it, and anticipate additional questions the potential customer might ask during your pitch. It especially helps if you're passionate about the product you're selling. A story about how you or your family members use the product will make it more personal rather than transactional.

Know the customer before you pitch them

First of all, who is the audience of your product? A lot of products aren't for everyone, whether it's because of age, gender, or location. Understand who would benefit from this product, and start there. Next, if you're pitching a product to a specific company, make sure you know about the company you're pitching to. This will help address why the company should buy this product. They might be impressed by your research, but they definitely won't be if you know nothing about them.

Have your customer's best interests in mind

Once you understand your customer, know what their needs are. This will help you connect that need to the product or service you're selling. If you're trying to sell something to someone who won't benefit from it, you should probably spend your time elsewhere, with someone who would actually benefit from whatever you're trying to sell. Because even if you talk them into the product, is it really ethical to sell them an item they won't use?

Don't be too pushy

If there's one common complaint about salespeople, it's that some of them are way too pushy. Even though your salary might depend on a sale, that doesn't mean you should be overly aggressive. Depending on your company's training, you might have a couple of follow-up points if the potential customer isn't interested. But if they really aren't interested, and they are starting to get annoyed or angry, it's probably time to move on. It's best to take into consideration the body language and tone of the people you're pitching to.

Don't try to rush trust

A huge part of connecting with a potential client or customer is building trust with them, especially if it's an ongoing professional relationship or an expensive product. Trust is something that might take a little time to build, especially when someone is going to invest their money in what you have, so don't rush the process. If you're patient and build that trust, you could potentially land a great deal. If not, and if rapport isn't built, you could lose that sale.

Be friendly

Along with not being pushy and giving trust time to build, a successful sales professional should also be friendly. Friendliness can go a long way, especially if you're trying to build trust with someone for present and future sales. Start the conversation with an ice breaker, or simply introduce yourself. Be sure to ask them questions rather than just jumping straight into your pitch.

Gain experience within sales

Sales is not something most people can just jump into and automatically be successful at. Succeeding in sales takes experience. After all, sales takes courage, determination, and patience. To gain sales experience, start with a sales internship or an intro-level sales position. These opportunities usually come with hands-on sales training, which is important to gather if you want a long, successful career in sales.

Always have an elevator pitch

As a salesperson, chances are that you'll always be on the lookout for a new customer. You never know when you're going to run into someone who might be interested in purchasing your product or service. Because of that, it's important to prepare a casual elevator pitch about your product. If you run into someone looking for a new service provider, and you happen to provide that service, you can naturally generate a conversation and pique their interest. Whether you're chatting with someone in line at the grocery store, making conversation at a ballgame, or actually sharing an elevator with them, you'll be ready.

Be educated about sales principles

If you want to establish a successful career in sales, you need quality experience and education to get you there. There are many online sales degree programs, along with online sales certificates. Colorado Christian University offers an Associate of Science in Marketing and Sales, a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Sales, and a Marketing and Sales Certificate. If you've already earned a bachelor's degree, you could also benefit from the online MBA program, which will come in handy in a sales career.

Set professional goals

Whether you are a sales professional for a large company or your own business, it's vital to set sales goals. This will keep you in line with the amount of products or services you need to sell. Setting goals will also help you stay on track and stay focused on your end goal.

Look the part

No matter what you're selling, it's always good to look professional. Depending on the product and where you're pitching it, be sure to dress more business than casual. Make sure that whatever you're wearing is clean, ironed, and isn't distracting. You don't necessarily have to wear a suit or formal dress unless you're heading into a boardroom for a formal pitch meeting.

Always be one step ahead

Being a successful sales professional means that you have to be quick on your feet and be one step ahead of the company or person you're pitching to. This means you should always be prepared, have samples ready if you can, and have some CTA (call to action) ready. Did you give them your information? Do you have theirs? Do you have a plan for following up? Think these items through before your pitch.


Colorado Christian University does not guarantee any job placement as a result of earning this or any other degrees offered by the university.

Interested in learning more about becoming a successful sales professional? Earn an online sales degree through CCU's College of Adult and Graduate Studies.

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