The best salespeople don’t rely on luck. They take pride in their skills and performance and work hard to succeed in their chosen market.

So how do they do it?

Sales expert Joseph Curtis reveals in HBR the five habits or characteristics that separate the best from the rest.

1. The best salespeople own what they do

The most significant difference between perennial top performers and the rest is attitude. Elite salespeople approach their goals with a total ownership mindset. Anything that happens to them, whether or not it was their doing, is controlled by them. It may not be their fault, but it is their responsibility.

Research psychologists call this the internal locus of control. That’s a fancy way of saying that you think the power lies inside of you instead of externally. And having an internal locus of control correlates with success at work, higher income, and greater health outcomes.

How can you assess your ownership mindset? Ask yourself these questions: How did I get here? Did I build the right relationships? Did I put in the extra work? Did I speak up? Did I blame others for my failures but take credit for my successes?

2. The best salespeople are resourceful

Like everyone else, the best sales people face difficult situations and time pressures. But elite salespeople almost always figure it out. Such resourcefulness is as much a mindset as it is a skill.

As an exercise, when you face your next challenging situation, put your phone down, close your computer, re-focus, and apply your energy to find multiple alternative routes to your desired destination. Resourceful people also draw on others for help. So, find a colleague and brainstorm a solution.

3. The best salespeople are experts

Elite salespeople have knowledge and experience. Gaining industry knowledge and a strong point of view about the products they’re selling should be the top priority for any aspiring salesperson.

Study. Learn. Form an opinion. Expertise leads to confidence, which leads to trust, which leads to sales.

4. The best salespeople help others

The best salespeople regularly pass their knowledge on to others with no expectation of anything in return. Such generous giving can build your confidence and will definitely improve your relationships with others.

Givers are also more likely to become leaders. In fact, on researcher found that people who are social support providers at work (“work altruists”) are a whopping 40 per cent more likely to receive a promotion.

5. The best salespeople move quickly

The best salespeople have a sense of urgency. They don’t procrastinate. They get back to their clients or customers promptly whether or not they have all the information they need. Such promptness, coupled with friendliness, builds strong client relationships that can translate into sales—and make your job more rewarding.


The best salespeople take responsibility for what they do, are resourceful, are experts in their field, generously help others, and don’t procrastinate.


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