The Four Critical
Traits of Sales Success
By Tom Caso of KASH Associates
Regardless of the product or service sold, the markets served,
or current business climate, a certain percentage of sales people always find a way to succeed. This is readily observed
across all professional sales forces irrespective of industry or profession, where the top quarter of the sales force consistently
bring in more that half of the business. Back in the mid-sixties, The New Psychology of Persuasion and Motivation in Selling
(Prentiss Hall, Inc. 1965) defined this phenomenon as
“the “X” factor in salesmanship – that unknown but important
factor which makes “the” difference between the top 25 per cent of the sales[people] who consistently bring in 50 to 60 per
cent of the orders and the “average producers” who sell only one-third as much. Standard aptitude and qualifications testing,
using conventional standards, consistently failed to disclose any significant variables in “sales personality,” “sales training,”
or “technical knowledge,” between the “top producers” and “average” sales[people].”
Today, Ron Willingham, the
author and founder of Integrity Systems, Inc. ®, has identified four factors that are critical to sales success. With well
over thirty years of research to back-up his observations, and over a million and a half course graduates of his programs,
Ron has isolated these traits as extent in all top producers. What follows is a brief description of the “Four Traits”.
1) GOAL CLARITY
In order to hit any target, one must know exactly what he is aiming at. This is especially
true in sales. These goals must be clearly defined in writing with a specific timetable to measure results and to make any
necessary adjustments along the way. These are not just production goals of dollars earned, or units sold at the end of any
given production cycle. While these objectives may be helpful, they do not constitute, in and of themselves, goal clarity.
In the short term, I recommend daily or weekly activity goals. These help breakdown the required activities that are needed
to set-up a “contract of commitment” with yourself to reach your desired results. Coupled with this, one should have and
keep in mind the rewards of success that come from accomplishing your goals. This is not just an earnings figure, but rather
the personal things that success will bring you upon hitting this figure: material goods, financial freedom, travel and leisure,
time for hobbies, sports, adventure, or church ministry; in short, whatever you value. Visualizing these things in clear
mental pictures will provide the target that your “goal seeking mechanism” will aim at and hit.
Colin Powell, former Secretary of State and former Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, used to talk about leadership
being a “force multiplier”. In sales, achievement drive is the “force multiplier”. Simply put, if you add up the score
of all the positive traits and activities that bring sales success, achievement drive is the multiplier in the sales power
formula. Strangely enough, it is not solely based upon a will to succeed, but rather a way we internally picture ourselves
as successful salespeople. It cannot be “learned” in a textbook or classroom, but must be developed over time. The developmental
methodology includes a supportive environment, practice and repetition, reward, and reinforcement. When one sees him or herself
as worthy and deserving of sales success, the self-image is intact, and the imagination is free to conceive of limitless possibilities
of achievement. “Nothing succeeds like success,” and nothing contributes more to success than achievement drive.
Here’s another one of those traits that cannot be “learned” but must be developed. I grant you, that some seem
born with these gifts of knowing just what to say and when to say it without the hint of self-consciousness or awkwardness.
But for the rest of us, we can improve our social skills through active listening, empathizing, being genuinely interested
in what others have to say, and not worrying about how we are coming across. Contrived behavior is immediately spotted and
discounted as manipulative and phony. Ironically, “trying” to be clever and say just the right thing for effect can often
result in creating the opposite impression. If one, on the other hand, has genuine concern for the other guy and the sole
motive is to bring value and solve problems for our prospects, then that creates an atmosphere of trust where we can be our
natural true selves. A good way to start sensitizing ourselves is to practice Ron Willingham’s four action guides from Integrity
Selling ® on how to approach people:
1. Tune the world out and people in.
2. Put them at ease and make them
3. Get them talking about themselves
4. Hold eye contact and listen to how they feel.
Emotions are a two-edged sword. They can drive us toward action or paralyze us in fear and self-pity.
The Book of Proverbs tells us that a man that governs his own soul is mightier than one who rules a city. Too much euphoria
can be as damaging as discouragement. Emotional Intelligence or “EQ” is that trait which signals maturity and steadiness
with our feelings. It’s yet another trait that cannot be “learned” and it’s no secret that some personality styles gravitate
more easily to equilibrium. But, if we are to consistently succeed, this trait must be developed. It’s not easy, but one
can be trained regardless of circumstances, such as a huge sale or a long dry spell, to hold spirits in check and consistently
practice constructive selling behaviors and actions. For example, don’t stop for the day when you finally land that big account,
or don’t go into a funk of inaction when in a sales slump. Yes, easier said than done. This is why “EQ” must be developed
over time with practice. Certainly we are not prescribing a personality transplant here, but rather a “tempering” of interfering
emotions by practice, repetition, reward and a seeking out of a supportive network of friends and colleagues that hold us
accountable. These are the people that will celebrate with us, commiserate with us, and then call up the best in us to continue
our journey. If you don’t have people like this in your life, find them.
The “knowing” about above traits
will not necessarily bring sales success, and may even inoculate us (thinking that we already possess them) from taking the
steps necessary to develop them. Only diligent practice and development over time will guarantee success.
the Author: Tom Caso is the former Director of Sales Training of BNA Inc., a Washington DC based business and legal publisher.
He is currently a Business Associate of Integrity Systems ® and is the Principal of KASH Associates, a sales productivity
consulting group headquartered in Centreville, VA.