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5 Personality Traits of a Superior Inside Sales Person


The most popular blog article I've ever written is 20 Characteristics of a Superior Inside Salesperson. In that post, I primarily covered activities and behaviors that most successful inside sales people have, relating to prospect/customer interaction, and interaction with the people with whom they work.  What I didn't address were the personality traits of a superior salesperson.

When I'm asked what personality characteristics make a good telesales person, I'm always a little leery of spilling the beans. There are companies that make a lot of money "testing" job hunters to see if they have what it takes to be a salesperson, and I think any kind of personality testing is balderdash, because of the thousands of people who've gone through my telesales training courses, loads of them broke a whole lot of rules. They would have "tested" right out the door and never gotten hired in the first place.

Nevertheless, I've noticed five personality characteristics common to many of the successful reps with whom I've worked. Warning: you may not want to live next door to these people, marry them, or discuss world politics with them. You want them on your sales team, though.

So here they are. A great sales person:

1) Is Arrogant: believing he or she is every bit as smart as any CEO in the world, and smarter than most, including the CEO of his or her own company. That's why these reps are so good at calling high. That arrogance can occasionally annoy others in the workplace, but helps the superior rep to get through the tough days when the orders aren't coming in. When something isn't working, he or she will just get creative, then go out and figure out an alternative strategy that will.

2) Is Impatient: and doesn't like anything, or anybody, getting in the way of sales. Occasionally he or she will anger co-workers and people at prospect companies that stand in the way of him or her getting to the right person on the decision team. This individual will moan and crab at co-workers that don't pass along leads fast enough, and can be an absolute nightmare to Marketing folks and IT people. CRM not working at optimum level? Your top salesperson may be the key complainer.

3) Is Messianic: he or she is absolutely driven to improve the work lives of his or her customers. That's why sometimes the rep crosses the line by continually bugging prospects about new ideas and ways to improve the prospect's bottom line. This rep may actually go to the lengths of telling the prospect that he or she is stupid for not "getting it."

4) Is Righteously Indignant: he or she will act as an advocate for customers when they have a legitimate beef with his or her company. I've seen top salespeople demand that their companies refund customers' money and take back the product months after installation if the product didn't work to spec. When the rep is successful, his or her company loses money in the short term, but gains a reputation for honesty that money can't buy.

5) Is Greedy: in enterprise selling, he or she isn't satisfied with just one product placement; he or she wants to sell every opportunity in the enterprise, all over the world, if possible. That salesperson wants tons of great leads, too, and will work them all really fast in order to get a better paycheck. This may very well cause occasional territory conflict within a sales organization. As a manager, you won't have to guess who the greedy one is: all the other reps will tell you.

Each one of these 5 personality traits has a real potential for offending someone. In my classes, I say that it's better to occasionally err on the side of aggressiveness, and when you do, you'll occasionally really annoy someone on the other end of the phone. But if you don't, you'll never know if you've stretched the envelope enough. I think annoying somebody on the phone once a year is about right, because then you'll know the limit. More than that, and you might have to scale it back a bit. The old line about it being better to ask forgiveness than permission goes a long way here.

If you're a really successful rep, I'll bet you management has called you on the carpet at least once for something related to one of the personality traits mentioned above. You may have even been nailed on them during performance reviews. I always end my blog posts with a note to apply what I've written to your own Best Practices Playbook. But not today, because these personality traits are not Best Practices. They're not the worst, either. Great salespeople aren't always the best liked, but they are totally focused on making themselves money. And if they do it honestly and ethically, they, their companies, and their customers end up in the win column.


What a truly awesome article. I am printing this off to show my boss the next time they want to speak with me! 
Bill Becker
Posted @ Monday, November 16, 2009 12:12 PM by Bill Becker
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