What Makes A Good Salesman

What makes a good salesman

When asked to come up with a description of the stereotypical Salesman, it’s easy to assume that those with the loud-mouth, back-slapping wheeler, and dealer personality are the ideal candidates for any Sales position. However, a famous study in the Harvard Business Review titled, “What Makes a Good Salesman”, debunks this assumption by showing that even the most mellow, introverted personality can succeed in Sales as long as they have a strong combination of two key characteristics: Empathy and Ego-Drive.


Empathy is the ability to feel like those around you are feeling. Salesmen need to possess this trait in order to determine how to customize each Sales pitch to the needs of the customer. Every customer is different, and what might be a relevant selling point to one individual may not be to another. The Salesman must possess the ability to feel the emotions of others in order to evaluate the effectiveness their sales pitch has on the customer and whether they should take a different plan of action. Salesman with the strong ability to empathize with their clients will be more successful in establishing trust due to their understanding of how their client is feeling.


Although the Salesman must possess the ability to empathize, they must also possess an innate desire to close the deal as if their life depended on it. The Sales industry has a stigma to it due to the fact that some are willing to engage in unethical behavior in order to close their leads. This causes the building of defensive walls by the customer who fears that the Salesman may not have their best interest in mind. Salesmen must possess the desire to put as much work as possible, within ethical limits, into closing their leads. Getting over that defensive wall is very difficult and requires a self-motivated, disciplined Salesman who feels the need to close the deal not just for the money, but for the feeling of achievement. If one does not possess a strong desire to close their leads they will not be able to get over that hurdle built by their clients.

While the wheeler and dealer persona will continue to dominate the reputation of Salespeople in the popular media, we now understand that one who possesses this personality may not be the most successful in sales. The top salesman in any firm are those who possess a strong combination of Empathy and Ego-drive, and even the most mellow individual can possess a high dosage of both of these qualities.

Article by Benny K.


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