What Are the Qualities of a Good Salesman?

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Secrets of Closing the Sale" by Zig Ziglar. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are the qualities of a good salesman? How can you convince a customer to buy your product?

In Secrets of Closing the Sale, salesman and public speaker Zig Ziglar reveals how you can greatly increase your chances of closing your sales. He lists six qualities that every good salesman must exhibit to boost their sales numbers.

Here are the six qualities of a good salesman that Ziglar stands by.

Quality #1: A Strong Belief in the Product, Yourself, and the Customer

What are the qualities of a good salesman? First, to sell well, start from a rock-solid belief that your product will improve the customer’s life, stresses Ziglar. You’ll transfer this strong belief to your lead during a pitch. 

Second, develop a strong sense of your value as a salesman, recommends Ziglar. Be convinced that you have something to offer customers and that you’re there to help them. This lets you approach each pitch with confidence and bounce back from negative interactions. 

Third, believe that the lead can afford the product or service, states Ziglar. Your belief in their ability to pay carries over to the lead, who will then also believe they can afford the product. 

Quality #2: Credibility in the Eyes of the Customer

One of the most important qualities of a good salesman is credibility in the eyes of the customer, writes Ziglar. The customer must trust that you have their best interests at heart and that you’re not trying to take advantage of them. Establish credibility by helping others find success will help you, and everyone is always selling, and developing the qualities we’re currently talking about.

(Shortform note: Establishing credibility is also critical in organizational leadership, as James Kouzes and Barry Posner argue in The Leadership Challenge. Without credible leaders, there can be no trust between the company and the public. The authors break credibility into three components: honesty, competence, and inspiration. For a company to be successful, its leaders must be truthful with the public, act on their values, and always strive to do better.) 

Quality #3: A Professional Appearance

Present yourself well, insists Ziglar. Do this by being clean and good-smelling and dressing neatly and professionally, yet not showily. Think about the image you want to project to your customers—reliable, knowledgeable, experienced, and so on—and dress in a way that reflects this.

(Shortform note: While the expectation of sales attire remains formal to this day, attire in other fields has changed dramatically since the writing of this book in 1982. The shift to business casual started in the mid-eighties in Silicon Valley, where executives wanted to simplify and streamline processes, which also meant simplifying and streamlining the dress code. Still today, a low-effort dress code helps tech companies project their desired image of being efficiency-oriented—the same way a polished suit helps salespeople project the image of competence.) 

Quality #4: Empathy for the Customer

Develop empathy for your customer, advises Ziglar. Empathy is understanding how someone else feels (even if you don’t currently share that feeling) and then taking steps to help the person deal with that feeling. 

Empathy is effective in sales because leads are motivated to buy when they feel understood and cared for, claims Ziglar. Empathy also helps you create a better pitch because, by putting yourself in your customer’s shoes, you can gear your presentation to their specific needs, thereby increasing your chances of success.

Quality #5: A Positive Perspective and Attitude

Ziglar writes that you must enter a selling situation with the expectation that it will go well. When you have faith in your chances and abilities and approach the lead with a positive attitude, you greatly increase the chance of a sale. Avoid allowing negative, defensive, or combative thoughts or behaviors to seep into your sale. This will ruin your chances of selling. 

Ziglar adds that you can gain confidence in your abilities by becoming a better public speaker and an expert on your product. You also gain confidence by simply practicing selling. This confidence, in turn, will let you approach the next sale positively. 

(Shortform note: In The Confidence Code, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman agree with Ziglar that you can develop confidence, but they suggest a radically different approach to doing so. Rather than acquiring knowledge and experience, they propose you fail fast—try things with the expectation that you’ll fail so you can learn immediately from your failure. This act of taking risks and rebounding from failure builds confidence.) 

Quality #6: A Growth Mindset

Finally, the last quality of a good salesman is to always seek opportunities to grow and acquire new knowledge that makes you better at your job, writes Ziglar. Do this by consuming relevant content and media, like self-help books and podcasts.

(Shortform note: Not only should you consume content that promotes your career growth, but you should also be smart about when you consume this content, suggests Robin Sharma in Who Will Cry When You Die?. Read or listen to podcasts during unexpected downtimes, like in traffic. Prepare for this by always having reading or listening material on hand.)

What Are the Qualities of a Good Salesman?

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  • What qualities you must develop as a salesperson
  • The six common customer behaviors you must understand
  • Five rules for crafting an effective sales pitch

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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