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Two Key Character Traits of Successful Salespeople

There are two primary character traits that almost guarantee success in salespeople. Of course, they need to have people skills first and foremost, but assuming they do, these two character traits usually seal the deal. Salespeople who possess these two character traits will move heaven and earth to reach success and if they have these, they’ll also have most of the other qualities you want in top producers. In addition, you won’t have to babysit them to make sure they’re doing what they should be doing; they’ll do what they should be doing automatically, provided of course, you’ve given them proper direction on what their most important activities are and the support to do them.


So, what are these two traits? They are the same two traits that make overall great human beings, great companies, and also great countries. In fact, people, companies and countries that lack these two traits will never achieve long-term success. And while short-term financial success may be possible without these, the long-term effect will ultimately be failure. These two traits are responsibility and accountability.

Above and Beyond

Responsible and accountable salespeople see themselves as self-employed even if they are technically an employee of a company. They treat the company as if it were their own. They understand that they are responsible and accountable to “Me Inc.” and not only do they put in the necessary effort and make the necessary sales, they go above and beyond, making more calls and more sales. They also go above and beyond and deliver more for their clients.


The responsible and accountable salesperson realizes that their professional and personal development is ultimately up to them. Hopefully, the company provides the tools, resources, sales and product training and support necessary to do the job, but where the company falls short, the responsible and accountable salespeople will pick up the slack. If they don’t know something, they take it upon themselves to find out. If they feel they are lacking in any area, they take it upon themselves to fill in the gaps and acquire the necessary skills. They don’t blame their manager or the company for not giving them what they need to succeed. Even if the level of training and support is the highest possible, they still look for additional sales training and professional development outside of what the company provides.


In addition to professional growth, responsible and accountable salespeople also makes sure they are growing personally. They take care of their physical and mental health and work on personal relationships and all other aspects of a well-rounded life. Overall, they realize that the best investment is the one you make in yourself, and they are willing to make the time and financial investments to become the best they can be.


Salespeople who are responsible and accountable realize they are responsible and accountable to themselves first and foremost. They realize that they made a promise and commitment when they took the job, and it is on them to do what they said they would do and to perform the job at the highest level possible. They are also responsible and accountable to their boss and other people in the organization, but they realize that the buck stops with them. As the famous basketball player Julius “Dr. J” Erving once said, “I push myself harder than anyone else can possibly push me.” This comment ultimately highlights the fact that no one can hold you accountable and be responsible for you like you can. You are with yourself 24 hours a day, so only you truly know your commitment level.   

Aim for Success

So, if you’re a salesperson, take 100% responsibility and accountability for success. Own it completely. By the way, have you ever noticed that the most successful salespeople are always the most successful? It doesn’t matter what happens with the market, the economy, competition, governments regulations, you name it, they always find a way to succeed. That’s because they are accountable and responsible, they realize that nothing outside of them determines their success or failure, it’s completely up to them.


If you’re in sales management and/or you hire salespeople, keep in mind that like work ethic and good people skills, people either come to you with accountability and responsibility, or they don’t. You want to test for these during the hiring process. Give potential new hires assignments during the hiring process, and then pay attention to their follow-up and follow through. These could be people to call, items to read and report on and other similar activities. Do they do what they’re supposed to do on a timely basis? Are they thorough? Do they need to be micromanaged or reminded? How do they follow directions? How would you grade them on a scale of one to 10?


Also, ask questions in the interview to determine whether or not the person you’re interviewing has these traits. When you ask people about their past failings, challenges they’ve had with other people and other difficult situations they’ve encountered in life, you’re looking for people who take responsibility, not those that blame other people, situations and outside circumstances for what happened. I think it’s interesting that seemingly upstanding, honest people of integrity are willing to make all sorts of promises and agree to certain standards during the interview process, then once on board they have no problem taking your money while not coming close to living up to those promises and standards. You want to find out who these people are before you hire them.


By the way, the biggest issues I see with sales teams revolve around responsibility and accountability. It usually shows up in salespeople who don’t take personal responsibility for their success and a management team that fails to hold them accountable to high standards. If your company has salespeople who personally take responsibility and hold themselves accountable, you will eliminate the biggest problems found in sales teams.

John Chapin is a motivational sales speaker, coach and trainer. For his free e-book, “30 Ideas to Double Sales” and monthly article, or to have him speak at your next event, go to He has over 33 years of sales experience as a number one sales rep and is the author of the 2010 sales book of the year, “Sales Encyclopedia” (Axiom Book Awards). Contact him at or (508) 243.7359.


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