Adapted Growth

What Makes a Sales Rep Successful

If you're wondering what makes a sales rep successful, look at the resolute bison.
Photo by Daniel Lloyd Blunk-Fernández on Unsplash


There may be a lot of debate about what makes a sales rep successful, but I believe it comes down to six traits everybody can gain or improve. I call these traits SHERPA.

SHERPA is a sort of sales approach without really being one. It’s more about communication and mindset than the “sell, sell, sell” message you get from other methods. And they combine to make it easier for people to sell better by building trust and developing relationships.

Most of the traits that form SHERPA will probably make sense without too much explanation: skeptical, helpful, empathetic, practiced, and accepting. But the R stands for Resolute, and that one might not be as obvious. 

My preferred definition of resolute is this: Admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering. The unwavering is my favorite part.

Let me explain why.


A little backstory…

During the first 12 years of my time in sales, I was always trying to be what I thought others needed. I tried to be the funny guy, the “always closing” guy, and the one who knew all the answers.

It was exhausting.

Once I started to learn about myself and discover other ways to sell, something unique started to happen.

I began to gain some ownership over my sales conversations that I didn’t have before. Suddenly, I didn’t have to pretend to be something I wasn’t. Now, I could focus on selling how I wanted to without struggling with the things that held me back in the past.

The big one was that I always felt like other people needed to like me during sales conversations. After seeing numerous salespeople close deals based (from my point of view) only on being popular and bubbly, it was frustrating. 

I’m not a bubbly guy. So I tried to compensate by forcing enthusiasm and by being knowledgeable. You’d be surprised how much energy it takes to strive to be something you’re not.

For years, I looked at other salespeople with envy. I couldn’t understand what made other salespeople more successful. It took me a long time to shift between compensation and just being myself.

Now, I know what I need to do to sell well, and I’ve found what works for me. I no longer let minor hiccups or perceived flaws beat me down. No matter how crappy my day has been, I can rely on being unwaveringly myself, which will help me push through.


What makes a sales rep successful? Look into Stoicism.


For me, ‘resolute’ comes from the Stoic idea that each day is worth pushing to the fullest because tomorrow is not promised. Be unwavering in your commitment to making this day the best day possible. There is a lot of overlap between this idea and good selling.

Another phrase in the definition of resolute is admirably purposeful, which means being intentional to me. Selling with intention can make an enormous difference, especially since so few salespeople practice it.

First, there’s the intentional focus or motivation you bring into each conversation. Is it to close the deal? Or is it to help the other person? 

To be a Sales Sherpa, your motivation should be to help. Putting their needs before your own enables you to build more trust and close more deals than being pushy ever will. 

Then there’s the intention you put behind your process and day-to-day activities.


Are you just winging it?

Too many salespeople think “they’re fine” and don’t need a sales process. They go into situations just winging it. But if that’s you, you’re doing both yourself and your prospect a disservice.

The more prepared you are, the more rewarding each conversation becomes. 

Winging it usually means taking their time for granted. Maybe yours too. These days, pretty much everyone is always busy. Wasting time on a call might mean you won’t get to talk to them again for weeks, months, or maybe never. 

Winging it also makes it hard for people to trust you.

Let’s say you didn’t:

  • prepare for the call,
  • have the resources you need,
  • or follow a process that helps the conversion run smoothly.

Then it’ll be difficult for your prospects to be confident in your abilities or knowledge.


A Good Salesperson Follows a Process


Resolutely following your sales processes helps you keep all the balls in the air.

Not only will you be consistently prepared for your sales conversations, but you’ll also remember to do everything you need to do outside of those chats. You’ll never forget to send an invoice again, and you won’t miss scheduled meetings.

Most importantly, keeping everything in one place (such as your CRM) will help keep your team and managers on the same page.

Your process will also help ensure you ask all the questions you need to qualify your prospects properly. Do they have a budget that works for you? Will your product or service actually help them? Are there other decision-makers you should talk to? How and how often do they want to be able to contact you? Things like that.

Because lastly, being resolute means being determined to uphold your standards and increase your accountability in sales.


Build a Better Qualified Client Base


If you’ve been selling for a while, especially in the same industry or company, you probably know who your best clients are. Even if you’re new, you can ask the marketing department or anybody else in the company to help you define your target audience. 

Yet, even though almost every company has a “client avatar” or something similar, it can be challenging to risk losing a deal by going for the no. 

But if you want the most qualified clients, that’s what you have to do. 

Likewise, you want to be the best fit for your clients. When there’s client alignment—the connection between you and the clients you can deliver the best results for—it’s a special feeling. 

Your boss will love you. The fulfillment side will love you. And best of all, the client will love you!

You cannot expect a perfect fit every time, but the closer you get, the better. 

On the other hand, when you don’t tell unqualified clients, “I don’t think we’re going to be a good fit for each other,” and you close the deal knowing it might turn sour, you’re hurting everybody. 

Sure, that may be more money on your commission check. But it’s wasted time and effort for the client and your company on a product or service your company doesn’t provide the way the client expects. You risk negatively affecting the reputation of your workplace if the client leaves a bad review.

And if it happens too often, you’ll gain the ire of your coworkers, and the next round of company turnover might include you. 

Being resolute in your sales process leads to being unwavering in your qualification process. Over time, you’ll gain more confidence in sales that will help you in every aspect, from price positioning to tracking KPIs.


Being Resolute Leads to Better Selling

When thinking about what makes a sales rep successful, being resolute is probably the easiest to misunderstand.

It’s really not about being stubborn or inflexible.

Of course, you’ll have to accommodate people’s expectations here and there, and you’ll have to shift your process at times. But your confidence in yourself and your abilities will allow you to make those choices on a case-by-case basis, not because you feel like you have to. 

Be resolute in yourself. Your prospects will trust you more and appreciate it in many ways. And the ones that don’t probably wouldn’t be a good fit anyway.


Ready to learn more about what makes a sales rep successful?

Find out what being a Sales Sherpa means and how this sales method can help you improve all your relationships.

The S in SHERPA stands for Skeptical, the (positive!) mindset you need to have effective sales conversations.

H stands for Helpful because your intent drives your ability to be the best salesperson you can be.  

One of the most essential characteristics of successful salespeople is Empathy.

P represents Practiced since learning anything takes practice, including becoming a successful sales rep

The last letter in SHERPA stands for Accepting because it’s one of the most valuable traits a successful salesperson can have.