3 essential traits every salesperson needs

There are no hard-and-fast rules about what makes a great salesperson. In my long experience, they come in all ages and personalities, from all backgrounds and with a variety of different skills and experiences.

Great salespeople have their own influencing styles, their own strategies, and their own ways of approaching opportunities and challenges – that’s how you make interactions genuine and meaningful. However, I believe that there are three traits that every great salesperson needs to possess and continually hone.

Listening skills

We talk about the importance of having the “gift of the gab”, but as a salesperson, being able to talk at someone is simply not enough. Engaging in two-way communication is essential.

Truly listening allows you to pick up on vital cues from potential customers so you can understand their particular needs and concerns, and gain their reactions to – and feedback on – your presentation and the product your promoting.

It’s not just about their words, it’s important to acknowledge facial expressions and body language too. If you listen to both the verbal and non-verbal cues each customer is providing you can create a truly personalised customer experience for them. And that should be the aim of every salesperson.


Empathy – the ability to understand another person’s situation and feelings – is an absolute must for any salesperson.

One of the biggest challenges in a sales role is to establish trust in others that you genuinely believe in the product (or service or brand) you’re promoting and care whether it’s right for the person you’re talking to. The best salespeople understand that no one product is going to be a fit for everyone, and they know this because they have empathy – whether they realise it or not!

Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes enables you to more clearly assess their situation and what is most important to them and then provide them with the information they need to make the right purchasing decision for them.

The lovely by-product here is that, in avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach, you demonstrate your respect for and knowledge about the product. And that’s a great way to foster trust.

Product knowledge

While listening and empathy come more naturally to some people and others have to work at them, there’s absolutely no excuse for not having excellent product knowledge.

A salesperson must know everything about what they are selling. Always. There is nothing more off-putting and trust-crushing for a customer than asking a question and getting an “umm… I’m not sure”, or worse, a complete deflection from the salesperson.

A salesperson is a brand ambassador entrusted with, quite literally, embodying a given product or service. You must be a walking, talking, living, breathing version of it and, therefore, the absolute authority on the subject.

It comes down to making sure you’ve done your homework. Yes, that means taking in all the training provided, but it’s also about finding your own connection to the product – how do you relate to it? This will help you understand it on a more personal level, which will help you retain information, and create meaningful messages, about it.

Chris Niarchos is founder and chairman of The Cobra Group of Companies, a diverse portfolio of businesses, including direct sales and marketing specialist Appco, which has independent operations in more than 20 countries.