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The Virtues of Great B2B Salespeople

A few weeks back, I wrote an article, The 7 Deadly Sins of B2B Sales. It generated some good discussion and prompted my friend, Ian Meharg to ask…”What about the virtues?”

My article on the 7 Deadly Sins was intended to help those of us in sales identify common failings in the way we approach our craft. But of course, those that sell well, with a focus on delivering quality outcomes for their client, do have a long list of virtues. I even penned a piece some years back suggesting politicians could learn a lot from how we go about our trade.

So, what are the virtues of great salespeople? What good moral behaviours do they exhibit that makes them successful. Behaviours that lead to being trusted by their prospects, clients and peers.

“The time is always right to do the right thing”

Martin Luther King

Ian Meharg didn’t just pose the question, he delivered a number of suggestions on what the 7 Virtues of Sales might be. I’ve added my thoughts…plus 3 more to give us a Top 10 Virtues of B2B Salespeople Perhaps we should have titled this article, The 10 Commandments od B2B Sales.

1.        Humility: Required to be able to accept you don’t know everything, are willing to ask and learn from others.

WM – It is said that to be successful in sales, a good dose of empathy and ego is required. I agree. Empathy to take a walk in our customer’s shoes and ego have the self-belief to be able to pick ourselves up from the inevitable knock-backs.

However, too large an ego tends to make us defensive and that is not a virtue that will help you gain the respect and trust of our prospects and clients.

When dealing with buyers, we need to lay our egos to one side. We’ll need it later when we are rejected.

2.        Integrity: Required in order to that you can gain respect and repeat business. You don’t lie, over promise or under deliver. The absolute bedrock on which trust is built.

WM – To sell with integrity we need to believe in our company, our product and ourselves.

We need to qualify opportunities early and walk away from those where we cannot deliver the best outcome for the prospect.

We must only sell what is truly best for prospects.

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching”

C. S. Lewis

3.        Resilience: The ability to bounce back from constant rejection and objection without being bitter or cynical, to keep on going but also having the sense to know when it is a lost cause

WM – I mentioned this trait when I referred to ego in trait #1. As salespeople, we need a healthy dose of ego, but more importantly, we need to be resilient.

I can’t think of another career choice that would face the same level of rejection of the of us in sales. According to a Rain Sales Training survey, B2B salespeople lost, on average, 53% of deals. Those not considered to be elite or top performers lost 60%. And on average, 25% of deals were lost to ‘no decision’ by the prospect.

How many in other careers could continue to pick themselves up from such rejection?

4.        Persistence: having the energy to keep trying and not being halted at the first obstacle. A close relative of resilience

WM – The resilient salesperson can pick themselves up, brush themselves down and start all over again. (credit Nat King Cole). Those of us that do learn from our losses and mistakes and strive not to make the same ones twice. We maintain an inner drive to improve and don’t internalise these knock-backs as negative energy.

“6 times down, 7 times up”

Japanese proverb

5.        Empathy: Natural ability to relate to people without either feeling sorry for them or looking down at them. Enables you to see things from the customer’s perspective.

WM – There’s a lot been written about EQ, emotional intelligence, and its importance in selling. And at the heart of EQ is empathy…the ability to take a real walk in our prospects or customers shoes…to appreciate and share the other person’s feelings. In sales this could be the pain they are feeling related to problems, or the enthusiasm they have to take on a new project. Demonstrating empathy helps build trust in our relationships.

6.        Patience: The confidence to allow the customer time to work in his way whilst keeping things moving to satisfy your manager.

WM – Don’t rush the process, don’t push the close. And don’t always try to make the end of month number (sales managers, please take note)

The most successful B2B salespeople take time to understand their prospect – their business, their market, their competition, the buyers.

They have taken time to research the opportunity.

Sellers all too often pitch their product or service before taking their prospect on a thinking journey…a journey from the ‘now’ to a more valuable fire state.

We need to earn the right to talk solutions and to do this one needs the patience of a saint.

7.        Magnanimity: Able to give credit to others and not always hogging the spotlight. Being gracious in defeat as well as victory.

WM – Aristotle saw magnanimity as the ‘crowing virtue’ and beyond what is possible for the average person. So, are magnanimous salespeople above average? If we look at a common definition, the magnanimous salesperson has and shows a generous and kind nature. To me, this needs to be a trait of all salespeople, not just those ‘above average’.

“It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit”

Harry Truman, 33rd President of the USA

Thanks for those 7 Virtues, Ian. And my 3 makes 10…

8.        Honesty: A foundation to trust. And trust is essential for success in sales. Whether online or in-person, any untruth will catch us out. Maybe not immediately, but eventually. Being honest builds trust, encourages transparency and open communication, builds a positive reputation, grows loyalty and creates opportunities. Need I say more?

9.        Confidence: Confident salespeople know their company, their product or service, their prospect or client, the domain in which they work; and themselves.

We don’t need to close deals that are not a good fit for both parties as we know there are better ones to come. We believe in ourselves. If a salesperson is not confident in themselves, how can we expect buyers to be?

”Sales are contingent on the attitude of the salesperson – not the attitude of the prospect”

Dr Tony Alessandra

10.     Accountability: Just as Ian suggested magnanimity, to give credit where it is due, the inverse is just as important a trait in good salespeople. Good salespeople don’t shirk responsibility. We don’t take credit for others’ efforts and we do not blame others for our errors.

Oh, and we should never forget…Courage.

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point”

C. S. Lewis

So there’re my, and Ian’s, Top 10 Virtues of B2B Salespeople…plus 1.

What have we missed?  Have we given too much credit to the sales profession?  We’d welcome your thoughts.


This article was originally posted on LinkedIn 15/12/21

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