What is good selling?

I have often wondered what exactly is the magic quality that makes great sales people. Here’s seven emerging sales competencies. Like many people, I have always been curious about what makes “great sales performance”. This is a perplexing question that has been asked and attempted to be answered by many people over the years.


Also, are great sales people born? (most people believe this to be true – but it’s not). What does it take to be an elite sales performer, and can anyone learn how to sell well?

Many people have looked for one magic quality, one key ingredient that distinguished top performing sales people from all others – a magic ingredient with which only the special are anointed.


Here are some of those qualities that have been espoused as the one and only magic quality:


  • Not call-reluctant.
  • Resilient.
  • Extroverted.
  • Persuasive.
  • A good talker.


The trouble with taking a singular approach to defining high level sales performance is that it assumes there is a one-size-fits-all approach to sales, and only those people with that ‘special” quality can sell. This is certainly not the case.


This singular approach minimises and trivialises the complexity that is inherent in effective selling and disregards the constant adjustment needed to meet changing industry standards, market conditions, competition, corporate strategy and culture, personalities involved and so on.


Just think about how the role of “sales” has changed in your industry over the years.

If we wanted to try and isolate one quality above all others I would have to highlight trust.


Great sales people have always known that their success lies in being able to sell based on trust, transparency and doing what they say they will do.


But how do you build trust? That involves many qualities working in an integrated fashion. Effective selling is an integrated system that uses a variety of skills, behaviours and knowledge. Based on study findings from here and overseas, our research into sales competencies has revealed some interesting findings.


While traditional competencies such as basic selling skills and account management are required, they do not differentiate top sales performers from poor or average sales performers.


A US longitudinal study released in 2001 by Bernard Rosenbaum, “Seven Emerging Sales Competencies” revealed nine sales competencies: seven emerging and two traditional. The findings cut across all industries, contradicting the assumption that successful sales practices vary among different industries.


Highest performing sales people develop and use the seven emerging competencies despite the fact they may not have been modeled by their managers – many managers still do not fully recognise these competencies.

Although essential to performance, the two traditional competencies showed little differentiation between high and low sales performers. Successful sales people are not constrained by traditional practices, but work instead in ways they have found best.


The seven emerging competencies are:


  • Engaging in self-appraisal and continuous learning.
  • Listening beyond product needs.
  • Orchestrating internal resources.
  • Aligning customer/supplier strategic objectives.
  • Establishing a vision of a committed customer/supplier relationship.
  • Understanding the financial impacts of decisions.
  • Consultative problem solving.


The most interesting finding was that gender differences in sales competencies were found, with women rated significantly more highly than men on five of the emerging competencies. The author suggests this is reason to have a gender-balanced sales team.




Sue Barrett is Founder & Managing Director of Barrett Pty Ltd, an Australian-based sales fitness firm that helps businesses build high performing sales teams, and is author of ‘Sell Like a Woman’.



For more Sell Like a Woman blogs, click here.



Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: support@smartcompany.com.au or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.