12 Most Essential Attributes of the Best B2B Salespeople

12 Most Essential Attributes of the Best B2B Salespeople

There are certain attributes that B2B salespeople must possess in order to succeed. Most of the attributes are the very same attributes that are shared by all successful people across many endeavors. With these attributes, you are certain to succeed in sales. Without them, selling well is difficult (and without a few of them, impossible).

This list of the 12 Most Essential Attributes for B2B Salespeople. They are hierarchical, each one being necessary in order to posses the ones that follow.

1. Self-Discipline (The Ability to Keep One’s Commitments to One’s Self)

The cornerstone of success for all people in all walks of life is their ability to first keep the commitments that they make to themselves. Without this attribute, you are unable to keep the commitments you make to others.

2. Optimism (A Positive Mental Attitude)

To succeed in sales, you have to believe even when the odds are stacked against you. You have to be able to hear the word “no,” without feeling any sense of discouragement. You have to believe things will always improve and that you have the power to make things better than they are.

3. Competitiveness (A Desire to Win)

Sales is a zero sum game. When one salesperson wins, the rest of the salespeople lose. Salespeople that possess a competitive nature relish the competition. This competitiveness underlies and drives their actions.

4. Initiative (The Ability to Take Action)

Initiative is the ability to take action proactively. It means taking action before any action is required or necessary. Taking initiative is the defining attribute of professionals, and it creates opportunities that wouldn’t exist without it.

5. Resourcefulness (The Ability to Find a Way, or to Make One)

Succeeding in sales requires that the salesperson is creative. They need to be resourceful, bringing the creativity, their imagination, and their ability to identify possibilities to bear on their client’s problems, challenges, and opportunities. They find a way to get a result where it has been impossible for others.

6. Determination (The Ability to Persevere)

Call it persistence, intestinal fortitude, doggedness, or resolve; it’s a required attribute for B2B salespeople. This determination is required to persist in the effort to obtain new clients and to serve them after they have been acquired. The best persevere.

7. Caring (A Desire to Achieve a Positive Outcome for Others)

The best and most successful salespeople have the desire and the ability to create positive outcomes for others. The real foundation of trust that is built between a salesperson and their client is built on the salesperson caring about the client’s outcome.

8. Empathy (The Ability to Connect with Others)

The most effective salespeople have the ability to connect with others on a very real and very human level. This connection is built on the salesperson’s empathy and emotional intelligence. This is also a foundation of trust and long-term relationships.

9. Communication (The Ability to Listen and Explain Ideas)

Great salespeople have the ability to speak well and to communicate their ideas. But this skill is meaningless without the ability to first listen effectively. The very best B2B salespeople are extraordinary communicators, and even more extraordinary listeners.

10. Confidence (Belief in One’s Self)

The belief in one’s self precedes the ability to help others. Confident in their ability to help their clients, effective salespeople give their clients the ability to believe in them. They know that they can make a difference.

11. Influence (The Ability to Persuade Others)

This isn’t tactical. There are no tactics for creating real influence. Being someone worth following, worth listening to, and worth trusting is what creates real influence. Influence is the sum total of all of the preceding attributes.

12. Passionate Engagement (The 12th Attribute)

None of the preceding attributes mean anything if they aren’t employed to make a difference for others. None of them matter if they aren’t utilized in the pursuit of something meaningful, something special. Selling is meaningful work—if you bring these attributes and your whole, best self to everything you do. Be passionately engaged in what you do.

What attributes do you believe are important for those who would succeed in B2B sales? What attributes do you notice are shared by all successful people in all walks of life? What attributes do you possess that allow you to succeed in your chosen profession or endeavor?

Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid. Used under creative commons, some rights reserved.

Anthony Iannarino


S. Anthony Iannarino is the President and Chief Sales Officer at SOLUTIONS Staffing, the Managing Director of B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, and an Adjunct Faculty Member of Capital University’s School of Management and Leadership. He writes a daily blog on sales and sales effectiveness at The Sales Blog.

468 ad

Very useful. Though I would say that empathy and caring qualities overlap one another.


Interesting but was not sure what was specific to B2B sales


This is not only a list that we need to review for ourselves, but we should apply it when thinking about hiring as well! Great post!


I love the way you talk about communication as a two-way street, in #9. Listening goes with empathy, and shows your passion for the customer. Clearly you have a great passion for sales and a wealth of information to share. I look forward to your posts every week - solid, solid, solid.

Latest blog post: eBook Download Page


YEAH I am so paying attention this year much closer to who can keep committments.

Especially to themsleves.

How do you communicate with yourself is critical Anthony. Are you arguing for your weaknesses all the time? Do you look for ways to move forward or are you focused on the past. What was, what you failed at, what is are all in the past.

How about asking questions that are pointing you in the direction you want to go? It is powerful, what do you have to win?


Great list, sir.

Isn't it interesting - the push to make life easier/better for others is mentioned so often on this site, whether the topic is leadership, the online world, or B2B selling. What could it mean? Hmmmm.

Keeping commitments, and keeping commitments to oneself, is also 100% necessary in almost any walk of life I can think of. It's easy to say that you're pushing yourself beyond the boundaries for your job, but if you're ignoring your family or the beautiful weather to do it, are you really gaining anything? Are you going to really remain at your best? Somehow I doubt it.

Excellent insights indeed.


Anthony - Great post - I love how you finished it off with momentum. The engagement quality is key. It has become sort of "Buzz" lately, but when it is done well it pays, and when it isn't it is quite obvious.

Thanks as always for making me wiser.


Anthony, this list is classic. I have it printed out and stuffed into my business portfolio to constantly remind me of the characteristics I need to develop. I love #7 and #8, because they hone in a sales person's motives--something many people don't often consider. I also love #5, because it describes the problem-solving aspect of selling. It is the reason to acquire knowledge and business acumen, so can draw from a large pool of material to make a split decision effectively. Great stuff!


@danielnewmanUV Thanks, Dan! None of this stuff matters if you aren't into it! But if you are into it: WHOA! Passion matters a lot! Who wants a half-hearted effort? Not your clients, that's certain!

ojojor innocent
ojojor innocent

 @dougricesmbiz Thanks mr Anthony.This your write up had really retune my mental reponsiveness to the very issue in my Hand as a sales representative by re directing my approach towards the market at large.Once again Thank you.


@douglaserice Thanks, Doug. I love this list. I am compiling the eBook as we speak. Without these attributes, selling is difficult. I think number 7 is critical. Your dream clients can feel whether or not you care. If you don't care, you're done, as simple as that. Number 5, resourcefulness, is a big part of the game. You have to figure it out!


  1. […] 12 Most Essential Attributes of the Best B2B Salespeople | 12 Most For expert sales advice, B2B sales pros turn to Anthony Iannarino. Source: 12most.com […]

  2. […] Blog, Business, Communication, Sales & Marketing | 0 comments Digg DiggLast week I posted the 12 Most Essential Attributes of the best B2B Salespeople. Once you possess those attributes, you need to possess all of the skills required to sell and to […]

  3. […] Under “Interesting” I mention do not be boastful. I will further that by saying avoid it at all costs. Nobody genuinely likes a cocky person. Arrogance generally shows an insecurity and frankly people aren’t that interested in your “awesomeness.” Try giving credit as often as possible and do it genuinely. Then sit back and watch how much you that helps you sell! […]