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Amidst the ever-fluctuating landscapes of industries and economies, the role of a salesperson stands as an enduring pillar of opportunity and influence. In a realm where risk and reward dance hand in hand, the allure of a successful sales career remains steadfast. As the year 2023 unfolds, the stage is set for individuals to embrace the art of persuasion and engagement like never before. In this era of transformative change, the formula for achieving sales success has evolved, transcending conventional wisdom to encompass a synthesis of knowledge, skills, and individual disposition. So, what is this formula, and how might you use it to forge your way toward a successful path in sales?

Last week, we sat down with Hootsuite‘s sales effectiveness coach Bradford Brown to find out, and Brown certainly did not disappoint!

What Makes a Salesperson Successful?

It’s often that many outside the field of sales look at those in sales—finding great success after taking a leap of faith—and say with confidence, “I could never do that.”

In their interview over Microsoft Teams, even our own digital marketing administrator, Lara Kremer, asserts to Bradford Brown that she feels she could never work in sales.

But Brown, pushing back, says with a smile, that anyone can be successful in sales if they choose such a path. In fact, Brown has theorized that:

  • 25% of success in sales comes from knowledge on the products/services, customers, and competition within a given position
    • That is, knowing your product/service well and knowing how to differentiate what you’re selling from your competitors and how to pose them to your clients is a significant portion of one’s success in sales
  • Another 25% comes from the skills a salesperson hones over years of learning and practice
    • Developing these skills, of course, takes time and practice, just as any high performance athlete demonstrates
      This might come from training one-on-one or practicing mock meetings with clients
  •  And the remaining 50 % comes from you as an individual salesperson
    • Here, Brown specifically mentions that how you as a salesperson show up is a huge part of finding success in sales

That is, what you may perceive as obstacles or barriers between you and success may in fact only be attitudinal and behavioural.

“No one is born shy,” Brown says. Rather, a lifetime’s worth of experiences accumulate to shape how you experience the world and thus, how you move within it. That is, as much as sales practices rely on human psychology to decode and determine a customer’s needs and wants, so too does coaching those in sales.

4 Steps toward a Successful Path in Sales

As Brown suggests, so long as you are dedicated and committed to forging a path for yourself in sales, there’s no reason why you can’t pursue it. Nevertheless, forging that path requires a few steps to make sure it’s a long-lasting and successful career.

The following are the most important steps, according to Brown, for finding a successful career path in sales.

1. Be Clear about Why You Want to Get into Sales

The first step, Brown suggests, is asking yourself why you want to work in sales.

What is your why for being in sales? Are you interested in a certain position for its flexibility? Its schedule? The money? Are you passionate about the products/services you’ll be selling? Are you passionate about working with people every day?

Being honest with yourself about your why can help you determine how set you are to work in the field and how you might move forward in clearing a path for yourself in sales.

2. Determine Which Environment You Want to Sell In

Discovering the ideal industry for a career in sales requires a blend of introspection, research, and alignment of personal interests. Begin by evaluating your passions, strengths, and skills. Consider what energizes you and where your expertise lies.

As well, consider what makes you curious. What are you passionate about? What would you be passionate about selling long-term?

This, Brown suggests, will help you grow and learn effectively, because there will, naturally, indeed be a steep learning curve no matter the industry in which you sell.

3. Commit to Developing Your Skills

As Brown asserts, it’s one thing to learn about the product/service you’re selling, but it’s an entirely separate thing to hone the skills needed to put that knowledge into your sales practice.

This requires what Brown calls transformative learning—discovering sticking points and working through them to improve your skills and abilities so that you can enter the workplace with problem-solving skills and seamless execution skills.

To improve one’s skills in this area, Brown, as a coach, suggests making the content one is working with interactive. Practice role playing and mocking real situations to discover challenges that may arise during a sales pitch or meeting.

Then, schedule yourself some time to hone these skills. This can be as simple as practicing the necessary skills for 15-20 minutes a day, so long as it is every day one is practicing.

4. Act On Your Goals

Lastly, and perhaps most crucially, Brown suggests, you need to be willing to act upon your goals. After all, as he suggests, “Nothing happens unless you take action.”

So, find what drives you to feel motivated and actually take action. This might mean holding yourself accountable by sharing your progress with a colleague or mentor. It might also mean setting SMART goals to ensure your growth is measurable and comes with stakes that further encourage action.


A headshot of Bradford Brown. He is smiling gently, looking at the camera. He has long, tidy dreadlocks pulled away from his face, a fresh looking, short beard, pierced ears, and a sharp navy blazer on over a light blue button-up shirt.

Photo courtesy of Bradford Brown

After meeting with Hootsuite’s Sales Effectiveness Coach Bradford Brown, we conclude that three main factors that contribute to a successful salesperson: 25% is attributed to knowledge of products, customers, and competition, 25% to the honing of skills, and the remaining 50% to the individual’s attitude and behavior.

Brown emphasizes that anyone can succeed in sales if they commit to the journey, and highlights the significance of understanding one’s motivations, choosing the right industry, honing skills, and taking consistent action to achieve long-term success in the field.

Special thanks to Bradford Brown for all the expert advice in this blog! Be sure to check out all Brown has to offer online—between his podcast and his coaching services—via his LinkedIn page and website here.


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