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It’s no surprise that many who succeed in sales are competitive by nature—they want to win, and as such, they act quick on their feet to do so. And for many decades, salespeople have been perceived—and even depicted in literature and media—as being pushy, charismatic, and working well under high-pressure.

But what many forget or fail to recognize is that not all customers respond to the same kind of sales techniques. In fact, some of the best salespeople in the world base their sales approach on each individual customer. And countless who have been in the industry for long enough to find this out will tell you that sales is, in this way, a kind of art.

Stu Schlackman—author, former adjunct professor, and president of his own company—for one, knows that not every salesperson has the same approach to their field. They have a unique personality type that informs their sales approaches, and thus, their ability to build rapport with their customers.

And each of these personality types require different management styles. But what they all have in common are the traits that every good salesperson has to have in order to better relate to their customer and earn their respect and trust.

These are what it takes to truly succeed in sales.

3 Traits It Takes to Succeed in Sales

Certainly, Schlackman’s colour-coded personality type theory makes getting to know a customer easy and quick (he says that after 15 minutes of interacting with a client, one would have a good idea of what kind of personality they have). But this doesn’t mean that everyone using this method will find selling equally as easy or natural.

The best salespeople, Schlackman says, have certain traits that allow them the ability to succeed in sales.

1. Adaptability

Perhaps the most critical of the personality traits to have as a salesperson, adaptability specifically involves adapting to both one’s surroundings and their customers/clients.

Schlackman’s theory specifically focuses on salespeople’s adaptability, since rapport is largely reliant on how the salesperson adapts their approach to better suit the needs and preferences of their clients based on their personality type.

That is, the best salespeople, Schlackman notes, can read their customer’s communication style. Then, they can determine their priorities and values to reveal their personality type and challenges as customers. Knowing these will allow the salesperson to better tailor their approaches to each individual customer and their needs and wants.

And this approach is also necessary for managing salespeople themselves. Because like customers, salespeople have different needs and behaviours that require different management types. So, while your team members need to be adaptable, you must be, too!

After all, not all customers will respond equally to certain approaches. So, adapting to what they need and want is key.

2. Trustworthiness and likability

Of course, adapting one’s approaches to suit the wants and needs of customers will only go so far if they can tell a salesperson has an angle. If a salesperson all about the sale and not at all about solving their customers’ problems or relieving them of pain-points they may have, they’re not going to feel trustworthy.

And trust is the difference between hitting or missing the mark with customers. As Schlackman suggests, “in sales, likability counts more than ability.”

That is, one could be equally as capable as the next salesperson, but are their customers comfortable with them? Do they like them? Do they trust them and everything they’re offering to them?

This trust starts with knowing the right questions to ask to show you’re interested in solving a problem while also building a conversation that naturally encourages your customer to open up to you.

This will allow the dialogue to feel natural and not forced in any way. They’ll feel as though you’ve earned their trust, and will want to continue talking and engaging with you.

3. Openness

Lastly, even if one falls into one of the four personality types Schlackman characterizes in his book, The Relationship Selling Secret, one can and indeed ought to still remain open to change and considering new ideas or concepts.

Specifically, Schlackman notes, openness—which also includes imagination and insight—allows salespeople the ability to adapt to new ways of thinking and new technologies. It can also encourage new ways of problem-solving.

And being closed-minded and cemented in methods or ways of thinking can, in fact, leave you and your team behind when change inevitably comes.

How You Can Help Your Sales Team Hone These Skills Necessary for Success in Sales

Of course, not every salesperson is going to have the above traits nailed right away. Many will need the space and the environment in which they may hone these skills. And what better way to learn these skills than in the very instances they will need to exercise them?

After all, as Schlackman suggests, sales is learned by experience.

“We learn by our mistakes” Schlackman says. “And we learn through just losing sales and understanding why we lost and learning to do better next time. Sales is dynamic. It’s never the same because you’re dealing with different people all the time.”

And this, Schlackman says, is the beauty and excitement of sales.

So, in addition to being a democratic and adaptable, in order to help your sales team thrive, you’ll need to allow them the room to grow. Allow them to make big mistakes—strong and wrong, as they say in showbiz—and learn from them without too much oversight or interference.


Stu Schlackman is a man with dark brown hair, thick eyebrows, and a gentle smile. He is wearing a dark knitted sweater in his headshot, which shows him smiling, looking into the camera, against a light grey background.

Photo courtesy of Stu Schlackman

Special thanks to Stu Schlackman for the expert advice offered in this blog.

For more information about the four personality types Schlackman offers in The Relationship Selling Secret and other coaching methods, check out


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