Inc Magazine Misses on the 13 Traits of an Outstanding Salesperson


Share on LinkedIn

Understanding the Sales Force by Dave Kurlan

inclogoI just read the 13 Traits of An Outstanding Salesperson, an article that appeared on

As usual, I had several thoughts about this so, in no particular order…

  • Note that it isn’t “The” 13 traits; it’s simply 13 traits, implying that there are others;
  • It’s also not “The Top 13″ traits;
  • These are not in any way, shape or form, expert opinions;
  • Charisma? Really? If the salesperson will be presenting to audiences, sure it would be a nice plus for them to be charismatic but if you read the actual explanation, the contributor is simply talking about someone who is likable. Likable is good, but hear this: All of the mediocre and horrible salespeople – almost the entire 74% – are likable!
  • Laziness? Seriously? A great example of how an executive confuses a behavior with a result. Great salespeople aren’t lazy, they simply know which opportunities to pursue and don’t waste their valuable time chasing low percentage, low profit opportunities!
  • Hunter’s Mentality? That’s the correct phrase but if you read the contributor’s explanation, he got the mentality part wrong. He’s more focused on whether the salesperson is excited enough about a huge opportunity to pursue it. A true sales Hunter’s mentality is to actually find as many sweet spot opportunities as possible and not waste time pursuing those with low odds of closing.
  • Intelligent Fighter? This contributor mixes motivation with what he calls politely persistent, or assertiveness. Motivation and assertiveness are not the same things. There are plenty of highly motivated salespeople that are not nearly assertive enough, and plenty of assertive salespeople who are not very motivated.
  • The Trifecta? This contributor says it’s a combination of Drive, Personality and Intelligence but he describes someone who has the ability to get in front of a buyer and close the deal. Not so again. The real requirements for that are Strong Commitment, No Need for Approval, Rejection Proof, and Supportive Beliefs around Prospecting!
  • Existing Relationships and Product Knowledge? All that will accomplish is assure that there are plenty of prospects who value a good presentation and product knowledge. We don’t need more friends and presenters, we need hunters, consultative salespeople, and closers!
  • People Skills? This contributor is really describing someone with great listening skills – that’s the ticket.

I think Inc. published these because they were the most interesting of all the submissions. However, because Inc. is a respected business publication, readers are likely to take this crap to heart and actually go out and look for salespeople who exhibit these traits. Most of these young business people either don’t know what they don’t know, or know they know it all. Most importantly, if you are going to be hiring salespeople, it’s more important than ever to not make costly mistakes. Even if their 13 traits were predictive of sales success – and they’re not – how would you really know if a candidate had them? That’s why it’s so important to use Objective Management Group’s Sales Candidate Assessments – legendary for their accuracy and ability to predict sales performance.

Earlier this week, I hosted a 45-minute interactive Webinar and shared the magic behind our assessment. If you are interested in seeing it, you can click here.

(c) Copyright 2013 Dave Kurlan

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Dave: I agree that Inc.’s panel of so-called experts missed the mark. I’m not surprised. If they asked me what characteristics make a great actor, I could offer an opinion, but only from watching movies. I’ve never directed one, and I could hardly call myself qualified.

    Besides being a young entrepreneur, has any of the people interviewed spent any time selling? It’s doubtful that they have much experience between all of them. What I find most troubling is the lack of etiquette. What’s lost on these cocky people is that job candidates who have a negative interview experience will come back, but it won’t be to buy from them. It will be to recommend their competitor to a buying committee at an account they desperately want to win.

    A couple of gem quotes:

    “I miss our scheduled phone call to see what [the candidate] does . . . I email him and use an incorrect name to see how he responds; I reject him to see how he responds to rejection.”

    “Tell them they didn’t make the cut and if they argue with you, you’ve got a winner.”

    Someone needs to remind these entrepreneurs to take their arrogance down a notch. Interviews don’t have to be easy for candidates, but intentionally mistreating anyone is wrong on so many dimensions. There is no justification for it. Besides, any candidate that submits to this kind of game playing lacks the backbone to make it in sales anyway.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts Andrew – it’s nice when we’re in agreement!

    I’m glad you brought up the arrogance as that was more a criticism of them and I was attempting to limit the criticism to their lack of knowledge about sales selection.

    I still believe the writers at Inc. are the real culprits here – for pursuing their ill-conceived concept and failing to recognize that it was a stinker that should have never seen the light of day.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here