Qualities for success

Author Lindsey Webster, University of San Francisco

Posted: July 8, 2016

Tagged: sales skills

The first example of a successful salesperson given in Chapter 5 of the The Ultimate Sales machine by Holmes (2007) is Donald Trump, now more known for his run as the republican candidate in the presidential election in 2016. Holmes (2007) uses Trump to exemplify dominance and how ego doesn’t necessarily correlate with a negative association; he continues to explain that dominance is one of the best measures of a successful salesperson (Holmes, p. 80, 2007). The same idea applies to the stereotypical thoughts of a salesperson: money hungry, selfish, and pestering. These are just a few of the undesirable, negative attributes we commonly associate salespeople with. In reality, salespeople have to embody many different characteristics and skills, especially in the face of adversity, in order to be successful.

Sport sales people need to display an array of qualities in order to build relationships, close sales, and continue climbing up the professional ladder. A few of the most important skills, knowledge areas, values and attitudes sales people need to own are: confidence, resiliency, communication, credibility, and work ethic. These five words work as the ingredients for a superstar (Holmes, 2007). Using each of these effectively and the development his or her attitude and knowledge in the area of expertise, the salesperson could be defining factor for a successful company.

Confidence is at the top of John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success and is one of the most important qualities for a successful salesperson, especially in the sport realm (Wooden & Jamison, 2005). It also serves as the foundation and spring board for any human being to develop their ego. Ego is a measure of personal power, the desire to control situations, and how well you assert yourself in every interaction (Holmes, p. 81, 2007). Owning a strong ego is pivotal in sales in order to have great ambition, and high dominance with the ability to thrive on challenges, make decisions, and push past rejection (Holmes, p. 81, 2007). Lefton (2015) elaborates on the Innovation Forum that sport entities use in order to facilitate creative thinking. The participants of this forum would need to have confidence to speak their mind in order to effectively brainstorm, take a risk, and propose their ideas to the group.

Resiliency is another quality that is absolutely crucial to the success of a salesperson in sports. The ability for a person to remain positive and persevere through constant rejection, which is an inevitable aspect of sales, is what can be the defining quality from making a good salesperson into a great one. In the self-reported survey study conducted by Marshall, Goebel, and Moncrief (2012), one of the most important aspects found for sales is the progressive mind set of the “up or out” philosophy (G.W. Marshall et. al, p. 252). It is with this philosophy that great salespeople are never settling or complacent, always looking to keep progressing and moving up. Tenacity-sticking with a task was also indicated as extremely important based on this study (Marshall, et. al, p. 250). “This high rating likely reflects the ever-increasing drive toward meeting goals and attaining desired results that is such a strong part of the culture in today’s sales organizations,” (G.W. Marshall, et. al, p. 250).

Communication is the third skill that is necessary for a successful salesperson in sport. Effective and influential communication would not be possible without both confidence and resiliency. A salesperson could have great communication skills, but without having the confidence to speak up as well as the resiliency to keep speaking up even in the face of adversity, great communication skills could get lost in the woodwork. The study conducted by G.W. Marshall et al. found the two most important characteristics of sales people to be listening and follow up skills (G.W. Marshall et. al, p. 250). These two skills fall under the umbrella of communication. The skill of listening is oftentimes overlooked; in addition, it is a skill that needs to be developed and practiced. Coupled with a great follow up ability by a salesperson, they could be unstoppable when it comes to personalizing and managing the details in order to land a difficult account. Holmes (2007) challenged that applicants for a superstar sales position should be both confident enough with the communication skills to sell themselves as to why they would be best for the position (Holmes, p. 98).

Credibility is important for any person to have in their profession or career. In sales it is crucial to establish great credibility and have a great understanding with the product you are selling and the company you work for. The appearance of an honest effort is one of the principles learned in management skills from (Masteralexis, Barr & Hums, 2012). This is not possible without great understanding and knowledge of the area you work in, to make you not only appear as a professional but as an expert. For example, in intercollegiate sport sales, the salesperson should know everything there is to know about the conference, division, opponents, and how they can best provide services to help the customer. In order to establish credibility, you first and foremost need to have the confidence to put yourself out there in order to effectively communicate your influence, as well as display your resiliency when necessary. Lefton (2015) discusses how tremendous an Innovation Forum is to discuss different ideas and brainstorm in a creative, open setting with the experts for that team, company or industry. This Innovation Forum is successful because the participants have established their credibility and are the best of the best. Those top salespeople and affiliates earn the opportunity to speak their minds at this forum.

Work ethic is the last ideal that is one of the most important quality that a salesperson in sports needs to embody. Even with confidence, resiliency, communication, and credibility, without work ethic none of these assets would be put to good use. With work ethic, the terms steadiness and compliance can also be intertwined (Holmes, p. 82). Steadiness is about the patience, persistency, and thoughtfulness while compliance is related to structure and organizational skills (Holes, p. 82). These terms help explain how to have an enthusiastic, meticulous work ethic that produces a goal-oriented salesperson. Marshal et. al (2003) also explains that patience and creativity are two of the most important components that make a successful sales person overall (p. 252). In addition, the Innovation Forum description by Lefton explains that “Big Ideas Find Money”, and that these forums are intended to facilitate creative thinking (Lefton, 2015). Creative thinking, patience, and organization skills are established through detailed work ethic and contribute to a great sport salesperson overall.



Holmes, C. (2007). The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge your Business with Relentless Focus          on 12 Key Strategies. New York, NY: Portfolio.

Lefton, T. (2015, May 4). Firm works to seed brainstorms in the sports sales space. Sports Business Journal, 19(5). Retrieved from www.sportsbusinessdaily.com.

Masteralexis, L., Barr, C., & Hums, M. (2012). History of Sport Management. In Principles and practice of sport management (Fifth Edition ed., pp. 1-20). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Barlett Publishers.

Marshall, G. W., Goebel, D. J., & Moncrief, W. C. (2003). Hiring for success at the buyer–seller interface. Journal of Business Research, 56, 247-255.

Wooden, J., & Jamison, S. (2005). Wooden on Leadership. (First ed). New York: McGraw-Hill.

About Lindsey Webster, University of San Francisco

Lindsey Webster is a current University of San Francisco graduate student pursuing her Master’s Degree in Sport Management. She works as the Compliance Coordinator at Cal State University, Northridge in the Athletic Department. Having played softball at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Lindsey graduated in May 2014 with a double major in Journalism and Communication and a minor in Political Science. This is an edited version of a paper Lindsey prepared for Dr. Michael M. Goldman’s Business Development & Sales class at the University of San Francisco.

IImage by Peter Dean, "Olympic Torch", www.flickr.com/photos/rowanbank. Accessed via Creative Commons license.