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How To Be Successful in Sales

Do these 21 Characteristics from the 1930s hold true today?

The ingredients required for success in sales haven't changed much in the last century. At least that's my thought.  Here's what I mean...

We have an old poster hanging in our office. It's from the 1930's, I think. And, granted, it's a bit out of date, but I like it for the lessons it teaches.  It's called "Salesmanship" and it's a picture of a boat. It has various qualities the artist deemed necessary for success in sales. Of course, the term salesman is offensive -- a point I've made before. But let's take a look at the qualities (and what I think they mean). Do you think they hold true today?

1930's 'Salesmanship' Poster




  • Personality: It's the hull of the ship. It's the combination of qualities that form a person's distinctive character.
  • Service: The action of helping a prospect or client.
  • Personal Appearance: The way you appear to others should instill confidence.
  • Goals: The object of your desire. Remember the cliche that goals should be S.M.A.R.T.? Your goals should move you forward.
  • Desire: Successful salespeople wanting something positive to occur for their prospects and clients.
  • Motivation: Do you have an internal desire to achieve greatness?
  • Conviction: A firmly held belief in what you're doing.
  • Showmanship: The charisma and energy that attracts others to you, your cause, and your offering.
  • Product Knowledge: You have to know about your product or service.
  • Self-Confidence: There's a fine line between self-confidence and arrogance. Successful salespeople are aware of exactly where that line sits.
  • Organization: An effective approach to the tasks required of you. Sometimes organization and salesperson seem like oxymorons! But the most successful salespeople remain organized.
  • Enthusiasm: A genuinely positive attitude about what you're doing.
  • Faith: Complete trust and confidence in yourself, your profession, your organization, and your offering.
  • Perseverance: Steadfastness in fulfilling your promises regardless of the difficulty.
  • Courage: The willingness to accomplish your tasks, even if they might appear overwhelming or frightening.
  • Courtesy: Respect for everyone around you and a general attitude of politeness.
  • Self-Discipline: The ability to control your feelings as well as an awareness of your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Mobility: The willingness to put in the "windshield time."
  • Imagination: General creativity in your approach to problems and opportunities.
  • Work: It's a lot of work to sell. You've got to put in the effort.
  • Pride: Never forget to be proud of your work. Sales is the most noble profession. We're in the business of solving problems for our clients. By presenting our offerings, we're making their lives better! No matter what we sell.

So, really, how accurate is this list TODAY? What's missing? What's changed? Maybe not much (other, of course, than the name "Salesman.")


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