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5 “Negative” Personality Traits That Can Actually Help Salespeople

Mark Jung

Jun 22, 2021

Harsh reality: Salespeople are sometimes associated with negative personality traits.

Lucky for you, you’ve grown thick skin over the years and the judgments bounce off.  Otherwise, you wouldn’t still be in sales.

Before we dive into the negative personality traits that help salespeople, let’s start off with some of the more positive traits: friendliness, extroversion, and agreeableness. Salespeople are people people.

But there’s a flip side to that coin, as some of the same traits that many people view as negative, or undesirable, can actually be of great benefit to a salesperson. That’s not to say that all negative traits can be useful, and there are plenty, such as arrogance, deceitfulness, and cunning, which are not only repellent but can taint an entire profession.

The traits we’re referring to are ones cautioned against in other industries, and (mostly) in everyday life. But in the day-to-day of a salesperson, these same “negative” traits can not only help them close deals and stay sane, but can be seen as quite desirable, when not taken to their extreme.

Here are five negative personality traits that can be positive, helping salespeople succeed:

1. Assertiveness

Assertiveness is often conflated with pushiness, and even though it’s a fine line, for salespeople, the two are (or should be) mutually exclusive.

Some people find assertiveness to be an irritating quality, imagining a person who constantly bulldozes everyone in sight in order to get their way. But an assertive salesperson isn’t pushy or aggressive, they’re simply able to do their job without being cowed by meekness or timidity, traits which can hobble an otherwise promising and ambitious sales rep.

So while assertiveness isn’t always viewed as a positive personal characteristic, for sales managers looking to hire a new sales rep, an assertive one is likely to look very attractive indeed.

2. Individualism

Individualism tends to be associated with selfishness, or with not being a team player.

In a role where you’re required to work as part of a cohesive unit, somebody who expresses too much individualism can be seen as upsetting the pack, and might not be a great fit. In sales, however, individualism can actually be a positive thing, as sales itself can be a fairly independent role; a salesperson lives or dies (mostly) through their own efforts.

That’s not to say that salespeople don’t rely on their coworkers for success. In fact, internal relationships are oftentimes just as important as external ones, and too much individualism might leave a salesperson stranded and alone, without the support of their coworkers. But in terms of personality traits, a healthy amount of individualism is unlikely to be to the detriment of any sales rep, and, in all likelihood, can serve as a net positive.

3. Dispassionateness

Being dispassionate, or not showing, and not being affected by emotion, is sometimes seen as a bad thing. We as human beings strive to be better connected to our feelings, and the idea of coming off as unfeeling is not seen as a pleasant or productive character trait to have.

For salespeople, however, a dispassionate demeanor can actually help their well-being, as the constant rejection can wear people down, and, for most people, make it difficult not to take routine negativity personally. That’s why a dispassionate approach to sales can be so helpful: it allows a salesperson to separate their personal feelings from the professional demands of the role, ensuring their well-being remains intact.

4. Acquisitiveness

People equate acquisitiveness (the desire to acquire and possess) with all sorts of negative stereotypes. Despite living in a consumer-driven society, people who are open about their desire for money or material things are seen as selfish and greedy, not traits anybody would want to possess. But putting aside the fact that the majority of people (despite what they say) are wired in this same exact way, a salesperson who has the desire for material gain is likely to be much more motivated than the (rare) one who is not.

Having a financial goal can be quite beneficial to a sales rep in a profession where you can control your income, and where money is dependent on your efforts. So a healthy dose of acquisitiveness can go a long way, especially in a money-driven field like sales, where the top performers always strive for more, no matter what.

5. Opportunism

There are those who know to strike while the iron is hot, and those who will prevaricate and dawdle, hoping things fall into place on their own. The former is the type of person best suited for sales, while the latter is usually better off finding some other type of work to do. Opportunism is not, in itself, a negative trait. But there are certain types of opportunism that certainly are negative, and nobody wants to be known as the type of person who is always looking to get over on others for their own gain.

That being said, some level of opportunism is required in sales, and certainly in business in general. Otherwise, everything is left up to chance. So don’t assume that an opportunistic approach to selling is necessarily a bad one. Because at the end of the day, it’s just one of the ingredients required for sustained sales success.

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Mark Jung

Head of Marketing

Mark Jung is VP of Marketing at Sales Impact Academy. He builds B2B SaaS brands that dominate their categories by creating new strategic narratives that people rally behind. Mark is a great podcast guest, a stellar Fire Talks show host, and a bona fide leader in the revenue marketing space.