Everyone sells, whether they know it or not. You may be a programmer who's never spoken to an end user, but you still have to sell your problem-solving approach to the rest of the team. You may work in the mailroom, but you still have to sell your boss on giving you that much-deserved raise.

I'll not belabor the point because it's sufficiently obvious, but it's fair to say that the likelihood that you'll get top dollar for your work in any field depends completely on your ability to sell your brand and your ideas. How ever much you might wish it weren't true, that's the fact, Jack.

Unfortunately, when most people think of selling, they immediately conjure the popular media's caricature of a salesperson: a glad-handing, backslapping, manipulative, overdressed fast-talker. Not surprisingly, many people wrongly believe that to be successful at selling, you need to be an extroverted jackass.

As I've pointed out previously, though, many of the world's greatest salespeople are introverts who excel at asking questions and solving problems rather than extroverts who excel at pitching products and closing deals. That being said, though, it can't be denied that some very successful salespeople are indeed extroverts.

So the key personality trait isn't extroversion or introversion.

Many people also believe that the key personality trait for successful selling is being naturally charming and personable. Horse feathers. Many great entrepreneurs (and don't kid yourself, nobody sells harder than entrepreneurs) frequently seem arrogant and off-putting. So friendliness isn't the key personality trait.

A while back, I pointed out in this column that all successful entrepreneurs have courage but that defining attribute is peculiar to entrepreneurism, which always involves a leap, or multiple leaps, into the great unknown. However, there are many successful, non-entrepreneurial people who aren't particularly courageous. (But they are good at selling.)

So, then, what is the one personality trait that you absolutely must have to be successful at selling anything.

I will tell you.


You see, selling means getting to yes, and, by the very nature of the world and all its variety and choices, the only way to get to yes is to be willing to live through a barrel full of no. 

Most people curl up like a snail in a salt pit when they hear no. So they avoid asking. They avoid trying. They avoid situations where they might be rejected. They nurse, not a wounded ego, but the specter that their ego might be wounded. They're emotional snowflakes.

Resilience means being willing to hear no, learn from the experience, and move on. Resilience means being willing to make a fool of yourself, learn from the experience, and do it again. Resilience means being willing to take a risk and fail, learn from the experience, and take the risk again.

And that's the fact, Jack.