How to define, achieve and measure sales success

Sales Success
How to define sales success (and why it’s about more than closing)
How to be successful in sales: 6 traits you’ll need
The secrets to selling: 6 habits of successful salespeople
How to track progress toward sales success
Final thoughts

Selling often feels like a numbers game but sales success isn’t defined by how many deals you close.

As all the best salespeople know, achieving value creation sales success for their employers and customers is paramount.

In this article, we explain what sales success looks like and explore the traits and habits you’ll need to achieve it. You’ll also learn four ways to measure success to keep sight of what matters and continue improving.

How to define sales success (and why it’s about more than closing)

The first key to success in sales is understanding what “success” really means. Then you know what to work toward and how to tell when you reach it.

The ultimate sales success is repeatedly selling to people who believe in your product, become loyal and tell their friends.

After all, customers who tick these boxes are the most valuable for any business. These customers don’t just buy your product once. They keep generating revenue by making repeat purchases and marketing your brand for free.

Imagine two salespeople are selling the same product to the same audience:

Salesperson 1

Salesperson 2

Focuses on closing as many deals as possible, whatever the cost.

They tell leads everything they want to hear to convert them, even when the product isn’t a great fit.

The second the deal closes, they forget about the customer and move on to the next sales opportunity.

Focuses on solving their ideal customers’ problems through active listening and tailored product recommendations.

They aim to deliver as much value as possible, even if it means closing fewer deals.

After closing a deal, they continue the relationship to ensure their customer gets their desired results.

Who’s the more successful salesperson?

Salesperson 1 closes more deals. However, mis-selling products builds an unhappy customer base of people who’ll never return to make repeat purchases. Customers like this can share their negative views, damaging the company’s reputation.

Salesperson 2 makes fewer sales. However, they sell to loyal customers who get long-term value from the product, continually return to buy more and sing the brand’s praises to friends and peers (i.e., other potential customers).

In other words, salesperson 2 delivers more value to their team, company and customers, making the second tactic more successful in the long term.

You can measure this more comprehensive definition of success using various sales metrics.

Together, metrics like win rate, sales cycle length and retention rate paint a much more accurate picture of performance than “deals closed”. We’ll explain later how using these as key performance indicators helps you track long-term progress.

How to be successful in sales: 6 traits you’ll need

It takes a certain type of person to become a real sales success story, one who takes responsibility for their actions and performance and is determined to keep improving. You’ll also need to be versatile, humble and process-driven.

Here are those sales-friendly traits in more detail.

1. Responsibility

Responsible salespeople are more likely to persist through challenges, maintain accountability (i.e., contribute to their team’s success) and seek solutions to reach personal and customer goals.

For example, a sales representative who takes responsibility for client relationships ensures they follow up promptly on inquiries, address concerns quickly and deliver on promises made during the sales process.

As a result, they gain buyers’ trust sooner, keep it for longer and close more high-value deals with best-fit customers.

Pro tip: Move beyond your own sales targets to consider how your actions impact your team, manager and customers. When you take some responsibility for more than yourself, improved sales performance is likely to follow.

2. Proactivity

Sales professionals with a strong desire to achieve their goals are willing to put in the extra effort to meet customer needs and continuously seek growth opportunities.

Instead of waiting for sales success to come to them, “hungry” reps are always looking for new leads, attending sales events and investing time in furthering their product knowledge.

Being so proactive helps eager salespeople stay ahead of their more passive competitors. They hit targets sooner and ultimately become more valuable to their employers.

Pro tip: Beat procrastination by breaking personal and team goals into smaller, more easily achievable chunks. For example, instead of targeting 100 new leads for the quarter, aim for 7-10 per week and then plan a range of lead-generation activities.

3. Resilience

Resilient salespeople stay focused on their objectives, maintain a positive attitude during tough periods and are always ready to face new challenges.

When resilient salespeople encounter rejections, they continue to reach out to prospects, refine their pitch and explore new strategies until they achieve sales success. They know progress can’t happen without action.

Determination like this is often the difference between average performance and exceptional sales results.

Pro tip: Positivity is important, but be realistic about the challenges you may encounter in the sales process. Accepting that these are normal will soften the blows when they inevitably happen and give you time to come up with solutions.

4. Adaptability

Adaptable sales professionals pivot their sales strategies, tailor their communication to different customer types and embrace the latest tactics and technologies.

For example, an adaptable salesperson may respond to shifting market trends by tweaking their sales pitch to focus on the most relevant product features. As a result, they ensure their solution remains attractive to its target audience, even as that audience’s expectations evolve.

Other forms of adaptability in sales include calmly overcoming last-minute objections, selling a range of products confidently and continually addressing skill gaps to stay effective.

Pro tip: Actively seek new sales experiences to gain new sales skills. For example, you could volunteer to sell different products to a new audience rather than getting too comfortable in one specialist area. The more you test yourself, the more versatile you’ll become.

5. Trust in the process

An established and well-defined sales process is like a framework for consistency and predictability. It keeps reps focused on proven sales activities and stops them from wasting time trying to carve new, untested paths to success.

By trusting their experienced sales leaders’ processes, reps are more likely to follow best practices, adhere to proven methodologies and ultimately achieve their desired outcomes.

Pro tip: Trusting an established selling process doesn’t mean you can’t look for ways to improve it. The best frameworks continuously evolve to become more effective. If you feel you’ve found a weakness, discuss alternatives with your sales manager before making any changes.

6. Humility

Most top salespeople are open to constructive criticism, receptive to other perspectives and empathetic toward customer needs. This humility enables them to find new, more efficient ways to turn prospects into loyal brand advocates.

Humility in sales takes various forms, such as:

  • Reflecting on sales conversations to find room for improvement, even after closing deals

  • Listening carefully to the team’s top performers and other successful people

  • Actively requesting feedback from a sales manager or mentor

Humility also makes people easier to work with. According to a Caprelo study, being “collaborative” (i.e., a willingness to work together) is a coworker’s most desirable trait. “Passive aggressiveness” is the least desirable, followed by “makes excuses” and “entitlement”.

The best traits a coworker can have

The worst traits a coworker can have

Pro tip: Every sales career takes a slightly different path, so don’t assume you can’t learn anything from another sales rep simply because they have less experience. Be open to hearing about their most significant challenges and how they overcame them.

The secrets to selling: 6 habits of successful salespeople

Habits are regular actions that happen consciously and subconsciously. Some are particularly helpful in sales.

Here are six habits that many of the best salespeople share so you know which to embrace in your journey to sales success.

1. Keep honing your focus

Maintaining a sharp focus contributes to sales success by helping you prioritize sales tasks, spend energy efficiently and stay on track to achieving your goals.

The ability to focus is essential in sales due to the daily distractions most salespeople face.

When you’re trying to close a deal or find new leads, there’s usually a long list of other tasks you could be doing, many of which are less critical. Many salespeople report spending most of their time doing activities like prospecting (40%) and handling business operations (35%).

Which of the following tasks do you spend most of your working day on?

Practice ignoring distractions like other salespeople’s actions that don’t impact you and deals you can’t control.

The better you focus on the work in front of you, the more energy you’ll have for identifying high-potential opportunities, cultivating meaningful relationships and offering personalized recommendations.

Some people find focusing more difficult but a customer relationship management (CRM) system can support you.

For example, in addition to intuitive task management features, Pipedrive has an AI Sales Assistant that sends notifications, insights and advice to keep you on track.

2. Face up to obstacles

Sales is a job with many obstacles, but these challenges provide learning opportunities and help make the wins more enjoyable.

Once you accept that few deals are straightforward, you can focus on building up your resilience and problem-solving skills. The knocks will become much less disruptive and you’ll start enjoying your work more.

Conduct a risk assessment, listing the challenges you could face when working on deals. Keeping these in mind will soften their impact, help you stay focused and allow you to prepare solutions.

Here’s a list of the most common sales obstacles to get you started:

Remember: Your product, target audience and sales process may create unique obstacles. Note down the ones you deal with regularly and consider how you’ll overcome them next time.

Prevent failure with your guide to handling tricky sales situations

Learn how to prevent and overcome failure for your sales team. This 18-page ebook will help you develop plans for hiring, firing, and managing a crisis.

3. Foster and contribute to a great sales culture

Your workplace’s attitudes, values and habits can influence three key aspects of individual sales success: your mood, productivity and job satisfaction.

Reps can’t build great sales cultures alone, but they can contribute through actions such as:

  • Collaborating with colleagues and offering support

  • Sharing knowledge and best practices

  • Celebrating sales team success

  • Providing constructive feedback

  • Embracing diversity and fostering inclusion

For example, if a less-experienced colleague struggles to hit their quotas, help them improve by sharing your favorite sales techniques. If a rep on your team closes a huge deal with a new customer, congratulate them in front of others.

Sales managers have more power to set positive standards. If you head a team, be sure to lead by example, set clear expectations for staff to follow and recognize that your reps are only human – even great salespeople make mistakes sometimes.

4. Embrace and encourage diversity

Diversity is proven to make businesses and their sales teams more successful.

Forrester found that sales organizations with better diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practices have higher conversion rates, more accurate sales forecasts and happier customers.

Sales success statistics

Again, it takes a team and strong leadership to build a diverse sales environment, but here are a few ways you can contribute:

  • Embrace diverse perspectives. Welcome and value viewpoints from individuals with different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives.

  • Invite quieter meeting participants to answer questions first. Ask participants who often say less during meetings for their opinions. Doing so shows you value their perspectives – even if they’re less forthcoming with them – and may encourage other quieter attendees to speak up as well.

  • Champion diversity initiatives. Support organized efforts to promote DEI in the workplace, such as unbiased hiring practices like removing names or genders from resumes.

  • Promote open dialogue. Create opportunities for open and honest conversations about DEI to foster empathy and mutual respect among team members.

  • Seek learning opportunities. Continuously seek opportunities to learn about different cultures, backgrounds and perspectives to broaden your understanding and empathy. You could do this via a nonfiction book club, speakers or volunteering opportunities.

Diversity in the workplace opens you up to a wider range of perspectives, helping you find unique solutions to problems and opportunities you hadn’t considered.

For example, the experiences and insights of a female sales rep who grew up in Europe will differ from those of a male sales rep raised in the Pacific Northwest. Combining their diverse experiences encourages a different way of thinking and innovation.

Tip: Some people struggle to share ideas in meetings. Inviting people to contribute via pre-meeting or post-meeting chats or emails can help you collect more diverse ideas and make everyone feel included.

5. Learn from a range of sources

Seeking fresh perspectives, industry insights and best practices allows you to tweak your approach and improve your results.

Basic sales training and courses can provide valuable information, but learning from many sources will help you develop faster and acquire more diverse sales tips.

Seek sales books, podcasts, industry events and networking opportunities to learn from thought leaders and other experts.

For example, established authors like Brian Tracy, Jill Konrath and Zig Ziglar have dedicated their professional lives to helping salespeople become more successful. Use their knowledge to supplement your personal development.

Brian Tracy even wrote a book dedicated to sales success.

Tracy’s book is packed full of valuable sales tips for success and inspiring sales success quotes, such as:

“The key to success in selling today is developing high-quality professional business relationships with customers.

This model [relationship selling] requires building high levels of trust and credibility, identifying needs carefully and accurately, showing the customer that your product or service will satisfy those needs, and then encouraging your customer to take action and wrap up the transaction.”

However, not every learning source has to be sales-specific. It’s also worth searching for books, podcasts, webinars and courses on psychology, public speaking and communication, as all are valuable selling skills.

6. Experiment with sales methodologies

Salespeople who experiment with different sales methodologies gain valuable insights into what works best for their unique selling styles and target audiences.

Explore a range of approaches to see which deliver the best outcomes and which you enjoy working with.

Here are a few of the most popular methodologies to practice:

  • Consultative selling. Understanding customers’ needs and providing tailored solutions through personalized recommendations and expert guidance.

  • Solution selling. Identifying customer pain points and presenting products or services as solutions to address specific challenges or opportunities.

  • Challenger selling. Challenging customers’ preconceptions and introducing new perspectives to spark interest and divert sales conversations.

  • Relationship selling. Building strong, trust-based relationships with customers over the long term, emphasizing rapport-building and ongoing customer support.

When it comes to sales methodologies, there’s no single secret to success. Each approach has strengths, so aim to have two or three you can switch between to adapt to different sales scenarios.

For example, in complex B2B sales, consultative selling is effective for uncovering customer needs and providing tailored solutions. You might rely more heavily on that early in the sales process and then switch to relationship selling to strengthen your connection with the customer.

How to track progress toward sales success

Measuring sales success helps you stay on track and find weaknesses to prioritize working on. It also allows you to celebrate wins and development milestones.

There’s no single metric for sales success, but you can combine the following tools and techniques to better understand your progress.

Key performance indicators

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are your most important sales metrics. Tracking them provides valuable insights into your sales performance, such as the number of leads you convert, the revenue you generate and your efficiency at closing deals.

Monitoring the following metrics in particular will help you identify trends, improvement areas and potential bottlenecks in your process:

For example, if you use win rate as a KPI and notice it increases after you adopt the advice in this article, that’s a sign you’re becoming a more successful sales rep.

Team and leader feedback

Feedback from your team members and leaders offers valuable perspectives on your performance, strengths and areas for development.

Regular check-ins, performance reviews and one-on-one meetings offer opportunities to chat about progress, share insights and receive constructive criticism.

Let’s say your sales manager praises your proactive approach to client relationships but suggests improving your time management skills. You can prioritize managing your workload more effectively to enhance your overall productivity.

Actively seeking and incorporating feedback into your sales approach shows your commitment to growth.


Sales tools are helpful for more than just streamlining sales processes and keeping you organized. You can also use a CRM to access sales performance data, including the KPIs we mentioned earlier.

You could use a simple spreadsheet to record and view performance data, but a CRM with sales reports and sales dashboards will make the information more accessible and much easier to understand.

Here’s an example of what that looks like in Pipedrive:

Sales success dashboard

Centralizing and visualizing sales performance data like this helps make trends easier to spot, so you always know if you’re on the right track.

For example, if your email activity and cold calling drop alongside your “deals started” figure, it could be a sign you need to focus more on outreach.

Job enjoyment

Last but not least, ask yourself:

“Am I happy in my sales role and proud of my growth and performance?”

Confidently answering “yes” to both questions is the final measurement of sales success and arguably the most important.

If all the other signs suggest success, but you still don’t enjoy your work, check out the tips in our guide on how to love your job.

Final thoughts

Once you know what sales success looks like, the hunger for it can drive you to keep improving throughout your career.

The common misconception that “deals closed” is the best way to measure sales success works in your favor. While other reps focus on chasing signatures, you can focus on building a comprehensive skill set that will make you valuable to any salesforce.

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