The Main Differences Between Successful & Failing Salespeople

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Success Failure road signI’ve had the privilege of working with many salespeople in my career and have seen a great number of successes gained by these highly-prized professionals.

Sometimes, I’m asked what makes the difference between success and failure, and it makes me think about the salespeople who have seen great success in their careers and those who have failed miserably, barely able to maintain a standard of living.

The main differences, as I see it, stem from the filters through which these salespeople view situations and circumstances. Even in difficult times, successful salespeople are able to drive themselves forward because they live their lives in the present and future.

Failures tend to see only the past and the present and judge their lives and identify their very character by what is going on now and they have done in the past.

Hence, the filters you use to see the current situation will determine the quality of the future you have.

While we may not be able to control circumstances and those things that happen to us, we can all control our responses to those circumstances and determine how we will view them.

So what do we see in successful salespeople, as opposed to failures? Here are some ideas:

1) Successful salespeople choose their associates very well

By associates, I don’t just mean their friends and colleagues. I also mean the people they listen to on CD, watch on DVD and talk to at seminars. One of my long-term mentors, the deeply-missed Jim Rohn, said that “you are the average of the five people you spend most time with”. People transmit their moods and attitudes all round, and if you associate with others, you are bound to be infected by what attitude they carry. Everyone’s attitude is contagious…is the one you are breathing in worth catching?

2) When things go wrong, successful salespeople ask, “What can I learn from this? What lessons will help me not repeat the same mistakes again?”

Do you know how to build big muscles? By continuously driving and pressurising them, under stress, until they fail. They then grow back better and bigger than before. I don’t mean you have to go on till you fail; you just need to learn from what you do so you can repeat the good things and detour the bad things.

3) Successful salespeople are always future-oriented

When I talk to up-beat, quality salespeople, I always notice that they are looking ahead, discussing the next call or the future opportunity. Poor salespeople blame other things for their passed failings; successful ones aim for future goals with the wisdom of having learned from mistakes. By identifying what you can do to make your future successful, you can control it. You can’t control what happened in the past. It’s gone, yet many failures spend their time living there.


Most successful people will tell you that the one thing that got them there, supported them through thick and thin and enabled them to reap the rewards of success was attitude. Having a high IQ might get you the job, but the perseverance and integrity of a positive outlook and hard work are what keeps you there. Here’s to success!

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 8 October, 2013

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