What Separates a Salesperson from a Master Salesperson?

What Separates a Salesperson from a Master Salesperson?

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at gitomer.me.


Good question. The answer is not new. At King’s Used Bookstore in Detroit (used bookstores are my favorite place to shop other than Milton’s Clothing Cupboard), I found a book titled How to Sell Your Way Through Life, by Napoleon Hill.

I thought I’d learned a lot from Napoleon Hill. Read Think and Grow Rich (several times), 17 Success Principles, Success through Positive Mental Attitude, and listened to his Positive attitude tapes until I wore them out (bought a new set) but 25 years after I read his life-altering classics, the best was yet to come. How to Sell Your Way Through Life is a lost gem.

In one chapter, Hill presents a description of what makes a great (master) salesperson. As I read (devoured) the words, I began to get a feeling of enlightenment. One of those “ah ha’s.”

As you read these qualities, keep in mind they were written in 1939. (I’m passing on the list in Hill’s original words. Partly because it’s interesting to get the flavor of the times and mostly because you don’t mess with the words of a master.) Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of his writing style.


Hill issues a challenge: “The list is long and perfection may be only slowly attained.”


Gitomer interrupts with: Here’s the way to get the maximum value from this list. Don’t just read it. Rate yourself from 1-10 on your present level of competence or excellence for each quality. I dare you.


Hill continues “Therefore, before entering into a detailed consideration of the things you would like to have your mind and body capable of doing, let’s at once enumerate those (5) which are absolutely necessary.”


The first part of Napoleon Hill’s “28 Qualities a Master Salesman Must Develop” are his five primary requisites:

  1. Physical fitness is of tremendous importance for the simple reason that neither mind nor body can function well without it. Therefore, give attention to your habits of life, proper diet, healthful exercise and fresh air.
  2. Courage must be the part of every man or woman who succeeds in any undertaking, especially that of selling in these trying times of intense competition, after a devastating period of depression and discouragement.
  3. Imagination is an absolute requisite of a successful salesman. He must anticipate situations and even objections on the part of his prospective customer. He must have such a lively imagination as to enable its operation to place him in sympathetic understanding with the position, needs, and objectives of his customer. He must almost literally stand in the other man’s shoes. This takes real imagination.
  4. Speech. The tone of voice must be pleasing. A high-pitched squeaky voice is irritating. Words half swallowed are hard to understand. Speak distinctly and enunciate clearly. A meek voice indicates a weak person. A firm, clean-cut, clear voice that moves with assurance and color, indicates an aggressive person with enthusiasm and aggressiveness.
  5. Hard work is the only thing that will turn sales training and ability into money. No amount of good health, courage, or imagination is worth a dime unless it is put to work; and the amount of pay a salesman gets is usually fixed by the amount of very hard, intelligent work that he actually puts out. Many people sidestep this factor of success.


(Hill writes) The above principles are simple. There is nothing unusual or impossible or even striking in them separately or collectively, unless perhaps it be the fact that most salesmen fail to possess one or more of the five primary requisites.

Some salesmen may work hard and even intelligently, using their imaginations well until they meet a succession of rebuffs and turndowns. It is here that the salesman with sand in his soul, stamina in his backbone, and courage in his heart, comes right back and whips the salesman who hasn’t these qualities, so courage is essential.

Then again, many salesmen have been known to possess courage, imagination, and hard work, yet by dissipation and bodily excesses, handicap themselves so as to be too physically unfit to carry on their work.


Well there’s the beginning five qualities. How well have you scored so far? The rest of the list will appear in the next three issues many of the qualities will surprise you and many will reveal the answers as to why you continue to struggle. Stay tuned.