40 Rules of Success in Sales

Adil Zafar
7 min readMar 18, 2020


People aren’t afraid of failure; they just don’t know how to succeed.

Few years back, I met a college basketball coach on the court and asked him for his best, niftiest pointer. He took the ball, walked under the basket, and shot an easy lay-up. “See that shot?” he said gruffly. “Ninety-nine percent of all basketball games are won with that shot. Don’t miss it.” And he walked away. I felt cheated that day, but years later, I realized it was the best sales lesson I ever got. Concentrate on the fundamentals; ninety-nine percent of all sales are achieved that way.

You are responsible for your own success (or failure). Winning at a career in sales is no exception. To ensure a win, you must take a proactive approach. Prevention of failure is an important part of that process. If you find yourself saying, T’m not cut out for sales,” “I’m not pushy enough,” I hate cold calling,” “I can’t take the rejection,” “My boss is a jerk,” or “My boss is a real jerk,” you’re heading down the wrong path.

Here are 40 recurring characteristics and traits of successful salespeople. How many of these apply to you? How many of these guidelines can you honestly say you follow? If you are serious about achieving sales success, I recommend you post this list someplace where you can see it every day. Read it and practice these principles until they become a way of life.

1. Establish and maintain a positive attitude. It’s the first rule of life. Your commitment to a positive attitude will put you on an unstoppable path to success. If you doubt it, you don’t have a positive attitude. A positive attitude is not just a thought process; it’s a daily commitment. Get one!

2. Believe in yourself. If you don’t think you can do it, who will? You control the most important tool in selling: your mind.

3. Set and achieve goals. Make a plan. Define and achieve specific long-term (what you want) and short-term (how you’re going to get what you want) goals. Goals are the road map that will direct you to success.

4. Learn and execute the fundamentals of sales. Never stop learning how to sell. Read, listen to tapes, attend seminars, and practice what you’ve just learned. Learn something new every day and combine it with hands-on experience. Knowing the fundamentals gives you a choice in a sales call. Even in a relationship or partnership, sometimes an idea is needed.

5. Understand the customer and meet his or her needs. Question and listen to the prospect and uncover true needs. Don’t prejudge prospects.

6. Sell to help. Don’t be greedy because it will show. Sell to help customers; don’t sell for commissions.

7. Establish long-term relationships. Be sincere and treat others the way you want to be treated. If you get to know your customer and concentrate on his best interest, you’ll earn much more than a commission.

8. Believe in your company and product. Believe your product or service is the best and it will show. Your conviction is evident to a buyer and manifests itself in your sales numbers. If you don’t believe in your product, your prospect won’t either.

9. Be prepared. Your self-motivation and preparation are the lifeblood of your outreach. You must be eager and ready to sell, or you won’t. Be ready to make the sale with a sales kit, sales tools, openers, questions, statements and answers. Your creative preparation will determine your outcome.

10. Be sincere. If you are sincere about helping, it will show, and vice versa.

11. Qualify the buyer. Don’t waste time with someone who can’t decide.

12. Be on time for the appointment. Lateness says, “I don’t respect your time.” There is no excuse for lateness. If it can’t be avoided, call before the appointed time, apologize, and continue with the sale.

13. Look professional. If you look sharp, it’s a positive reflection on you, your company, and your product.

14. Establish rapport and buyer confidence. Get to know the prospect and his company; establish confidence early. Don’t start your pitch until you do.

15. Use humor. It’s the best tool for relationship sales I have found. Have fun at what you do. Laughing is tacit approval. Make the prospect laugh.

16. Master the total knowledge of your product. Know your product cold. Know how your product is used to benefit your customers. Total product knowledge gives you the mental freedom to concentrate on selling. You may not always use the knowledge in the sales presentation, but it gives you confidence to make the sale.

17. Sell benefits, not features. The customer doesn’t want to know how it works as much as he wants to know how it will help him.

18. Tell the truth. Never be at a loss to remember what you said.

19. If you make a promise, keep it. The best way to turn a sale into a relationship is to deliver as promised. Failure to do what you say you’re going to do, either for your company or your customer, is a disaster from which you may never recover. If you do it often, the word gets out about you.

20. Don’t down the competition. If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing. This is a tempting rule to break. The sirens are sweetly singing. Set yourself apart with preparation and creativity — don’t slam them.

21. Use testimonials. The strongest salesman on your team is a reference from a loyal customer. Testimonials are proof.

22. Listen for buying signals. The prospect will often tell you when he is ready to buy — if you’re paying attention. Listening is as important as talking.

23. Anticipate objections. Rehearse answers to standard objections.

24. Get down to the real objection. Customers are not always truthful; they often won’t tell you the true objection(s) at first.

25. Overcome barriers. This is a complex issue — it’s not just an answer, it’s an understanding of the situation. Listen to the prospect, and think in terms of solution. You must create an atmosphere of confidence and trust strong enough to cause (effect) a sale. The sale begins when the customer says no.

26. Ask for the sale. Sounds too simple, but it works.

27. When you ask a closing question, SHUT UP. The first rule of sales.

28. If you don’t make the sale, make a firm appointment to return. If you don’t make the next appointment when you’re face-to-face, it may be a long, hard road to the next one. Make some form of sale each time you call.

29. Follow up, follow up, follow up. If it takes between five and ten exposures to a prospect before a sale is made, be prepared to do whatever it takes to get to the tenth meeting.

30. Redefine rejection. They’re not rejecting you; they’re just rejecting the offer you’re making them.

31. Anticipate and be comfortable with change. A big part of sales is change. Change in products, tactics, and markets. Roll with it to succeed. Fight it and fail.

32. Follow rules. Salespeople often think rules are made for others. Think they’re not for you? Think again. Broken rules will only get you fired.

33. Get along with others (co-workers and customers). Sales is never a solo effort. Team up with your co-workers and partner with your customers.

34. Understand that hard work makes luck. Take a close look at the people you think are lucky. Either they or someone in their family put in years of hard work to create that luck. You can get just as lucky.

35. Don’t blame others when the fault (or responsibility) is yours. Accepting responsibility is the fulcrum point for succeeding at anything. Doing something about it is the criterion. Execution is the reward (not the money is just the by-product of perfect execution).

36. Harness the power of persistence. Are you willing to take no for an answer and just accept it without a fight? Can you take no as a challenge instead of a rejection? Are you willing to persist through the five to ten exposures it takes to make the sale? If you can, then you have begun to understand the power.

37. Find your success formula through numbers. Determine how many leads, calls, proposals, appointments, presentations, and follow-ups it takes to get to the sale. And then follow the formula.

38. Do it passionately. Do it the best it’s ever been done.

39. Be memorable. In a creative way. In a positive way. In a professional way. What will they say about you when you leave? You always create a memory. Sometimes dim, sometimes bright. Sometimes positive, sometimes not. You choose (and are responsible for) the memory you leave.

40. Have fun! It’s the most important of them all. You will succeed far greater at something you love to do. And doing something you enjoy will also bring joy to others. Happiness is contagious.

Not following the 40 Rules of Sales Success leads to slow but sure failure. It doesn’t happen all at once — there are degrees of failing.

Here are 5 of them. What degree are you?

1. Failing to do your best.

2. Failing to learn the science of selling.

3. Failing to accept responsibility.

4. Failing to meet quota or pre-set goals.

5. Failing to have a positive attitude.

Success is a level of performance and a self confidence brought about by winning experiences. Failure is not about insecurity. It’s about lack of execution. There’s no such thing as a total failure.

Zig Ziglar has an answer: “Failure is an event, not a person.” Vince Lombardi said it better: “The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare to win.

The guy who wins the 100-meter dash in the Olympics does it in just under 10 seconds, every time. Ten seconds isn’t too long to run in a race, but how long did it take him to prepare to run it? Do you have the same will to win? I hope so.



Adil Zafar

A marketing consultant trying to write on subjects ranging from persona; finance to child psychology. As founder of Marketing Realm, I help businesses grow.