Improve Sales Performance: 5 Traits of Top Performers


Salesmen today are in the midst of an identity crisis. After meeting with a friend of mine who sells for a local insurance agency, identifying when a lead is ready to buy is one of the hardest methods to learn in today's buyer-dominated buying cycle.

What's more, if you work on a sales team, the ability to pull in one direction impacts your efforts even more.

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime.” – Babe Ruth

One way to work together is in understanding who your team players are and their natural talents. For many sales teams, finding people with the right kinds of skills means you have built an all-star team that can hit those important department sales goals. An all-star sales team will improve sales performance.

Improve Sales Performance: Who is who on your sales team?

So if you were going to pick an all-star team, what kinds of people would you want on your team? According to Steve W. Martin with Harvard Business Review, there are different kinds of sales people that separate them from being the “top of the pick” choice and those that don't make the cut.

According to the study, there are signs from the way one communicates to their ability to view situations in a positive or negative light as well as how top performers vs under performers viewed their relationship to their sales manager.

1. Verbal Acuity

Martin indicates that a sales person will have more success with a prospect based on their communication level. Can they communicate at the level their prospect understands?

“[Establishing] credibility requires that messages be conveyed at the recipient's communication level, not too far below the level of the words that the customer uses,” Martin wrote.

2. Achievement Oriented Personality

Martin revealed that over 80% of top performers were over achievers and viewed their ability to hit their goals on their overall performance.

“Another interesting statistic is that over 85% of top salespeople played an individual or team sport in high school.”

The most successful reps also make sure to use the resources available to them. The study found that more than half are “power users” of the CRM and other internal systems, compared to less than a third of under performing reps.

3. Situational Dominance

In the study, Martin finds that there is a notable characteristic that determines how a customer accepts guidance from a sales person. The ability to judge ones dominance in the relationship determines communication and behavior patterns through out the sales process.

“A relaxed-dominant salesperson speaks freely and guides the conversation as he confidently shares his knowledge and opinions with the customer. An anxious-submissive salesperson is forced into reactive behavior and his tendency is to operate under the direction of the customer, never being in control of the account. Situational dominance test scores of high-performing salespeople averaged 20% higher than under performing salespeople.”

4. Inward Pessimism

Although 90% of his participants described themselves as being optimistic, Martin also discovers that close to 2/3 of top performers exhibit pessimistic characteristics. This explains why most sales people charge through the “no's” with an optimistic attitude to go through the numbers to find the “yes's” in their pipeline.

However, “top salespeople are more naturally driven to ask the customer tougher qualifying questions and are more likely to seek out meetings with senior level decision makers who ultimately decide which vendor will be selected.”

5. Sales Management Impact

Martin surveyed his participants on the role a sales manager plays in the overall success of their performance. Where there were many agreeing views that sales managers actually do impact their performance, there was a also a distinction between top performers and under performers as to patterns of communication with their direct managers.

“Both high-performing and under performing salespeople are in contact with their sales managers at about the same frequency. For example, 51% of high-performing salespeople and 55% of under performing salespeople are in contact with their sales manager all the time during the day.

Twenty-eight percent of high-performing salespeople and 20% of under performing are in contact with their manager frequently during the week while 15% of high-performing and 17% of under performers talk to their managers once or twice a week.

However, the conversations sales leaders have with top salespeople are quite different than those with under performers. They are collaborative in strategizing sessions about prospective deals while the conversations with under performers consist of directional instructions and validating whether or not daily duties are being carried out.”

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