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What Makes A Great Salesperson

You know that your sales team is one of your company’s most important assets. But do you know why some salespeople are good while others are great?

All great salespeople share certain traits. They’re highly driven, self-motivated, and, of course, love selling. They don’t need a lot of encouragement – they know how to make things happen on their own and what it takes to close a deal.

However, salespeople aren’t one-size-fits-all. What makes a salesperson great for your company specifically is a lot more nuanced. There are many different factors at play, from your offer to your goals and expectations for the role. There are also many kinds of sales roles, and each one comes with its own list of must-have skills and traits.

So why should you care about this? Well, have you heard of the 20-60-20 rule? It’s a theory that suggests that 20% of your sales team are top performers who often meet or exceed expectations, 60% are average, and the bottom 20% are consistently underperforming. In many cases, those top 20% account for over 50% of a company’s sales.

This may be the norm, but we also think it’s BS. If your top 20% outperform 80% of your team, why not aim to get more top performers rather than settling for people who are half-assing it? Especially on your sales team, which is one of the most critical departments of any business. More sales may happen online these days, but most long-term customer-client relationships still start with a phone call, video meeting, or demo presentation led by a sales professional.

Finding the Right Sales Talent for Your Team

One of the biggest mistakes we see business owners make when assessing their sales team is making assumptions about the traits and qualities that contribute to success. Typically, these are just the traits that managers can physically observe. For example, if your salespeople tend to be really outgoing or team-oriented, you might assume that these are the traits that make them good at their jobs.

But remember when you learned in math class that correlation doesn’t equal causation? That’s precisely what’s going on here. Just because your salespeople happen to all be extroverted team players doesn’t mean that these qualities make them good salespeople. In fact, a study by Wharton School of Business professor Adam Grant found that ambiverts (individuals who fall roughly in the middle of the extraversion and introversion scale) are the most successful salespeople.

So now you might be wondering what steps you can take to better assess and understand your sales talent and make sure you have the best people for the job. Well, here are two key questions to help you kickstart this process.

1. Do their strengths align with your company’s offering?

The kind of sales talent you need varies based on your product or service. For example, if your offer is more transactional (i.e., short sales cycle, conversions driven by pricing or timing, low lifetime customer value), then you likely have a sales process that’s pretty cut and dry. If that’s the case, then you need talent who are comfortable following a procedure and handling a higher volume of sales conversations.

If your sales process is more consultative (i.e., longer sales cycles, conversions driven by quality or recommendations, high lifetime customer value), you need salespeople who deeply understand your customers’ needs. They also need to anticipate objections and thoughtfully answer questions. Strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills are a must for these types of sales professionals.

Depending on the complexity of your customer journey, you may also need different sales professionals to handle other aspects of the sales process. For example, a business development representative focused on the top of the funnel will be focused on generating leads, so they need to be comfortable dealing with cold leads at scale. On the other hand, an account manager role is often focused more on onboarding and retention, so relationship-building and customer service skills would be more valuable.

2. Do they have the right skills?

Great salespeople are resilient. They need to handle being told ‘no’ a lot and not having that hurt them. Salespeople get doors slammed in their faces all day long. The right salesperson will keep working until they reach an open door. The wrong one will focus on all the lost opportunities.

They also need to be self-starters. In sales, you only eat what you kill. In other words, since compensation is often variable and commission-based, people who thrive in these environments are equally excited by the idea of uncapped earning potential and comfortable with the risk they’re taking on if they don’t meet targets.

Lastly, great salespeople are great listeners. Too often, salespeople pitch the product or service before they fully understand their prospect’s needs and goals. A good salesperson understands that their role is guiding or coaching a decision rather than pushing a sale. They sit back and let a prospect talk through their problems before offering their recommendations.

Final Thoughts

Your sales team is one of the most critical departments in your company – so why settle for just 20%? Take a second to think about your current team’s top performers. Now think about how much further you could get and how much faster you could grow if you had more professionals like them?

Now you might be thinking: “Well, of course! That sounds great, but how do we find more top performers?” Well, fortunately for you, that’s where we come in. The key to finding great salespeople comes down to data. Not anecdotal observations, but cold hard facts, which we can help you find. Our Insights Work platform can help you analyze your top sales professionals and understand the exact traits, experiences, and skill sets they bring to the table that make them so effective. Then, we can help you use those insights to create a blueprint for success for your company’s sales roles so you can hire more of the right people and less of the wrong ones.