Sales linguistic expert -- Steve W. Martin -- reveals, in the Harvard Business Review, the results of a fascinating study of the commonalities present in high-performance salespeople. His findings are the result of extensive analysis of more than 1,000 salespeople across the country. Those achieving 125 percent of their prior year sales goal were considered high achievers, and it's their common traits that give us insight into both the attributes to seek in the hiring process and the qualities to nurture on the job.
Sixty-six percent of high-performing salespeople are money motivated, as you might imagine, but more than 80 percent indicate that being respected and recognized as one of the best by their peers is very important to them. Money doesn't cure all.
Those achieving an average of 170 percent of goal last year -- the cream of the crop -- believe that knowledge is their most powerful attribute. The next tier down -- though still in the high-performance category -- cite their likability, time management or dependability as their secret weapon.
Top sales performers are goal and outcome focused, thinking about their job during more than 50 percent of their free time. More than half report maintaining a list of goals they aim to accomplish and many cite frequently contemplating their professional future five or ten years down the road. Very few describe themselves as living one day at a time, as this is a group that works their plan, though 72 percent prefer a wide variety of activities in their workday.
While you may not naturally connect a sales professional's career successes with their childhood experiences, 70 percent of high-performers cite having a happy childhood they think of fondly.
When asked what sales strategies proved the most successful for them, top salespeople report that "getting customers to emotionally connect with you," "tailoring your pitch to the customer's needs," and "asking questions that show your expertise" dominate.
Top performers believe that likability is an important differentiator between themselves and competitors, though they generally agree there are times when you have to confront a customer's belief system when they are at risk of making a decision detrimental to their business.
When asked for word association around the term "sales manager," high performers were more apt to use positive words like "coach," "leader" or "mentor" versus negative words. Equally positive word associations were formed around the phrase "sales process."
Top performers were asked to select qualities their customers admired in them most. Making the top of the list were trustworthiness, professionalism, follow-through, product knowledge and enthusiasm.
Leverage these insights into the perceptions and beliefs of high-performing sales talent to get the most out of your sales team. For a link to the complete study and other sales management resources, visit www.redrovercompany.com/blog.
Lori Turner-Wilson can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.