The Traits of Overperforming Sales Professionals

The Traits of Overperforming Sales Professionals

A University of Southern California Business School professor study of 1,000 sales identified the distinctive characteristics and habits of top performers. He found that 15 percent of those surveyed had exceeded their quotas by more than 125 percent. Here are the key findings of the study:

  • 84 percent of top sales professionals reported that being respected and recognized by peers as a top performer is very important to them.
  • 42 percent believe that they are likeable, which makes it easy for customers to relate to them.
  • 32 percent believe that they are reliable and prioritize their time effectively.
  • 26 percent believe their superior knowledge is their distinctive competency. This group exceeded quota expectation by 170 percent.
  • 50 percent maintain a written or mental list of goals.
  • 36 percent stated that they think about the what their future will look like in five, 10 or more years.
  • 13 percent stated that they live one-day at a time.

The top performers’ reasons for choosing sales as a career are as follows:

  • 27 percent said that a career in sales enables them to control their own destiny.
  • 27 percent said that they appreciate that the harder they work, the more compensation they can earn.
  • 26 percent said that sales suited their personality.
  • 19 percent said they fell into a career in sales.

Keys to superior sales performance (in order of most effective to least effective) are:

  • Emotionally connecting with customers.
  • Customizing sales approaches to meet customer needs.
  • Asking questions that shows their expertise.
  • Illustrating the value of the recommended solution.
  • Directing the conversation.

Effective after-sale strategies were mentioned as follows:

  • 36 percent believe that they are personally responsible for their customers’ success.
  • 26 percent establish cordial relationships to respect the time of others.
  • 22 percent keep track of results after the sale.
  • 17 percent consider clients to be close personal friends.

Common characteristics that top performers believe are key to success include:

  • Confidence
  • Quick-witted
  • Likeable
  • Responsible
  • Productive


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