High-performing salespeople do a lot of things very well. Finding and expecting the same for other roles in your company may be able to lift performance levels for everyone.
Steve W. Martin teaches sales strategy at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business and is the author of “Heavy Hitter I.T. Sales Strategy: Competitive Insights from Interviews with 1,000+ Key Information Technology Decision Makers.”
The premise of his book focuses on a key question: What separates high-performing salespeople who exceed their quota from underperformers who miss their quotas by more than 25%?
Even though Martin is approaching this from a sales and sales management perspective, I would submit that his findings reveal certain attributes that we should look for in any new hire. They strike me as universal indicators of achievement and success for any role. (Just substitute another role when you see “salesperson” below.) Here are the highlights, in his words:
Verbal acuity. This refers to a communication level where the meaning, nature, and importance of the words spoken by the salesperson are personally understood by the customer. On average, high-performing salespeople communicate between the 11th and 13th grade level when scored by the Flesch-Kincaid test as opposed to the 8th and 9th grade level for underperforming salespeople.
Achievement oriented personality. Eighty-four percent of the top performers tested scored very high in achievement orientation. They are fixated on achieving goals and continuously measure their performance in comparison to their goals. Another interesting statistic is that over 85% of top salespeople played an individual or team sport in high school. As a result, they are well-equipped to function in competitive environments where self-discipline is a necessity.
Situational dominance. Situational dominance is a personal interaction strategy by which the customer accepts the salesperson’s recommendations and follows his advice. A relaxed-dominant salesperson speaks freely and guides the conversation as he confidently shares his knowledge and opinions with the customer.
Inward pessimism. Over 90% of high-performing and underperforming salespeople described themselves as optimists. However, upon further review nearly two-thirds of high-performing salespeople actually exhibit pessimistic personality tendencies. Inward pessimism drives a salesperson to question the viability of the deal and credibility of the buyer. Therefore, 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.
Sales management impact. High-performing salespeople said sales management was most important in these areas: leadership and management skills; practical experience and sales intuition; and communication and coaching skills. Underperformers were more focused on product knowledge and industry expertise – areas where they fall short – which are critical for success.
Sales organization influence. The research suggests that sales organization morale influences individual sales success. Fifty three percent of high-performing sales rated their sales organization’s morale as being higher than most sales organizations. Positive and productive company cultures matter.
Top salespeople exhibit the above characteristics, in above average levels, which allows them to deliver above average sales. While these characteristics don’t map perfectly to other roles in an organization, they do provide interesting insights for individuals and teams everywhere.
Have a great week.
P.S. Stop stressing about what to say and what to write. Simplify your marketing and sales tools. Make your customers and clients the centerpiece of your marketing. If you need help with your customer case studies and success stories, get in touch with us by replying to this email. We can set up a friendly phone call to discuss the possibilities.
Sign up for The Sunday Snippet!
Good ideas to help you prosper delivered fresh each Sunday morning.