For many years, companies around the world have been trying to find the magic bullet of hiring and training sales professionals that outperform and stay with the organisation.

There are many theories, many strategies and many academics trying to pursue this goal!

Harvard University did a study in the 1970’s in which they tracked sales people over a four year period and documented the traits of the top performers!

They determined that top performers had the following two characteristics in common.

  • Empathy

The ability to sense the reactions of other people and to notice their subtle clues and cues. Having empathy enables good salespeople to really understand what a customer wants, even when those desires aren’t articulated. They can READ the body language and buying signals of their prospects and clients and know when to push or pull back.

  • Ego-Drive

 This is the need to have a prospect or customer say yes. What great salespeople seek is an opportunity to turn others around to their point of view. The desire to win, not for the money but for the ego!

When I started working with Sales professionals around the Asia Pacific region in 2003 as the owner/manager of the Sandler Sales Institute Hong Kong franchise, I started seeing that the empathy/drive picture is pretty accurate!

I also noticed in the 1,000s of sales professionals I worked with that three additional traits were common amongst them:

  •  Passion

A raging passion about selling and sales success. When a salesperson lacks passion, or the desire to win, they will not be compelled to go the extra mile to learn and grow to close deals!

  •  Responsibility

A strong sense of ownership and responsibility is one’s willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed.

I found that many salespeople expected too much without the hard work required to close deals and be successful. They stopped at about 80%of the way, and it is the last 20% that makes the winners!

When faced with obstacles, challenges and competition, sales people with a strong sense of ownership will find ways to make things work.

  •  No excuses

I found that top performers NEVER make excuses. They know that success is up to them and no one else. Poor performers talk about lack of products and services, we’re too expensive, we lack back office systems, etc…

When they win, they win. And when they fail, they take ownership of the failure and try to do better next time!

When a combination of these three is present, it makes for a top performer! Unstoppable! Willing to change and learn new ways of doing things! They can be trained. If the above are not present, you are fighting a losing battle!

Now let’s look at some of the traits that can HINDER sales performance!!

  • Emotional Involvement

Sometimes salespeople forget who they work for. They can become so close to the person, they forget it is business! They start SYMPATHISING instead of EMPATHISING with the client. They stop listening and start to try to solve only the client’s concerns without forgetting about sales targets, fees, etc…

  • Self-Limiting Beliefs

Simple: “The winners in life constantly think in terms of I can, I will and I am. Losers on the other hand concentrate their waking thoughts on what they should have done or what they don’t do”.Denis Waitley.

Successful people KNOW they are good, KNOW they can win, and KNOW they have the skills and tools available to be the best!

  • Uncomfortable with MONEY issues or saying NO!

Top performers have absolutely no issues discussing money or having to say no when a client is being unreasonable or aggressive!

This discomfort is sensed by many clients and they go in for the kill and take advantage of the sales person.

Top performers know they provide value and that value comes at a price and with commitments from their clients!

If you can identify whether or not a sales person is WILLING to change, you can better determine their success!


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