What Makes a Top Salesperson?


I am often asked by business owners and leaders who are anxious to recruit the best salespeople, “What is it that makes a salesperson a top performer? What are their characteristics? What are their strengths? What differentiates them from other salespeople?”

Over the past twenty-six years I have trained and developed many sales professionals, and I have found some commonality with those at the top of their craft.

So what do top salespeople do better than most?


  • Listen, listen, listen. Average salespeople are so eager to talk about their product or service that they do not listen to the prospect’s concerns. Top salespeople, on the other hand, listen intently. They ask questions throughout the conversation to ensure understanding, and summarize what the prospect has said to demonstrate comprehension.
  • Position themselves with decision-makers from the beginning. Top sales professionals don’t get caught calling on those without “approval power.” They are able to first identify and then access the formal decision-making unit.
  • Have a desire to help people. Notice that I said “to help people” and not to “sell them.” Top sales performers realize that the role of a salesperson is to help prospects and      clients overcome some kind of problem; and yes, they know it may mean that they will need to walk away if their product or service does not solve the need of the client.
  • Do what they say they are going to do. The best salespeople follow through. They send thank-you notes, make courtesy check-in calls and respond swiftly and attentively to client requests.
  • Build solid relationships. The best sales pros build a relationship with their customer before asking them to spend any money. They care about their clients and are interested in them as people, and genuinely want to be part of making them successful. They achieve relationships that can be viewed as two friends working out a mutually beneficial deal.
  • Know the client’s buying criteria. Top sales representatives know from the beginning how the client is making a decision, and they form their solution based on that information.
  • Realize it is not about price, but about value. The very best salespersons know that clients buy when the perceived benefit exceeds the cost. They don’t lower their price when there is an objection; they realize that they need to focus on raising the benefit in the client’s mind.
  • Utilize networking to gain referrals. Expert sales professionals regularly attend networking functions and join networking groups that share a common business goal, client or event.
  • Know when to walk away from an opportunity. Sales superstars don’t pursue business they do not want because they recognize that it takes just as long to work an unprofitable opportunity through the sales funnel as it does a profitable one. They trust their own judgment but also rely heavily on objective assessment.
  • Readily identify and know how to deal with the different behavioral styles. The best sales reps adjust their behavioral style to match the behavioral style of the client.
  • Balance their time appropriately between critical selling tasks. Salespeople who are at the top of their game continue to spend time prospecting for new business, working on existing opportunities, maintaining existing clients and performing the work agreed upon.

By recruiting salespeople with the above attributes, you will almost surely find that your sales will increase and your clients will be happy. Need help recruiting and hiring your next sales superstar? Contact one of our Sales Xceleration Advisors today.