Characteristics of high-performing sales reps

By Brian Thompson,

When hiring new salespeople, there is a lot more to consider than whether potential candidates have past experience in sales. Research has shown that high-performing sales reps share some key personality traits, and managers who look out for these traits when hiring are more likely to build a stronger, higher performing team. 

1. High performing sales reps love to win
According to Entrepreneur, the best sales reps are motivated by more than money. They are natural-born high achievers, motivated by a deep-seated urge to win. 

Steve W. Martin, a professor of sales strategy at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, discussed his sales rep personality study with the Harvard Business Review. Martin studied top performers at top companies and found that 84 percent of those he tested were incredibly achievement oriented. He found that 85 percent of them also played a sport in high school, indicating natural tendencies toward competitiveness and discipline. 

Compensation management software is an ideal tool for data-driven high achievers who are obsessed with tracking their progress, identifying weaknesses and making a plan to improve. By allowing reps to track daily progress across a number of metrics, compensation management software helps sales reps achieve more. 

2. High-performing sales reps get on the customers' level 
Inc. said the best sales reps create atmospheres of mutual respect between themselves and their customers. They position themselves as equals and, as Entrepreneur explained, they demonstrate continued loyalty by helping their customers through any post-sale problems. 

In addition, Martin said high-performing sales reps understand their customers' levels of knowledge on the subject matter and communicate with them at that level, not below. A great sales rep also demonstrates a strong command over the conversation, exhibiting enough knowledge about a product that the customer trusts what he is saying is true. 

Inc. added that top sales reps are not afraid of a little silence during a sales call. Letting the customer have some time to think through the information can have a positive effect on the sale, yet many people feel they have to fill every gap with words.

3. High-performing sales reps have a shining resume
While a resume isn't the only thing that matters, it does indicate whether a candidate has a history of high achievement, something Insight Squared said is another key indicator the candidate will perform well on your sales team. 

4. High-performing sales reps hope for the best and prepare for the worst
While sales reps tend to outwardly display optimism and appear self-assured when interacting with customers, they also understand where every situation could go wrong. Entrepreneur said the best sales reps are constantly anticipating how they could lose out on a sale and coming up with ways to prevent that from happening. 

Martin said over 90 percent of the high performers he studied were self-described optimists, yet two-thirds of them displayed pessimistic personality traits. With this balance, customers can perceive sales reps as confident while at the same time, sales reps can always be ready for something to go wrong. 

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Brian Thompson