What attributes do top salespeople have in common?

Better sales staff equals more sales. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Increasing the productivity of your salespeople, however, is a complex task fraught with misunderstanding.

Finding high performing staff involves a specific hiring approach which targets those with precisely the right attributes for the job in hand.

Once you have the right players, it doesn’t stop there. It’s a question of matching them to the right sales roles, managing them and developing the sales team in an ongoing way to ensure maximum efficiency and results.

Remember the old maxim ‘If you can sell, you can sell anything’?

Well, times have changed. Not all sales positions – or reps – are created equal.

According to studies analysed by Herb Greenberg, Harold Weinstein and Patrick Sweeney in their book How to Hire and Develop Your Next Top Performer, around 50% of those working in sales lack the fundamental traits necessary in effective salespeople. A further 25% are selling the wrong thing, for the wrong managers, in the wrong place.

That leaves just 25% of salespeople operating to full capacity and producing great results.

So one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to finding the right salesperson to sell your product or services.

Financial benefits of hiring the best salespeople

Having a sales team composed of star performers can make a significant difference to your bottom line.

In a study of 100 businesses, Sales Force of Top Producers – A Manager’s (and Owner’s) Dream, reported in Employer’s Advantage, the company’s top performer outsold the bottom performer by a whopping average of 5.7 to 1 – with a range of 3:1 to 9:1.

Just imagine what kind of results you’d get if your entire team worked at the lower margin of 3:1, not to mention 5:1 or higher.

Salesforce Work.com and the TAS Group drew some more shocking statistics from their research. These include:

  • Two-thirds of salespeople miss their quota.
  • More than half of all salespeople close less than 40% of potential deals.
  • Top-performing sales reps are 250% better at qualifying leads.
  • High performers are 2.5 times more likely to be effective qualifiers than the general population.
  • Around 40% of salespeople don’t understand their customer’s ‘pain’, addressing problems they don’t even have.
  • Revenue can be up to 25% greater at companies where sales and marketing are well integrated.
  • High performers are 57% more likely to come from companies where sales and marketing work in harmony.

Measuring an individual salesperson’s productivity

All this begs the question, just how productive is your own sales team? Can you measure individual productivity? And once you’ve measured it, how do you replace or improve poor and fair performers?

The answer is using the advanced science from the next generation of smart assessment tools. Our award-winning Great People Inside assessments will help you identify those essential success attributes for each sales role, enabling you to match it with the right employee.

Great People Inside’s dimensions assessment will tell you:

  • what makes your top performers so great
  • why your average performers are less effective
  • how to improve your least successful performers

How to hire the best people


The right assessment tools can help you find the right people for your sales roles.

Applied correctly, Great People Inside tools can  make your recruitment of future high performers up to three times more successful and also significantly reduce sales department turnover by more than 27%.

These results should be music to any employer’s ear when considering the statistics.

Figures reported in Employer’s Advantage, show that three out of four new sales employees don’t last the distance. They have, in fact, only a 25% chance of staying with the company for a full year.

Of those that do stick, only one in 10 go on to become a genuine top performer within three years.

So what is the essential DNA of these star performers? Many have fundamental traits and attributes in common, which help drive their peak performance for the longer term.

Using our validated and reliable customised sales assessments, we work with you and scientifically evaluate your current top-performing salespeople.

These measures enable us to create a customised job profile benchmark specific to your company based on your company’s top performers, not a random benchmark based on a collection of external organisations. A company customised standard means you can clearly see what sets your top performers apart from the rest.

This benchmark can also be used to significant effect when recruiting new sales staff, ensuring that candidates fit these rigorous criteria and carry the ‘work genes’ critical to success in their roles.

What to look for in sales job candidates today

There are plenty of things to consider when hiring, but it’s vital that new employees are a good fit with company culture and embrace their new work environment.

They must be able to cope with challenges, build strong relationships with work colleagues – especially in the marketing department – and understand the needs of your customers.

As if hiring salespeople wasn’t challenging enough already, in this new world we live in, where face to face selling may not always be the accepted way, how do you know if the candidates have what it takes to sell remotely. Interestingly, psychologists tell us the many attributes for in-person sales success don’t work effectively when remote selling!

So what attributes do star sales performers typically have? Behavioural science tells us that they commonly possess the following traits:

  • Agreeableness: Tendency to be friendly, approachable, and easy to get along with.
  • Conscientiousness: Tendency to strive for perfection, sometimes at all costs.
  • Stability: Degree to which one reacts positively to negative or stressful situations.
  • Openness: Willingness to try new ways of doing things.
  • Tenacity: Tendency to be determined and persevere.
  • Control: Tendency to take charge of people and situations. Leads more than follows.
  • Entrepreneurial Approach: The tendency to quickly seize and tenaciously pursue new opportunities for the organisation, taking calculated risks at a high level of autonomy. The right recruitment tools help you weed out unsuitable candidates and identify the cream of the crop.

Other benefits of hiring star sales performers

Revenue benefits are not the only advantages of building a high performing sales team.

By adopting a more scientific approach to recruitment, you remove much of your operational downside costs; costs that don’t always show up on your P&L:

  • Frequent employee turnover – even from good people
  • Time spent recruiting and training of replacements
  • Lost sales through an empty seat during recruitment and induction training
  • Wasted investment in salary and training for someone that doesn’t make it.
  • Inability to close deals when not face to face.

Try us for FREE

You probably wouldn’t make a significant purchase without doing your research and acquiring objective data about your future potential investment. Then why would you hire a new salesperson costing more than $100K per annum using nothing more than your “gut feel” and highly subjective references?

At the end of the day if you’re happy with your current sales team’s success rate don’t change anything.

However, if you want to significantly increase your business performance talk to Great People Inside about our sales assessments – we’ll even let you try us risk-free and fee-free. Just click HERE, and we will be in touch.