Do You Know What Makes Your Top Salespeople Unique?  

As management psychologist Robert N. McMurray once stated, a very high proportion of those engaged in selling can’t sell. And in the six decades since he made that famous observation, selling has only gotten harder. Today’s customers are empowered with endless options and information, customer journeys are increasingly disparate (and not always aligned with traditional sales tactics), and ever-increasing tools and administrative burdens steal reps’ time and attention away from the work of selling.  

But there are few roles within organizations so closely tied to the bottom line as sales. When sales orgs underperform, revenues lag—it’s just that simple.  

As such, taking the time to decode sales performance—understanding what makes top sales talent perform and developing a plan to attract and retain the best sellers—can help organizations unlock growth and profit. 

“The challenge for sales leaders is identifying which sales talent have the traits and skills to drive results,” says Joseph DiMisa, Global Sales Strategy & Rewards Advisory Leader at Korn Ferry. “There are traits that make some individuals great salespeople in general, and qualities that will make some individuals a better match for different companies or products.”  

“Given the larger number of sellers in the ‘average’ bucket, it’s worth developing a strategy to find and nurture those with the potential to be star sellers,” DiMisa adds. Not focusing on the talent that has the greatest potential to move the needle can be a big miss for sales organizations.

“Given the larger number of sellers in the ‘average’ bucket, it’s worth developing a strategy to find and nurture those with the potential to be star sellers.”

A Roadmap for Identifying Top Sales Talent 

Just like all other strategies and initiatives, unlocking high performance within your sales structure takes thought and planning. 

Sales organizations need a process for identifying what star performers look like and unpacking how they achieve top results. Armed with these insights, organizations can then create a roadmap that guides all future sales effectiveness investments—from hiring to development, performance management, and rewards. 

Here’s where to start. 

Step 1: Define What Top Performance Looks Like 

When it comes to sales, there’s an easy benchmark for performance: quota fulfillment. But that only tells you so much about what’s actually going on. Sales performance is about more than landing the deal. There are other important metricsthat indicate which sellers are best positioned to keep driving great results. These may include metrics such as time spent selling, lead response time, average deal size, and pipeline size. To assess your sales talent, you’ll need to define those relevant performance KPIs and benchmarks. 

Step 2: Get To Know Your High Performers  

What does it take to be a great salesperson? There are some traits and behaviors that are common across organizations and industries. But there may also be qualities that make some individuals a uniquely good fit within your organization or for selling specific products.

The better you understand your stars from a competency, behavioral, motivational, and time spend perspective, the better you can build and retain a high-performing team.

Sales Effectiveness

Breakthrough to immediate, predictable and sustainable sales effectiveness

Step 3: Develop a Success Profile 

Understanding what makes top performers stand out within your organization will help to identify the best prospects when it comes to recruitment, and also help you determine how to nurture in-house sales talent.  

Using the details you acquire from steps 1 and 2, you can develop a “success profile” that can help inform your decisions when it comes to your salesforce, from hiring to development to employee engagement, and pay and rewards.  

With a little thought and research, you can develop a roadmap that will help your organization to attract and retain the best salespeople, keeping them motivated to drive great results—quarter after quarter. 

Unleashing Sales Excellence 

No matter how talented your sales reps are, closing deals is more challenging than ever. We asked top sales leaders to share their views on the three most pressing challenges facing sales teams these days—and for their advice on how to beat them. Learn from the best.

Related Capabilities