Edited excerpt from What Separates the Strongest Salespeople from the Weakest by Steve W. Martin:
I recently conducted a research project involving nearly 800 salespeople and sales leaders to better answer this question: What separates high-performing salespeople who exceed their quota from under-performers who miss their quotas by more than 25%?
1. Verbal acuity. On average, high-performing salespeople communicate between the 11th and 13th grade level when scored by the Flesch-Kincaid test as opposed to the 8th and 9th grade level for underperforming salespeople.
2. Achievement oriented personality. They are fixated on achieving goals and continuously measure their performance in comparison to their goals. Over 85% of top salespeople played an individual or team sport in high school.
3. Situational dominance. A relaxed-dominant salesperson speaks freely and guides the conversation as he confidently shares his knowledge and opinions with the customer. An anxious-submissive salesperson is forced into reactive behavior and his tendency is to operate under the direction of the customer, never being in control of the account.
4. Inward pessimism. Over 90% of all salespeople described themselves as optimists, but two-thirds of high-performing salespeople actually exhibit pessimistic personality tendencies. I theorize the explanation for this dichotomy is that salespeople always have to maintain a positive attitude and pleasant demeanor while in front of customers. However, inward pessimism drives a salesperson to question the viability of the deal and credibility of the buyer, and thus to ask the customer tougher qualifying questions and to seek out meetings with senior level decision makers who ultimately decide which vendor will be selected.
(1) “Over 90% of all salespeople described themselves as optimists, but two-thirds of high-performing salespeople actually exhibit pessimistic personality tendencies.” How can we test for this?
(2) Cf. How to interview sales people.