15 Unique Characteristics of Top-Selling Salespeople

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Michael Pici
Michael Pici


Have you ever wanted a peek inside the mind of a top salesperson? Although every rep has their own unique selling style, strategy, and process, their mindsets are surprisingly similar.

A top selling salesperson shows off their skills by making a sale

That might be because, as HubSpot sales director Dan Tyre often says, “Success in sales is 90% mental.”

With the right attitude, you can win business in seemingly impossible situations. So if you want to be one of the best, model yourself after these 15 characteristics.

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1. They believe in their product.

Successful salespeople genuinely believe in their product’s value. This conviction comes through loud and clear when they’re talking to prospects, helping them break through resistance and doubts. Believing in their product also helps salespeople avoid discounting — they know the price tag is justified.

2. They empathize with their customers.

The most successful reps have spent a lot of time getting to know their typical buyers: Their challenges, top priorities, daily responsibilities, fears, and so on. And they’re not just familiar with their prospects — they also empathize with them. Because great reps see their prospects as actual people, they build stronger relationships.

3. They want to win.

That being said, top-performing salespeople aren’t purely motivated by the desire to help their customers. Helpfulness is a huge component of their selling personality — but so is competitiveness. 

Salespeople who love to see their name at the top of the leaderboard almost always do well. Even if a rep doesn’t care about beating their teammates, they still want to beat their personal records for deal size, business sold, and quota attainment.

4. They're resilient.

Every salesperson hits a slump at some point. Low- and mid-performing reps usually panic, but top-performing reps recognize freaking out doesn’t solve the problem.

In fact, this reaction can make a slump worse — once you’ve lost confidence, basic selling activities become enormously difficult. In these situations, the best salespeople stay calm and figure out a game plan.

That might be revamping their messaging, setting mini-goals they know they can hit for a quick confidence boost, talking to their sales manager, or ramping up their activity.

5. They’re paranoid.

High sales achievers don’t let themselves mentally count a deal as "won" until the prospect has signed the check. This paranoia helps them spot and avoid potential landmines.

For example, an optimistic rep might take the buyer’s promise to speak to their boss at face value. But a paranoid rep will say, "That’s great. When are you planning on talking to your manager? And would it be possible for me to be there to support your argument that …?"

6. They're focused.

Great salespeople know exactly what they want, when they want it, and who they want it from. This single-minded focus gives them impressive control over the sales process. To illustrate, let’s say Erica, a Senior Account Executive, is calling a new prospect. She wants to talk to the prospect’s CTO.

With that objective, Erica doesn’t get distracted when the prospect offers a meeting with a head engineer. Instead, she replies, "Since this purchase would impact multiple teams, the CTO usually needs to get involved early in the process. She’ll appreciate your foresight in setting up a meeting, rather than bringing her in later and having to start from scratch."

7. They're passionate.

Good salespeople like what they do. Great salespeople love it. The pure joy of selling helps them cope with the unpredictable, highly stressful environment. They can’t imagine getting hooked on another job the way they’ve fallen for sales.

8. They're efficient.

Amazing reps are ruthless with their schedule. If they can automate an activity, they will. If it’s not productive anymore, they’ll stop doing it. Good luck asking a top-performing rep to sit through a long, useless meeting or irrelevant training — they’ll either take out their phone or laptop or stop showing up to future ones.

9. They put in the effort.

You won’t meet a top-selling rep who goes home early or spends every other Friday at the beach. Talent is important in sales, but so is hard work. After all, you can’t use your skills to convince a reluctant prospect to buy if you haven’t gotten them on the phone — which requires several preliminary steps, like prospecting, qualifying, and reaching out to them.

Not only do great salespeople put in the hours, but they’re also willing to fight for every account. That might mean taking a call at 8 p.m. because that’s when the prospect is free — or getting to the office at 6 a.m. to do some extra prep for an important deal.

10. They focus on the factors within their control.

Most salespeople recognize early on that their success is contingent on some external factors. If the gatekeeper is having a bad day, they might not let you through no matter how persuasively you frame your request.

If the buyer just lost 50% of their budget, they may not go through with the purchase no matter how well you’ve demonstrated value. If the decision-maker used your competitor at his old company and loved them, you’ll probably lose the deal no matter how effectively you sell.

But successful reps don’t spend much time dwelling on these things — that would be pointless. Instead, they direct their mental energy toward what they can directly influence. This attitude keeps their passion and enthusiasm high and ensures they’re spending their time productively.

11. They offer meaningful insight.

The best reps know that no two prospects are the same. They understand that businesses are facing their own challenges, operating under their own circumstances. So when they interact with prospects, they don't stick to some rigid script, spewing generic talking points.

Instead, they make a point of understanding where their prospects are coming from to produce meaningful insight based on elements like professional common ground and familiarity with similar businesses.

Exemplary reps don't just mull over a product or service's bells and whistles — they make pointed pitches that cover how well they understand a prospect's individual situation before demonstrating how their solution is best equipped to remedy the problems they're facing.

12. They're honest.

Integrity has always been the best policy in sales, but in an age where consumers are more savvy and well-informed than they've ever been, it's becoming more of a necessity than a virtue.

The best sales reps are honest in both their intentions and their tactics. As I touched on earlier, they sincerely believe in the solutions they're selling. They understand their product or service's limitations just as much as its benefits.

They don't over-promise benefits or downplay legitimate concerns. In short, the best reps can present their solution — as it is — and demonstrate why it will work for their prospects without smokescreens, deliberate ambiguity, or flat-out lies.

13. They're always learning.

The best sales reps understand that sales is a fluid, constantly evolving practice. New sales trends, strategies, and technologies emerge all the time, and top-selling salespeople stay abreast of those developments. 

They're often interested in attending events like sales seminars. Many are willing to reach out to managers and sales leaders within their company to schedule short meetings to see if they can get some tips on how to improve their sales efforts. And when a sales org starts to leverage new technology, they're the first ones to buckle down and master it.

This point is a combination of humility and determination. They understand perfection isn't attainable in sales, but they're still motivated enough to chase it.

14. They're always well-prepared.

While top-selling sales reps know how to think on their feet, they very rarely wing it when interacting with prospects. The best reps know that if they're going to get the most out of a call, demo, meeting, or any other engagement with potential customers, they have to know their stuff.

Top-performing reps conduct extensive research on their prospects and, in turn, know how to best personalize and articulate their value proposition. They also have the proper materials they'll need on hand and consider potential objections ahead of time.

Though there's no way to definitively predict every hitch you might run into when conducting a sale, the best salespeople still buckle down and thoroughly prepare to account for as many as possible.

15. They emphasize relationship building.

Sales is inherently relationship-oriented. When done right, it's a matter of establishing connections and building trust with prospects and peers. And the best sales reps have the authenticity, empathy, and motivation to do that on a consistent basis.

Top-selling salespeople can add a personal element to their engagements, conversations, and deals. They take a sincere interest in their prospects — making an effort to understand their circumstances, interests, and personalities.

They don't see deals as purely transactional. Instead, they take them as opportunities to connect with prospects and meaningfully improve their operations.

They're not reluctant to follow-up with customers and clients, making a point to constantly lend a hand to those who've already sold to. Sales is a long-term game, so top-selling salespeople know how to forge long-term relationships.

Greatness is, by definition, hard to obtain. By modeling yourself after the best of the best, you’ll bring yourself much closer to their results.

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