In this article, I share the 15 characteristics of elite sales professionals I have witnessed in almost two decades as a sales leader, trainer and coach.
Almost every sales team consists of a small number of poor performers, a majority of average performers, and a small minority of Elite Sales Professionals.
These high-performing sales professionals are the ones who not only achieve targets but exceed them.
And they do it month in, month out, without fail.
So what makes this Elite few so much better than all the rest?
What qualities do they have, or what do they do differently than everyone else?
There are some basic personal skills you need to be suited to work in the sales profession, but these alone will not get you to the top.
I’ve worked with, managed, and coached thousands of salespeople over the past two decades and noted that elite sales professionals always seem to share specific characteristics.
1. They are Very Competitive
You will not find a top performer anywhere in this profession who is not extremely competitive.
They constantly compete with others or themselves to keep pushing their limits to a higher level.
2. They are Passionate about their Profession
Whether you work in a corner shop or play professional football, you have to be passionate about what you do for a living to perform at your best.
Elite sales professionals are passionate about sales and usually about business too.
They don’t just see sales as a job.
They see sales as a true profession and live and breathe it.
3. They are Selective About What They Sell
Top sales professionals refuse to risk damaging their reputation by selling something they do not believe in.
Believing in what you sell is one of the fundamentals of sales success.
Without it, you will never be able to perform at your very best.
4. The Elite are Always Hungry
It’s not getting to the top that is the difficult part in any profession, it is staying there.
Elite sales professionals never get tired of success. They are always looking for the next challenge.
Sometimes this sees them leave great jobs where they are making great money because they know that success is not a bank balance.
5. They Don’t Aim for 100%
The Elite don’t aim to reach targets. They aim to exceed them.
They don’t aim for 100%, they aim for smashing 100% to pieces. They see 100% as the minimum expected of them.
It’s not very often you will see an elite sales professional looking completely satisfied with doing 100% of their target because they see that as doing their job.
6. They are Adaptable
Top sales performers are like chameleons.
They have a natural ability to act and adapt to match their prospect’s characteristics.
This could be their tone of voice or maybe just how they sit.
This adaption puts prospects at ease and makes them comfortable in the salesperson’s presence.
It psychologically takes down the wall of resistance between buyer and seller and helps develop trust.
7. They Are Honest Professionals
The sales elite always remain professional, no matter the circumstances.
They do this because they care about their reputation and because they care about their clients.
This professional act of caring comes across in how they speak with and listen to their prospects.
It builds trust, makes the closing stage of a sale much easier, and increases the chances of getting referrals and repeat business from the client in the future.
8. They’re Intelligent
The elite learn quickly.
They’re constantly asking questions and don’t need to hear the answer more than once before it sinks in. They instantly take that new knowledge, make it their own, and start using it immediately.
Watching when you put a sales champion into a new environment is fascinating.
They’re like a sponge.
They instantly begin to soak in everything around them, with a burning desire to learn quickly and be the best wherever they are.
9. They are Proud & Perfectionistic
Elite sales professionals care about what people think and are their own biggest critics.
Whether it relates to their customer data, client proposals, or their desk, they always want things to be as perfect as possible.
This ensures they keep a clear mind and reduces the chances of mistakes being made. It also ensures they give their clients excellent service.
10. They Treat Problems as Challenges
When things go bad, it motivates them more than ever.
Whether it’s the latest economic downturn or a new competitor in the market, all champions want to do is get better and win more than ever before.
You will often get the best out of elite sales professionals when their backs are against the wall.
11. They Radiate Confidence
Their answer is always something like; no problem, sure thing, I can do it, we’ll be number one, that’s easy, let’s do it.
They never doubt themselves or their ability to do anything and honestly believe they can achieve anything they set their minds to.
They understand their internal communication with themselves is their biggest influence.
12. They are Well Balanced
This helps them structure their day, manage their pipelines, get home in time for tea with the family, and get plenty of sleep.
This balance is also very important when dealing with prospects.
There can sometimes be a thin line between building rapport and being too friendly with your prospects.
You need to keep that relationship balanced so you can ask for the business when the time feels right, without feeling awkward.
I like to describe it as the Jekyll and Hyde characteristic.
They know the cutting edge needed to switch from consultant to closer.
13. They Want the Best Things in Life
Most of the top sales elite want to be able to afford the best things in life for themselves and their families.
But don’t we all?
Well, yes, of course, we do, but not everyone.
Some people have different ideas of the best things in life and say things such as, “I just want to have enough money to get by and give my family the basics they need”.
The difference between these people and the top sales elite is that the elite doesn’t want the basic things in life: they want the best.
They don’t want a Vauxhall, they want an Audi, BMW, or better.
They don’t want a semi-detached house, they want a detached house.
They don’t want a holiday in the Canaries, they want to go to the Maldives.
They wouldn’t even consider staying in a three-star hotel. They want four stars, at a very minimum.
Some people would say this is greedy and materialistic, which I understand, but this desire is often driven by their need to contribute to others.
And this drive for contribution is often why, with the right guidance, many top sales performers turn out to be great sales leaders.
There is nothing wrong with only wanting the basics in life, but there’s also nothing unhealthy about being driven to want the best.
14. They are Humble
Despite being super confident, wanting the best in life, and always being at the top, the elite remains humble and critical of themselves.
They admit to being wrong and work hard at correcting their imperfections.
Without this crucial characteristic, all you would have is a selfish, spoilt movie star who will eventually come down to earth with a bang.
15. They Follow a Process
Last and certainly not least: every top sales performer, the champions, the elite, the best, always follow the instruction manual.
They never skip parts of the sales process and earn the right to close by listening and building a strong value proposition that makes closing sales a piece of cake.
They are always working on perfecting the small steps in the sales process, and so should you.
So that’s it.
That is all that is needed to be one of the elite sales professionals in your industry.
It’s by no means an easy task, but nobody ever said it was.