Identifying top performers in sales | Sunday Observer

Identifying top performers in sales

15 November, 2020

The American inventor, and businessman Thomas Edison, often described as the greatest inventor by Americans, has said “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” This adage is known in the selling profession as ‘ego-drive’ or the salesman’s sheer courage, after failing with ten potential customers, to walk into the next prospect with the same enthusiasm and passion. This exceptional trait differentiates a top performer from an average salesman. As a career salesman for over four decades, I had been guided by an ego-driven drive that helped my journey through the ranks.

Sales performance of a commercial organisation is perhaps not only the single most important factor but also is considered as ‘lifeblood’ of existence and growth.

A top performer is someone better than their peers in achieving results. They look at things differently, more creatively, and analytically to offer better solutions to a prospect. Top performers make the best out of an ordinary situation by making use of resourceful decisions.

The best salesmen treat a sale as a personal engagement and not as a paid-employment related function. They always attempt to cultivate innate and lasting relationships with customers and genuinely dedicate time to have a quality time with them. Good performers learn the art of storytelling during the time spent with the customers.

They use narrative power to discuss the customer’s interests by telling relevant dramatic and personal stories. Performers do not merely Endeavour to dump a product or service but always give reasonable solutions to customers.

Researching the prospect known as pre-approach in sales jargon before a sales call is an integral part of the sales process. An above-average salesperson digs deep into the prospect’s information.

Unlike the pre-internet era, currently, salespeople have the luxury of researching through technology quickly and conveniently. There are many platforms such as websites, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn profiles to study customer profiles.


A clever salesman attempts to obtain as much feedback from the customer during the selling process. A career salesperson knows that there is no perfection in the process. Hence, by deriving feedback, they adjust the sales pitch according to the customer’s individuality and the prevailing situation. They are not afraid to ask questions from the prospect to understand their assessment of the salesman’s presentation. These questions not only build trust with the prospect but also help to establish the credibility of the organisation.

A top performer always tries to add value to the sales presentation at the most appropriate time. They come up with innovative information about the product, the prospect himself, or the prospects’ own business.

The data derived from the initial research can give this new piece of information. Apart from the available facts, a smart salesman observes the environment and the ambiance when he arrives at the customer’s premises for the presentation and uses during the presentation.

Another important area in top-selling is punctuality. A salesman should never be late and keep the prospect waiting when a time is allocated. On one hand, the prospect allocates a particular time slot for a reason, and on the other hand, most probably he may get disappointed and annoyed with the salesperson, the company, and even the product itself. Selling involves emotions and feelings and the salesman loses this important criterion if he walks in late and if the prospect is irritated.


One-half of salespersons do not even try to make a consequent follow up attempt after the first contact and give up after four follow-ups, according to research. However, a top salesman believes in persistence despite rejection. ‘Ego-drive’ discussed earlier comes into effect instinctively at the point of rejection.

This is not a habit the salesperson can develop but his attitude toward the job. The salesman needs patience and he must not try to ‘crack’ the customer by bulldozing him. Also, a good salesman identifies the best time to make follow-up attempts without inconveniencing the customer.

Keeping a close tab on the competition is something every good sales performer does. A common saying in selling circles is that ‘you must know your completion more than your own company or the product you sell.’ This is another salient factor for an above-average sales performance.

Good companies share competitor intelligence among the sales staff, usually during the sales meetings. However, clever salesmen understand how to hold rival information back and release at the most opportune time.

Competitor information can be used to close a deal effectively by applying ‘disequilibrium theory’, and by unbalancing the customer about the company’s competitors.

The average salesmen I have met during the various stages of my career never paid much attention to planning. They habitually think of the days’ work only on arrival at the office. On the contrary, smart and dedicated salesmen make simple plans for the month, weeks, and the day.

They look at the big picture and their schedules are made to a well-thought plan to extract maximum productivity. Planning can greatly reduce the ever-present stress in the sales profession as it offers the best feasible action. Also, pre-planning the week and the day prepares the salesman for contingencies. Having a plan is a sure way to understand whether you have covered your sales targets.

Selling is much more than just taking a product or a service to a prospect and trying to ram it through by using the salesperson’s gift of the gab. It is a scientific and methodical process. Top performers are thorough in this process.

They go through a pre-identified gradual process and know the presentation outline like the back of their hand. Smart salesmen understand how to approach a prospect, when to do the presentation and face objections and what is the most appropriate time to close the deal. The prospects buy benefits but not products. Hence, the presentation of a top salesperson is always well planned and customer benefit-oriented.

‘More leads, more sales’

A top performer never ceases to look for new customers and keep their funnel full of inquiries. Their effort on lead generation does not end.

They find time to approach new customers even when their routine schedules are full and believe in the ‘more leads, more sales’ theory that is a good concept that I have practiced throughout my sales career.

Gatekeepers of prospects can be a nuisance and may try to block the salesman from approaching the decision-maker. Good salespeople always find ways and means to evade the traps of gatekeepers and directly approach the pre-identified decision-maker by doing the research we spoke about earlier in the article. They perfectly understand that the sale cannot be done without the ultimate consent of the authoritative person.

Finally, in my experience, I can safely declare that performers have more qualities and characteristics than what was discussed in the article.

The biggest success of a salesman is to believe that he is the greatest salesman in the company, city, and country. In my youth, when I started my career as a sales assistant, to encourage me, my superior told me that salespeople are like fighter pilots who always are raring to go to battle. Salesmen must genuinely enjoy working with people and for people with high energy levels.

They also must love a fast pace whilst being flexible. Top performers can place the prospect on the center stage and allow them to be right even if they are not.