Top-​Performing Salespeople Share Common Behaviors, Study

BY Jessica Helinski
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Top-​performing salespeople do things differently than the others. But what? Thankfully, a recent survey of sales reps uncovered just what standout reps do (and don’t do) that keep sales going and hit their quotas. LinkedIn released their findings in a state of sales guide titled, “What Top-​Performing Salespeople Do Differently,” and it includes responses from over 10,000 buyers and sellers.

Their findings revealed that top-​performing salespeople, defined as those who reported they reached 125% or more of their quota, have different behaviors and processes that drive their success. The report walks readers through these key behaviors that the most successful sellers demonstrate.

Top-​performing salespeople and how they’re different

One of the key behaviors that separates top performers from the rest is how they approach their buyers. The survey found that by and large, these reps put their buyers, and the buyers’ needs. LinkedIn asked two questions that revealed this behavior. The first asked, “How often do you put the buyer first?,” and 81% of those who were top performers responded, “always.” Only 60% of counterparts responded the same. 

LinkedIn then asked a slightly different question: “How often do you put the buyer’s needs above yours?,” which emphasizes direct action. More top-​performing reps responded that they always do (at a rate of 18 percentage points higher than others). As the report explains, “The implication is that actually putting the buyers’ needs first, and not just saying you do, has a long-​term positive effect on sales.”

This doesn’t come as a surprise given past research. A survey from earlier this year by RAIN Group highlighted the disconnect between sellers and buyers in regard to buyer needs. As I reported in another post, 71% of buyers are seeking a rep who thoroughly uncovers their needs, but only 26% of sellers are actually doing this. Without a thorough needs discovery, there’s no way for a rep to put a buyer first; they don’t even know what needs exist. 

Tech use is high among top-​performing salespeople

Another finding from the report is that top-​performing salespeople utilize technology differently than the average rep. These high performers are more actively engaged with technology and use the following at higher rates than other salespeople:

  • Sales intelligence tools (41% vs. 35%)
  • Email tracking tools (40% vs. 31%)
  • Productivity apps (42% vs. 34%)

Additionally, half (51%) of top-​performing salespeople use sales technology at least once a day, compared to 39% of other reps. 

The report also found that these top performers find more value in sales tech than other reps, strongly agreeing that the tools:

  • Enable them to build a stronger professional brand (60% vs. 45%).
  • Connect with the right prospects (58% vs. 44%).
  • Provide insight into key moments for connecting with customers and prospects (60% vs. 42%).
  • Understand local market context (58% vs. 39%).
  •  Build stronger relationships with customers and prospects (59% vs. 44%).
  • Close more deals (59% vs. 43%).

In a time when many sales are having to be done virtually, the importance of embracing these digital tools is even higher. 

Top performers emphasize trust and relationships 

LinkedIn found a noticeable gap between the top-​performing salespeople who seek to engage, build trust with, and form a relationship with buyers and those who don’t. “Nearly three-​quarters (74%) of high-​performing reps say forming strong relationships with buyers has a big impact on their ability to achieve quota (vs. 60% of other sales reps),” the report states. “Hand in hand with this finding, 75% of top sales reps feel it’s very important to quickly build trust with buyers for winning new business.”

It shouldn’t be surprising that trusted relationships drive sales success. As I wrote in a previous post, “trust continues to be a driving force among buyers, and this seems to be even more the case during the pandemic. While only 40% of buyers describe the sales profession as ‘trustworthy,’ buyers do eventually find salespeople they can trust: 88% of buyers describe the salespeople they do business with as ‘trusted advisors’.” 

Training and coaching make a difference

Additionally, these top-​performing salespeople actively keep up with their own sales training and coaching. LinkedIn found that the most successful reps are more likely than average reps to spending time in training with their managers. The report also reveals the difference between review sessions and active coaching, noting, “While lower-​performing managers spend more time in 1:1 review sessions, higher performers spend more time on training and coaching. The embrace of training makes sense in an effort to keep pace in a fast-​changing world.”

SalesFuel's own research found that many reps recognize the value of growing professionally and actually would like more training. The Voice of the Sales Rep revealed that over a quarter of those surveyed say that their sales teams would be more successful if their company provided continuing sales training for keeping our skills sharp. 21% say they’d be more successful with more one-​on-​one coaching personalized to our specific needs.

Top-​performing salespeople aren’t at the top by chance or luck. These professionals engage in behaviors that research shows impacts their success. LinkedIn agrees, pointing out that their study reveals that “Top performers…demonstrate behaviors that lead to different actions and better outcomes-​behaviors that can be taught.” 

If you want to be among the top performers, take note of the report’s findings and start practicing the key behaviors that separate those at the top from all the rest.