Top Selling Sales Reps: Are They On Your Sales Team?

Hiring salespeople can really be confusing with all the various opinions out there on what makes a top salesperson. When in doubt, I always encourage taking a data-driven approach.

Let’s take a look at what the research reveals are the top performing sales reps.  best-salespeople-ideal-candidate

The research

Featured in the Harvard Business Review, Professors Ryals and Davies studied 800 sales reps during live sales meetings. They found their sample could be categorized into 8 sales rep types based on their selling skills.

They found the selling skills most related to sales success were:

  1. Rising to the challenge: This skill requires adaptability and the right level of assertiveness.
  2. Meeting preparation: Sales reps who are well-prepared are hardworking and conscientious.
  3. Customer interaction: Sales reps who are adept at relationship-building are emotionally intelligent and have a customer focus rather than a transaction focus.
  4. Company presentation: This skill is related to knowledge about your product or service and of your market.

Sales reps who were strong in these effective selling skills made up only 37% of the salespeople in the study.

The top sales rep types were:

  1. Experts: The sales reps that make selling seem effortless, they’re strong in all four effective selling skills. A mix of both IQ and EQ, they’re the best at knowing what their customers want and keeping them happy.
  2. Closers: Able to land some very big deals (typically in product sales), these sales reps are effective at overcoming customer objections, but their smooth-talking style may be too slick for some some customers. Their strongest selling skills include rising to the challenge and customer interaction.
  3. Consultants: These sales reps have the potential to become experts. They’re good listeners and problem solvers who are able to develop solutions that meet their customers’ needs, but they tend to be one-dimensional and overlook valuable case examples.

The bottom sales rep types were:

  1. Storytellers
  2. Focusers
  3. Narrators
  4. Aggressors
  5. Socializers

These sales rep types were mostly guilty of the classic mistake of not listening to their customers and not understanding their needs.

The takeaways

As the researchers state, “The eight types represent behavioral tendencies, not set-in-stone personalities. Managers can effect changes in their current salespeople and recruit better team members in the future if they understand the eight types.”

It’s always valuable to examine the data on which types of sales reps are successful on average, but unless you assess your own top performing salespeople, you’ll only be guessing at what actually works at your company.

Our world is constantly changing, which means the types of sales reps who perform the best will continue to evolve. Instead of specific skills and behaviors, which can be taught and developed on the job, it’s more effective to hire based on underlying personality traits such as adaptability and an eagerness to learn.

This strategy will ensure you hire salespeople who are not only successful today, but will be able to adapt and evolve to be successful tomorrow.

Which types of sales rep have you found the most success with at your company? Share your insights in the comments or tweet @ideal.

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Ji-A Min

Ji-A Min

Head Data Scientist at Ideal
Ji-A Min is the Head Data Scientist at Ideal. With a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ji-A promotes best practices and data-based recruitment. She writes about trends and research in talent acquisition, HR tech, and people analytics.
Ji-A Min

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