9 Characteristics of The Best Sales Reps

Today’s post was inspired by an answer Jason Lemkin gave on Quora. The question was What do the top 1% of sales people do that the other 99% don’t?

Most answers were about what separates good reps from bad reps, things like customer focus, persistence, knowing the product. Jason cut through the easy answers to deliver something truly insightful.

Some of Jason’s Answer:

I have a pretty good sense what the Top 10% do, but not 100% sure about the top 1%. Except one factor -- one difference between the Top 10% and the Top 1% is the very top are extremely efficient with their time.
The mediocre ones tell you prospects "waste their time." That's exactly backwards. As the 1%ers will tell you.

Simply put Revenue is Number of Deals x Conversion Rate x Deal Size. When you are already a great rep closing big deals at a high rate the only lever left to pull is figuring out how to get more work done in a 24 hour day that isn't getting any longer.

At GetGrow we spend all day thinking about how to make sales reps more efficient, so we thought we would expand on Lemkin’s answer with 9 specific things top 1% reps do that make them the most efficient, the things that separate them from the rest of the top 10%.

1. They know prospects are unique, but leverage how they are the same.

Sales reps often fall into one of two camps. Either they think all prospects are unique and require a bespoke approach, or they think all prospects are the same and can be blasted with templates and repeated scripts. A top 1% rep understands that each prospect needs a unique buying experience, but that many of the elements that make up that buying experience can be reused over and over again. One case study might be good for all prospects in a certain industry while an update on a new feature might only make sense for prospects with a specific use case, and remembering to ask about a daughters clarinet lessons only makes sense for Sarah, CXO at Acme. The best reps balance the efficiency of prospect's similarities with the effectiveness of a customized buying experience.

2. They separate planning and execution and then execute like a beast.

The extreme efficiency of top 1% reps takes strategy and planning. No one just stumbles into an optimized process, content library or daily schedule. Great reps strategize a plan of attack, they rethink old processes and they are thoughtful about how to spend their day. However, once they give some time to planning they keep it out of the rest of their day, week or month. Great reps know they don't get paid to optimize process, they get paid to close deals. So most days they show up, put their head down and work work work. They don't second-guess or let their mind wander, they execute their plan.

3. They aren’t penny-wise but quota-foolish.

Top reps understand that their efficiency has a dollar value, and since they are the top 1% it is a lot of dollars. Therefore the best reps aren't afraid to invest in themselves, to call for the tools that will pay off in more efficiency and more deals. Often it is the confidence and growth mindset to make these uncertain investments that holds really good reps back from becoming the best.

4. They understand the dual values of batching.

Batching is magic. When great reps batch their work they are spreading the fixed costs of the activity across more actions, and even more importantly they are creating the conditions to actively improve. When we repeat a similar activity over and over we can quickly test and implement small changes that drive improvement. Batching gives reps not just added efficiency, but rapidly increasing effectiveness.

5. They ruthlessly cut admin work.

Great salespeople know they were hired to sell. With everything they do they ask themselves "does this work drive more revenue?" And if it doesn't they cut it. Steve Jobs famously wore the same outfit everyday because he decided the time he spent choosing what to wear should be cut from his life. What are you wasting time on? Does Jim from HR take your lunch order in person everyday? A top 1% rep lets Jim know he'll be having the turkey sandwich today and everyday from now on thank you, and gets back to work.

6. They are not interested in reinventing the wheel.

Imagine that you accidentally reinvented the wheel in your garage. It would be a really fulfilling experience, because making something great is fulfilling regardless of how unnecessary it is. A top 1% rep never gets caught in this trap. When something works they use it, they iterate on it, they don't scrap it and make it again from scratch. As Jason Lemkin says in his Quora answer, "If I closed Aetna selling to the VP of X -- I already know exactly how to sell the exact same business process to the exact same VP at Cigna." When a rep has a good wheel they don't waste their time inventing new wheels.

7. They are a combination of everyone else’s best ideas.

A top 1% rep is often an amalgamation of all the best parts of your other reps. They take anything that will give them an edge and incorporate it into their own process.

8. They can manage a small amount of time with many prospects and a lot of time with a few.

Great reps spend the right amount of time with their prospects. This means they can simultaneously engage a large number of prospects who are more uncertain with a small amount of their time and focus more of their energies on the prospects who are ready to close.

9. They take action when something is not worth their time.

Top reps know what their time is worth, and they know they are worth the most when they are selling. They are not afraid to say that certain work is below them. When a job can get done for $10/hour and a great rep is bringing in $100/hour selling they get that job off their plate. I have even reps who hire personal assistants with their own money so they can reinvest their time back into higher-value work.

Thanks to Jason Lemkin for providing the inspiration to this post. Please check out his full quora answer, or read some of his best sales blog posts.