What it Takes to be an Elite (Top 7%) Salesperson

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 11, 2016 @ 06:10 AM

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Last week I received a call from a young, motivated salesperson - we'll call him Jim - who desperately wanted to be one of the elite 7% of all salespeople.  Despite being just 26 years old, he believed that he was already in the top 7%.  During our call, he asked me a great question.  He asked, "How many of the top 7% have you actually met and where are they today?"  I didn't have to think very long or hard to answer that question because it was one of the easiest questions I have ever been asked.

Most companies have mediocre salespeople and a small percentage - less than 10% - are strong.  But there is an exception.  Many of the greatest salespeople, following a necessary stint in sales leadership, become sales consultants.  Now you are probably familiar with the sales consultants who have best-selling books or who tweet and blog on social media.  But they aren't the only sales consultants and trainers by a long shot.  There are thousands more and some of them are really good at what they do.  The best and brightest of them partner with my company, Objective Management Group (OMG), and provide our award winning sales candidate assessments and sales force evaluations to their clients.  Without a doubt, the nearly 300 individuals that represent OMG around the world, are the single biggest collection of the top 7% anywhere.  And each year, when around 150 of them gather for our international sales experts conference, that is where you will find the single biggest gathering of elite salespeople.

Why did Jim ask how many of these top performers I had met?  Because to him, the top 7% are the celebrities of sales.  It's like asking someone if they have met any professional athletes, movie or TV stars, or Presidents.  He has the top 7% on a pedestal because he wants to be one.

The bigger question for me is why Jim?  Why aren't the other 93% of the sales population calling, writing and asking how they can become part of the top 7%?  Why isn't it more important to them?  

Part of the answer should be so, so obvious.  If it was more important to them they would already be part of the top 7%, certainly part of the next 16% and not one of the bottom 77%!

Much of this problem boils down to Commitment to success in sales.

  • All salespeople score, on average, only 59% for Commitment.
  • The top 7% (Sales Quotient over 139) average, 72%.
  • Strong salespeople (Sales Quotient between 130-139) Score, on average, 65%
  • Serviceable salespeople (Sales Quotient between 115-129) 60% - or borderline Commitment.
  • Weak salespeople (Sales Quotient between 91-115 and the largest group) score, on average 45%
  • The bottom 10% (Sales Quotient under 91) score, on average, 39%

Notice that the biggest drop-off (from 60% to 45%) occurs when you drop from serviceable to weak.

If I had to guess, Jim's commitment is consistent with the elite group.  And while the top group has the highest overall scores for Commitment, it doesn't necessarily hold true that if a salesperson has a high commitment score that they are or will become part of that group.  Commitment is only 1 of 250 data points and while it is the most important, it is only 1.  For example, a salesperson with strong commitment, but a low score for Desire for success in sales, Motivation, Excuse Making, or even Coachable, is less likely to make it to the top group.  

OMG measures 21 Sales Core Competenceis and while I have mentioned 4 in this article, there are 17 others that will also have a great impact on whether a salesperson can make it to the top.  While 10 of those competenices are Tactical Selling competencies, 6 of them represent Sales DNA.  The top 7% have Sales DNA greater than 82% while weak Salespeople score 60% and the bottom 10% only 54%.  Sales DNA is a huge contributor to sales success and the lower the score on Commitment, the less likely it is that one could overcome a low Sales DNA.

Of course, when it comes to hiring salespeople, there is only one tool that can accurately predict whether you have an elite candidate, a strong candidate, or one of the others.

And if you were an elite salesperson, have put in your time in sales leadership, and are ready to bring OMG's great tools to your clients, you can learn more here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, sales excellence, sales commitment, Sales Experts, elite salespeople

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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