6 Signs of a Winner Salesperson

Let’s talk social sciences.  There is a widely adopted theory called the Pareto Principle, which states 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes.  You probably know this as the 80/20 rule, which Richard Koch extrapolated to the business world, giving us “80% of sales come from 20% of your clients”. 

It also gives us 80% of sales come from 20% of your sales reps.

In one of my previous management roles, I conducted an analysis of the percentage of new business that was generated from inbound leads.  The result?  88%.  That was MIND BLOWING to me at the time. 

You have to understand, unless a rep is telling prospects to pound sand, there is generally a level of sales that will be made no matter who you sit in a seat.  A baseline.  We have strong marketing/referrals/word of mouth to thank for that.

Therefore, identifying and retaining the 20% of rainmakers is paramount to success.  Your ace in the hole, if you will…(see, you thought that picture didn’t make sense)

But outside of sales performance, how do you identify the winners to leverage/reproduce their skillset? Here are six clear cut signs you have a winner:


1.     Question Master

At this point, it has been ballyhooed about so much, it’s no longer the dirty little secret of sales.  The best reps are the ones that ask the best questions.  Volume isn’t the key, it’s asking poignant and directional questions, and not being afraid of the answers.  That gets you to the prospect’s pain point, which is gold Jerry, gold!  I hope you know Seinfeld…

If you (or your sales manager) have never conducted a mock intro meeting with your reps before, I would highly recommend it.  You will get a great sense of how much of a Columbo you have on your hands.

Be on the lookout for the Question Masters – they’re worth their weight in gold (Jerry).


2.     Checked Baggage

Everyone has their baggage.  I sure as hell do, just ask any of my ex-girlfriends.  They’d be thrilled to chat.

The best sales reps in the world know that they are hired to do a job and leave ALL of that at the door.  In fact, they will go out of their way to minimize any and all distractions that are not related to their profession. 

As an aside, you’ll find a lot of these individuals are not interested in joining “happy hours” or “events”.  DO NOT FORCE THE ISSUE.  All you do is push them away and they’re clearly your most valuable resource.


3.     Student

Early on in my career, I remember my RM brought me the book SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham.  At the time, I was actually reluctant to read it (might have had to do with the messenger).  Anyway, I begrudgingly opened the book and was instantly mesmerized.  It also helps that the book is THE definitive guide to consultative selling. 

From that moment onward, I realized the immense power of being a student, which in turn has helped me make hundreds of thousands more in sales.  To borrow a line from the Twitter account GSElevator, “Read more.  It allows you to borrow someone else’s brain.”

Winners are students and class is always in session.


4.     Concise

There’s a great scene in the movie Ocean’s 11 where Rusty (Brad Pitt) is explaining to Linus (Matt Damon) how to act as an undercover Gaming Official trying to pull a heist on a casino.  The best line?

“Don’t use seven words when four will do”

Every great rep I’ve worked with has an incredible knack for distilling conversation down to only what’s necessary.  The rep comes off as composed and trustworthy AND gets the client/prospect to do the majority of the talking.

Win, win.  Winner.


5.     Doggedly Client Centric

Clients are the ones paying you, so why wouldn’t they be your top priority?

This doesn’t mean being a sycophant to all of a client’s fevered demands, but it does mean always maintaining a dedication to improving their experience. 

It matters in another way as well.  TONS of highly respected sales leaders (such as Jeb Blount and Mike Brooks) talk about the significant value found in matching a client’s cadence and mood.  I could not agree more.  If you get out of your own way as a salesperson, you can listen for the often-subtle clues necessary to match up with a client.


6.     Stubborn

This one might be the most controversial, and by no means the #1 ipso facto sign.  However, the best salespeople I have seen are doggedly client centric (shocker), which often breeds stubbornness when an organization’s efforts do not align. There have been too many times to count during my career where I have seen decisions made that hinder a client experience, and it makes my blood boil. If you have a rep speaking up about these issues, it comes from a very good place.

Words of wisdom - heeding (or at least recognizing) a rep’s call for change can not only result in an improved client experience, it does wonders for retention. 



This one I would classify as struttin’ music.  Is that a thing?  Struttin’ music?  Anyway, it’s “The Heat” by The Bones of J.R. Jones.


Dion Travagliante