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Ray Makela

By: Ray Makela on September 11th, 2018

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The Mindset of a Top Performing Sales Professional

Sales Enablement

On this Q&A episode: "What makes up the mindset of a top performing sales professional? What are the characteristics that help top performers stand out or that make them more effective?"


If you can't see the video thumbnail below, click here to watch the video.


*** Enhanced Video Script ***

We've really identified five key areas that lend themselves and contribute to somebody excelling and exceeding expectations as a sales professional.


#1 Curiosity

The first area is what I call curiosity. This is the mindset of the investigative journalist. In my mind, the best reps have that innate curiosity about the customers, their industry, and the business. They want to find out what makes things tick, what's going on with their customers and try to understand how to help make them better.


#2 Go-Giver

The second mindset is the go-giver. There's a book by the same name. That's the idea that you're there first to add value without expecting something immediately in return. Sometimes this is difficult, especially for a new rep to think about, "Wow, I'm putting all this effort forward, I'm providing all of this additional content or value, and I'm not getting a sale out of it." But that go-giver growth mindset is one that will pay dividends in the future.


#3 Problem Solver

The third area is the mindset of a consultant. In my experience, the best salespeople are ones who understand the customer's problem, take the time to really understand the pain, the impact that the problem is having on the organization, and how they can help solve it. Then they develop a solution that's aligned—much like a consultant would do in a consulting engagement.

Often, consultants make great salespeople when they make that transition. They already understand how to ask questions and how to dig in and learn about problems so that they can find unique ways to solve them.


#4 Listener

The fourth area is around listening which I call the counselor. Often salespeople get a bad rap because they do all the talking. They're showing up and throwing up, or they want to get through their pitch deck. The classic identification of an extrovert is that salesperson who's trying to pitch you or convince you, but that's outdated.

Research suggests that's not necessarily the most successful personality type. Those who can learn to ask great questions and then shut up long enough to understand what the customer's getting at are going to help position themselves for success. Again, the counselor is there to help understand the issues and ask questions, but not to do all the talking or provide all the answers.

This strategy it's very critical to how the salesperson approaches their customers. Dale Carnegie said almost 100 years ago that, "People will like you a lot more if you're interested in them than if you try to get them interested in you." Also, Stephen Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People said, "Seek first to understand and then be understood." That's one of those habits that's really stuck with me. So that idea of listening and being that counselor is critical to a successful salesperson.


#5 Grit

The final area is around grit and tenacity. I call this the mindset of a hockey player. We've had a client who actually used grit and tenacity as one of their hiring screening profiles, which led them to look for hockey players who had been successful, that knew how to get in there, practice, work hard, play hard, and even mix it up or fight for the game if necessary.

At the end of the day, sales takes tenacity, and hustle and sometimes thick skin to be successful. We want those reps who are willing to take on that challenge, who rise to the challenge. I'd look for those who have a history of excelling under difficult circumstances, may not necessarily be in hockey, but in those situations where they've had to demonstrate that grit, passion, and perseverance towards longer-term goals.

If we can look at those opportunities, we can use behavioral-based interviewing as a way of looking for evidence that they've demonstrated those characteristics in the past and then within our sales teams.

We can then look to train and create a culture that reinforces and rewards those behaviors. If you make it a priority and celebrate the successes when you see those traits, you'll be setting yourself up for success with a high-performing sales team.


Sales Training Research Report by Sales Readiness Group

About Ray Makela

Ray Makela is the General Manager of the Sales Readiness Group, A Part of SBI. He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation, and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.