By: Brad Seaman On: May 31, 2016 In: Sales Performance, Sales Performance Trends Comments: 0

Hiring the right people for your sales team is critical to your ability to keep your company growing. That’s why sales managers are constantly trying to groom their current team — or hire replacements for underperformers — by analyzing what it takes to be a top-performing sales rep.

It appears that author and college instructor Steve W. Martin has some insights based on interviews with more than 1,000 top salespeople. Martin, who teaches sales strategy at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, recently released the book Heavy Hitter I.T. Sales Strategy: Competitive Insights from Interviews with 1,000+ Key Information Technology Decision Makers.

Here’s what those salespeople tended to have in common, according to an article published by Harvard Business Review. Some may surprise you.

Inward pessimism. Although nearly all salespeople (90 percent) typically describe themselves as optimists — whether they’re underperformers or high performers, nearly two-thirds of those who excel in sales showed pessimistic personality tendencies. Those inward pessimism traits are probably what helps an effective salesperson to determine whether a potential buyer is qualified or truly interested in the deal.

Driven to achieve. Of the top performers, 84 percent scored very high in achievement orientation. This means they’re driven to achieve goals and are constantly measuring their performance against their goals. Another thing: 85 percent of the top salespeople played sports in high school.

Verbal acuity. Top performers possessed communication skills that enable them to effectively convey the meaning and importance of their words so that the customer understands. Sales reps are considered more credible when they’re able to communicate at a level not too far below the communication level used by the prospect. The study revealed that the average high-performing salesperson communicated between the 11th and 13th grade level compared to the 8th and 9th grade level for underperforming salespeople.

Strong sales management. Outside factors also seemed to play a role, specifically the sales manager. Among high-performing salespeople, 69 percent rated their sales manager as excellent or above average compared to 49 percent of underperforming salespeople.

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