Top Sales Reps: How They Sell Big

Top sales reps drive results while also demonstrating proper selling behaviors that lead to long-term success. Have you ever wondered what they have in their arsenal that makes them so special? Here are some of the personal findings and research points that have stuck with me over time, echoing in my head.

top sales reps

Working in SPM for over ten years now, I have designed compensation plans for thousands of sales reps. I have analyzed their performance metrics, aligned and modeled their territories, and witnessed them grow. Behind a myriad of figures in sales reports, there are some people who stand out, making sales look like a breeze. When the rest of the salesforce is bending over backwards to meet quotas, these are the reps joining your President’s Club. If you want to headhunt, compensate or retain top sales reps, these seven key findings may help you learn more about them:

Top sales reps add tangible value 

They are not value-signaling (or just persuasive) salespeople. As opposed to just pushing a product, top sales reps create value whenever they find an opportunity – from figuring out the solution to a specific client problem, to communicating the right specifications to customer service.

They have special traits 

Top sales reps have special abilities such as verbal acuity (they know how to convey messages) and situational dominance (customers accept their recommendations and follow their advice). They are also oriented towards achievement, Harvard Business School showed. Here are more of their special traits, as summarized by online employment company Monster:

  • 100% acceptance of responsibility for results
  • Above-average ambition and desire to succeed
  • Above-average willpower, determination, and self-discipline
  • High level of customer empathy
  • Impeccably honest
  • Don’t take “no” personally
  • Approach strangers, even when it is uncomfortable to them 

DID YOU KNOW? Science proves sports passion is connected to good selling abilities. Over 85% of top salespeople played an individual or team sport in high school. For more info on the sports-sales tie-in, you may also check our Sales Coaching Tips.

They know how to take a challenge 

Top sales reps are more naturally driven to ask their customers tougher qualifying questions, Harvard Business Review shows. Best-in-class reps are bold enough to seek out meetings with senior level decision makers who select vendors.

Industry expert Anthony Iannarino considers the ability to tell stories as one of the fundamentals. “You have to be able to talk about how things are going to be different, how you get different results, and how you have helped other people in similar situations,” the author wrote. Sales is also leadership role. Iannarino considers this skill important especially for large, complex deals.

Top sales reps sell complex products 

The complexity of your product and industry determines the number of top sales reps you need and the expertise they should have. If you sell complex products, your top sales reps will need more product knowledge. Value-creating salespeople will establish credibility and drive conversations towards the benefits of your product.

Top sales reps outsell great products 

Companies with better products (those that are easier to sell) will experience the bigger gain from hiring top sales talent, studies show. When you launch an important product or you want to boost sales for an existent one, make sure you have your stack of high-skill reps ready to close the deals.  Remember that top sales reps won’t “save” your product. Because they should be providing real value to customers, they need the best products and customer services to support them.

They can be found in niche organizations

When you’re headhunting top sales reps, make sure you’re looking in the right direction. Research shows giant organizations hire the most sales reps, but don’t always hire the best. Top sales reps may be found in smaller, niche companies, where markets are more competitive.

Top sales reps should match your industry 

Choose your top sales reps based on the type of skills they need for your industry and products. Situational dominance, for instance, will work wonders for technical, highly specialized products. This ability to guide the conversation and share knowledge will make customers follow their advice.


Sales forces are a major investment for any company and top sales reps are critical to their success. They are the face of the company with buyers, creating impressions for years to come. Top sales reps also have special abilities that make them overachieve their quotas. Knowing more about who they are can help you recruit the players that are always running in the right direction.



David Godes, In the Eye of the Beholder: An Analysis of the Relative Value of a Top Sales Rep Across Firms and Products, Marketing Science/Vol. 22, No. 2, Spring 2003, 187

Steve W. Martin, Seven Personality Traits of Top Salespeople,

Emilian Romas

Professional Services Manager

Emilian is an outcomes focused professional with 11 years of sales performance management, business intelligence and analytics consulting experience.

Subscribe to receive a weekly summary.

Yes, I would like to subscribe to receive blog updates and marketing communications regarding Optymyze products, services and events. I understand I can unsubscribe from these communications at any time. By registering, I confirm that I agree to the processing and storing of data as described in the Optymyze Privacy Policy.

Privacy >