6 Key Sales Behaviors to Reinforce with Training in 2016

As we discussed in our previous blog, Why Sales Methodology and Sales Coaching Go Hand In Hand, having a strong sales methodology foundation and formalized coaching process can yield tremendous results. Even better, the research backs it up. CSO Insights recently discovered that companies identifying as using a formal coaching process reported win rates 18% higher than companies identifying as using information or discretionary coaching processes.

If you’ve put in the work and are seeing results like CSO Insights has recorded above, your sales coaching methods are right on track. But even with a perfect training plan in place, are you wondering if there is more you could do?

Recent research has shown that top sales performers share similar personality attributes. One way to boost your existing sales coaching programs is to add additional consideration for these particular types of sales behaviors.

While some of them are natural instinct, there are still ways to reinforce and encourage all of your sales employees to be the best.

What Attributes Do Top Sales People Have in Common?

Steve W. Martin, professor and researcher at University of Southern California, recently published a study of over 1,000 sales people looking specifically at common attributes among top performers.

In his research, Martin found several key characteristics that were common among the most successful sales professionals. Here’s a quick summary of what he found:

  • Communication Ability. Martin described the importance of verbal acuity for successful sales people, as it’s critical that customers understand the meaning, nature, and importance of the messages being relayed. He explained that top performing salespeople communicated between the 11th and 13th grade level, where underperforming reps performed between the 8th and 9th grade level.
  • Achievement Orientation. It seems obvious, but Martin confirmed through his study that top salespeople hold achievement in an incredibly high regard. They are focused on reaching goals, and enjoy checking in on their progress regularly. Martin noted that 52% of these top performers reported taking full advantage of their company’s CRM technology, compared to only 31% of underperformers reporting the same.
  • Dominant Personality. Martin also reported that the most successful sales professionals exhibited situational dominance characteristics, meaning they hold the ability to confidently guide conversations and share information. Instead of being a more nervous and reactive personality type, these successful salespeople are natural leaders in their interactions with others.
  • Inward Pessimism. Martin noted that while over 90% of all salespeople reporting being incredibly optimistic, almost 66% of top performing sales reps exhibited pessimistic personality tendencies. Martin explained that the inward pessimistic tendencies drive the successful salespeople to question more aspects of a deal, and ultimately help them probe deeper with their clients. They ask the hard questions when they need to, but are always smiling on the outside.
  • Sales Management Relationships. In his findings, Martin noted reported that high performing sales reps had distinctly different types of relationships with their sales managers than low performers. He explained that 69% of high-performing sales reps gave their sales manager a rating of excellent or above average, where only 49% of underperforming reps reported the same sales behavior. Some of this could be attributed to the fact that the more successful salespeople reported having more collaborating and strategic conversations with their leaders, compared to underperformers who more commonly received directional instructions.
  • Organization Morale. Top sales performers also reported that their organization had a higher morale than most other sales organizations, according to Martin. Only 37% of underperformers reported the same. The perception of sales organization morale is clearly an important factor in the success of top sales professionals.

Now that we’ve identified some common sales behaviors shared between top sales performers, how can sales managers incorporate this information into their sales coaching methods to see even better results?

How to Encourage Key Sales Behaviors in Your Coaching Plan

What are some easy ways you can capitalize on the information we’ve shared above? Making slight adjustments to your existing sales coaching processes may help yield even bigger results.

Wondering how to get started? We’ve compiled a few tips to help.

  1. Work on building communication skills. Martin referenced good communication abilities as a common attribute of top sales performers. How can you help your sales reps develop these sales behaviors? Depending on where their strengths are they may need extra help explaining services or products in an understandable way, with presentation skills, or even handling tough client questions. One easy way to work on this is to create some simulations or opportunities to learn from other reps at your organization. Using training technology, your organization can pose a question or challenge to the sales team and then have them write or record responses. After a sales manager reviews the submissions, they can use the top performing examples as a learning opportunity to share with the rest of the team. Often time showing employees real examples from their coworkers helps them improve as well.
  2. Incorporate goals and gamification tactics into your sales coaching. While you can’t instill a natural sense of being achievement oriented into your reps, you can create goal and gamification structures that encourage these types of thoughts. Your salespeople should have goals and metrics available to them on a daily basis to track their progress. Incorporating this type of information into a CRM your sales team is already using is a great way to get started. And don’t forget about what happens when your sales employees meet or exceed a goal. Providing a rewards and recognition is a good way to encourage these sales behaviors and thought processes. Be sure to make these types of incentives known before the competition begins to help incentivize your reps.
  3. Foster confidence. As Martin reported, a certain level of confidence is an important attribute for top sales performers. Practice is a great way to boost confidence. Incorporating scenarios where your sales reps can practice their sales calls, pitches, product knowledge, and general communication style is a great way to build confidence and help them command the room when meeting with clients. We suggest using training technology to simplify and improve this process. Practicing a pitch one-on-one is great, but being able to watch that pitch back on video, learn from your peers, and receive coaching is significantly more effective.
  4. Encourage deeper connections. Through Martin’s research he noted a trend of inward pessimism. It may be hard to even identify which of your reps is exhibiting sales behaviors like this, especially with the outward facing optimism most reps possess. We recommend hacking into this opportunity by encouraging your sales employees to ask deeper questions, and create better connections with their clients. Martin identifies the net benefit of this internal pessimism as a heightened awareness with clients, and helping your reps build those kind of relationships and intuitive abilities is definitely something you can work on.
  5. Improve manager relationships. Top performing sales reps identify as having a great relationship with their sales manager. They often get access to higher level strategy and collaborative discussions, while lower performing reps just get the typical meeting. One way to improve relationships with lower performing reps is to start giving everyone the top performer treatment. Initiating higher level conversations with your low performers may improve their perception of your relationship, and increase the success of the coaching you’re providing. Help create the sales reps you want by treating them like they’re already the best.
  6. Be mindful of morale. While you can’t always keep everyone happy, it’s important to be mindful of the morale within your sales organization, and even your organization as a whole. Check in regularly with your reps and keep your ears open for any problems that may arise. It only takes one upset salesperson to spread negative morale throughout the team, and these types of problems can often be turned around quickly if tackled head-on.


Getting started by implemented a few of these easy ways to encourage key sales behaviors present in most successful sales professionals is a great way to build on your existing sales coaching process.

Have other successful ways you’ve adjusted your training to target attributes of top salespeople? Tell us about them!

New Call-to-action