Working in sales is competitive and challenging.

Research shows that 57% of sales reps missed their quotas in 2018.

You’ve probably heard about the 80/20 rule: 80% of sales are made by 20% of sales reps.

Sales recruitment agency Aaron Wallis performed a study on Forbes’ 2020 Billionaires list, to find out that most billionaires started their career as sales reps.

The bottom line?

Sales is a hard job but if you do it right, you can become highly successful.

Working hard in sales doesn’t necessarily lead to making millions. What makes some salespeople become really successful is working smart.

But what is it that top-performing salespeople do differently from average sales reps? After reading this guide, you’ll know exactly what to focus on to become a sales superstar.

Learn from the Experience of these Top Sales Performers

To start off, let’s dive into who some of the most influential people of all time are and what you can learn from them.

But first, why should you know about them? The reason is that they, like you, started in sales

Let’s see what you can learn from them!

Dale Carnegie

Mostly known as the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie was the founder of the Dale Carnegie Institute, where he taught topics such as salesmanship, public speaking, self-improvement, and interactive skills.

Early Career

Coming from a humble background, Carnegie managed to build self-confidence and self-esteem thanks to his passion for public speaking.

After graduating from college, he took a job as a traveling salesman.

Carnegie realized that the most successful businesspeople were not those with technical know-how, but rather those with the best people skills. He also noticed that there was no textbook on this topic.

After years of research, he published How to Win Friends and Influence People. With currently over 30 million copies sold, this book is full of sales advice and best practices. 

I read this book (so you don’t have to), and here are the main sales learnings from it:

Sales Learnings

When you engage with someone, including a sales prospect, consider using some of his techniques. 

They’re a guarantee for sales success.

  • Show genuine interest

To be interesting, be interested.

If you want to be a top salesperson, your goal is to find the best solution for your prospects.

Having an honest interest in their needs and wants will allow you to understand them better and find a solution that fits them best.

  • Make them feel important

Make the other person feel important, and do it sincerely.

Carnegie believed that one of every human’s main needs is to feel important.

When you’re meeting with your prospects, try to find ways to make them feel appreciated.

It’s important that you avoid flattery and give appreciation in an honest way.  One way to make your prospects feel important is by remembering their name, which is, in Carniegie’s words, “the sweetest and most important sound in any language”.

  • Make it about them

Arouse in the other person an eager want

People are interested in what they want, not what you want. To make your prospects take action and buy your product or service, you need to show them how it will benefit them.

  • Make them say “yes”

Start with questions to which the other person will answer yes.

According to Carniegie, people tend to stick to their initial beliefs about something. 

Once your prospects give you a “no”, they’ll likely stick to it to avoid a “conflict of pride”.

Make your prospect agree with you by starting with questions that are more likely to get a “yes”.

  • Give subtle recommendations

Let the other person feel the idea is theirs.

Nobody likes to be sold. 

People want to feel like they’re buying something because they decided they need it. 

Trying to convince your prospects to buy from you is not a winning strategy.

Instead, give casual and subtle recommendations that will make them realize they have a need for what you’re selling.

  • Listen carefully

One of the main mistakes that you can make as a salesperson is talking too much and not listening to your prospect.

This happens when you focus too much on selling.

If you want to be a top sales performer, let your prospects do the talking and take the time to carefully listen and understand their needs.

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Zig Ziglar

Known as a business consultant for Fortune 500 companies and as one of the world’s most famous motivational speakers, Zig Ziglar influenced millions of people, including American presidents and other world leaders. He shaped today’s sales vocabulary.

Early Career

During college, Ziglar started working part-time selling pots and pans for the WearEver Aluminium Company, which he then joined as a full-time sales rep after dropping out of college.

He was encouraged by his supervisor who recognized his talent for selling and was soon promoted to field manager and, later, to divisional supervisor. Years later, Ziglar left his sales career to devote himself to public speaking.

Sales Learnings

Combining his experiences, books, and speeches, there is a lot to learn from Ziglar, especially when it comes to sales.  

  • Motivation, Goal Setting, and Constant Learning

Of course motivation is not permanent. But then, neither is bathing; but it is something you should do on a regular basis.”

Ziglar encouraged salespeople to constantly learn and train, and to be smart about goals setting.

As a salesperson, you must maintain a constant level of motivation by visualizing success.

  • Transfer your Enthusiasm

Selling is essentially a transfer of feelings” 

Ziglar thought that, to be successful in selling, you must be able to transfer the passion for what you do, and your love and value for the product or service you’re selling.

Master the ability to communicate the passion you have for what you’re selling to your prospects. 

Being enthusiastic and energetic will show them how much you care about their problems and goals.

The way to do this is by translating the specific features of your product into a “value story”.

Your goal is to transfer this enthusiasm to the prospects. If you manage to do this, they will have trust and confidence towards you and whatever it is you’re selling.

(This goes without saying that you can’t sell something you don’t believe in.)

  • Help people get what they want

You can get everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want

Ziglar also believed that, in order to succeed, salespeople should focus on helping their clients meet their needs, rather than trying to extract money from them. 

Instead of thinking about how you can get your prospects to buy, you should focus on what you can do that they will benefit from.

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Warren Buffett

An investment guru and one of the world's richest men, Warren Buffet is one of the most successful and respected businessmen of all time.

Early career

As a six-year-old, Buffett started making money selling cans of Coca-Cola for a five-cent profit. 

During childhood, he established several entrepreneurial ventures, including being a paperboy and selling his own horse-racing tip sheet.

He then started selling securities at Buffett-Falk & Company for three years. 

Before long, he was investing and got some big hits and some bigger misses. But he never let his mistakes discourage or define him.

Sales Learnings

  • Take Risks

Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.” 

Resilience and willingness to take risks are what it takes to become a top sales performer.

That’s how Buffett built his empire.

  • Focus on good prospects

You can’t make a good deal with a bad person

When finding prospects, always choose quality over quantity. 

Not everyone is a good fit for your product or service. So make sure you spend time on qualified leads.

  • Stop digging

The most important thing to do if you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.”

Don’t be pushy with your prospects. Either they’re not a good fit, or they’re just not ready to close the deal. In the second case, be patient and find other ways to persuade them.

  • Establish yourself as a trustworthy source

Robert Cialdini, professor and expert in influence and persuasion, was impressed by a simple psychological trick that Buffett uses to be persuasive. 

As the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, he starts every annual report with a mistake that he and his company made the previous year.

This gets the readers’ attention for everything he says next, which happens to be the strengths of the report. 

As a salesperson, how can you be more persuasive when talking to a prospect?

First, establish yourself as a trustworthy, credible source of information by being honest and perhaps describing a past mistake. 

Then, go on to the things that are most positive, and that you want your prospect to recall.

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Mark Cuban

Worth more than $4 billion, Mark Cuban is a successful entrepreneur and professional sports team owner. Cuban is a strong believer in the need to be good at selling no matter what you do in life.

Early Career

At the age of 12, Cuban started selling garbage bags. In high school, he improvised himself a  stamp and coin salesman to make some extra money.

He soon found himself selling software, a job he took to heart.

He studied everything about the products he was selling, and that attention to detail helped Cuban become one of the best salespeople in his firm.

He then ventured out into programming, where he founded, built, and sold MicroSolutions.

Next, Cuban founded, which he later sold again, this time to Yahoo! for a mind-boggling $5.7 billion.

Sales Learnings

  • Sell what you love

It comes down to finding something you love to do and then just trying to be great at it.”

To Cuban, you should only sell what you love. There’s no way around it. 

  • Know what you sell

You got to be the smartest guy in the room about your product.”

Loving the product you’re selling is not enough to be successful.

You need to learn everything about it.

  • Connecting and Serving

Selling ultimately comes down to connecting and serving.” 

Cuban believes that the goal of a salesperson is to help people find a solution to their problems. 

As he put it, “Treat your customers like they own you. Because they do. Don’t just sell your product but solve their problems.” 

If you want to be a successful salesperson, don’t focus on trying to convince your prospect. This will never work. Rather, find the best solution for their problem.

You are not trying to convince them of anything. You’re trying to show them how you are going to make their lives easier.”

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Howard Schultz

Worth more than $4 billion, Howard Schultz is the former Chairman, President & CEO of Starbucks Coffee Company.

Early Career

Howard Schultz grew up in a low-income family in Brooklyn, New York.  

After graduating from college, he started his career selling office equipment door-to-door and making up to 50 cold calls a day.

With sheer will, an unrivaled work ethic, and some independent thinking, Schultz went through several sales positions and ended up heading marketing for Starbucks, which, at the time, only sold coffee beans, not coffee drinks.

After visiting Italy, Shultz had the vision of creating specialty coffee stores but the founders of Starbucks were not interested. 

He finally purchased Starbucks and became CEO and chairman of the company, turning it from average to mega-lucrative.

Sales Learning

To Shultz, selling is not only about the product or service itself. Rather, it’s about the experience that the consumer has when buying them. It’s important that you are able to sell the brand and not just the product.

When approaching your prospects, don’t make it just about the product or service. Your goal is to sell an entire experience

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Get Sales Advice From These 5 Modern-Day Sales Leaders

You now know about the top sales leaders who became extremely successful thanks to their selling skills.

Now, let’s look at a few pointers from modern-day successful sales leaders:

1. Use the right tools

Equally important to having the right skills is getting the right kind of tools that will help you improve productivity and, ultimately, increase sales.

The main goal here is to reduce the time spent on administrative tasks.

As Somrat Niyogi, cofounder & CEO at Stitch, said: "Organizations that understand how to minimize the amount of time salespeople spend doing administrative tasks, such as data entry, win by helping them be more productive."

What is the solution? According to Niyogi, salespeople should use “tools that make it easy to enter customer data from a mobile device.”

There are many tools for sales out there, from software that helps you discover prospects, to CRM and team communication tools.

Check out the essential tools every top field salesperson should be using, and make sure you sign up for Badger Maps' free trial to optimize your routes and sell up to 22% more!

2. To Know it is to Love it

After talking to attendees at his company’s annual sales summit, Noah Kagan, chief sumo at, said that “guests have said the best salespeople they've met are the ones who clearly believe in and care deeply about the product or service they're selling.”

If you don’t like the product you’re trying to sell, how can you expect your customers to love it? 

Showing that you know your product or service inside and out can prove that you believe in it. Go into every meeting with a deep understanding of what you’re selling.

3. Know Your Customers and the Playing Field

It’s important to understand the product or service you’re selling.

But it’s equally, if not more important, to know your customer.

To be successful, I had to really understand the customers and their needs. I had to have a deep knowledge of my products and a solid understanding of our competitors. I learned some pretty important lessons in those first years as a front-line salesperson,” says tech industry leader Mark Hurd.

Knowing what the customer is looking for makes the big difference when selling. If you offer them something that doesn’t suit their needs at the beginning of your relationship, it may be hard to recover.

If possible, avoid making a misstep by offering them a variety of options.

Make sure you do your research beforehand to know who you’re pitching to.

Always stay up to date with what your competitors are doing, and with industry advancements.

4. Humanize Yourself and Your Company

According to Dan Dvorak, keynote speaker, and sales trainer, “63% of people remembered the facts of a story while only about 5% remembered the same facts or information when it was provided as an unrelated piece of information.

Give your customer something they can connect to when working with them. Sharing a personal story or experience relating to the product or service gives customers something emotional to relate with.

Rather than just thinking of your product as a “thing,” your customer will see your product as something with substance and history behind it. People don’t like to feel as though they’re talking to a robot. Don’t be afraid to open up a little bit and show some emotion to humanize yourself and your company. Give them something positive to remember about you.

5. Stay in a State of Sales

Selling is a part of life, whether you’re a sales professional or not.

You can’t accomplish anything in life, whether closing a deal, starting a company, raising money for a non-profit, asking for a promotion or getting a new job, without being able to sell a product, an idea or yourself,” says Aaron Ross, CEO of Predictable Revenue.

We’re always honing our sales pitches, whether you’re trying to sell products at work or sell yourself in a job interview, or even on a date.

These are skills you can work on every day, and they will improve over time with practice.

Although being a good salesperson is important, being a good person is even more critical to your work and your personal life. Remain rooted in authenticity, wear your passion on your sleeve, and always strive for improvement. People are bound to take notice.

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Replicate the 4 Key Personality Traits All Top Sales Performers Share

Now you have a clearer picture of what it took these sales leaders to become successful.

But what are the personality traits that make top salespeople different from the average ones?

Let’s take a sneak-peak inside the sales arena to understand what it takes to own a successful selling style and strategy.

1. They are super focused

Top salespeople are focused and goal-oriented. They are very clear about the goals they want to achieve and the steps they’ll take to obtain it.

Dedication and focus on your goals during the sales process will give you more control.

The best salespeople not only have this eagle-eye focus on their goals but they also apply this same focus on understanding their customers

They work to understand their customer’s pains and will create strategies for success for them.

2. They are Empathetic

The best salespeople are incredibly empathetic.

They genuinely want to meet new people and help find solutions to their pains.

Expert salespeople will put themselves in their client’s shoes and try to evaluate things from their client’s perspective.

Try asking yourself these questions:

  • Why is your client looking for a solution?
  • What result do they hope to achieve by implementing a solution?
  • What objectives is your client’s organization focusing on?

Top salespeople will go through each and every step in the sales journey and will bridge whatever gaps they find.

3. They Don’t Give up Easily

Top salespeople do not believe in giving up simply because one of their leads did not work out. 

Instead, they try and figure out what went wrong and so that they can make sure to learn from their experience.

Always respond to rejection with an analytic and proactive attitude. This is the only way you can see where you went wrong, and how you can address this.

This extra effort will help you retain the customers that you worked so hard to sign.

4. They Easily Overcome Obstacles

Top salespeople are always resilient. They never get demotivated or panic no matter how difficult the situation gets.

Once you lose confidence, even basic selling activities can feel impossible. Under any such situation, the best salespeople make sure that they stay calm and figure out a game plan.

They set quick goals with easy-to-accomplish tasks, which will help them boost their confidence quickly.

Breaking down a difficult situation into small, easy-to-accomplish tasks will make the problem less daunting and will motivate you to keep moving forward.

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Acquire the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Salespeople

Success can only be achieved by maintaining a structured life with positive habits.

In this section, you’ll discover the habits that you need to build in order to become a top salesperson:

1. Start Asking More Questions

Requesting information from your prospective clients is one of the best ways to reach success. 

Many salespersons feel uncomfortable asking whether their presentations are compelling or not. They prefer to consider only the positive feedback they’re receiving.

Unfortunately, this does not take you to the top.

Ask questions! It’s crucial!

2. Listen to Your Clients

You’ve asked your questions, and given the prospect time to answer. 

Now it’s time to actually listen. Not only hear but listen.

When talking business with your clients, focus on the underlying messages hidden behind their words. Be active in the conversation. When they stop talking, tell them to go on or ask topic-related questions.

Be genuinely interested in what your customers have to say.

Don’t forget to make eye contact at all times. Avoid staying on your phone while your client sits right next to you.

They should have your full attention. They must feel important.

3. Present Your Products Effectively

Excellent presentations are another key to reaching success.

Here are some suggestions for an effective presentation:

  • Make claims and back them up with specific information
  • Personalize the message you are sending
  • Expose your products’ personal brand
  • Talk fewer statistics, more real-life questions
  • Make your products stand out

Aside from these advocates, remember to be enthusiastic!

Be super-excited about anything that you are selling, and you’ll see how quickly you’re going to expand your profits and make it to the top.

4. Ask for Referrals

According to the Sales Readiness Group, people are four times more likely to buy when referred by a friend. Moreover, 92% of people trust referrals from people they know.

Asking for referrals is a strategic move – but how can you ask your clients for help, when you two should play the exact opposite roles?

  • Watch the timing – find the proper moment to ask your customers for help; usually, that’s right after they compliment you.
  • Ask it nicely – begging for referrals is not cool either; “I would appreciate it if you could…” sounds way better.
  • Be specific – prepare beforehand; ask them for exactly what you want. “Do you have any friends who could use my services?” is not specific enough. Most people will answer no being asked that right on the spot.
  • Improve your relationship – develop a good relationship with your customer before asking

If your customers helped, don’t forget to thank them and follow up right after.

They might refer you to even more people. Keeping them updated on your progress always helps.

5. Be Persistent

If you’re selling to the big guys, reaching out to the decision-makers can be difficult.

That’s why you must be persistent! One call or email won’t do the job; you need more than that. 

If you have to show up at their doorstep, do it. Don’t wait any longer. Nimble writes, “It now takes up to 14 touchpoints to connect with senior-level executives. Successful salespeople know that it takes persistence and diligence to make contact and they use a variety of strategies to achieve this goal.

6. Learn How to Handle Rejection

Learning how to handle rejection might not be the most pleasant task. However, in the sales world, it’s a must.

Here are some tips to help you handle rejection:

  • Don’t take it personally – if you do, there’s no chance you’ll ever be able to get back on your feet. Uninterested clients can be a pain in the bum – rude, impolite, insulting, offensive. Don’t listen to their critique if it’s trivial to you.
  • Be professional about it – no matter how they behave, act professionally. Be polite and respect their decision. Your attitude matters.
  • Ask for feedback – as I mentioned previously, asking for feedback is a crucial part of your advancement. Ask your clients why. Why did they not buy? What was the primary issue? What could you improve?
  • Focus on the good things – you didn’t close a deal, so what? There are others to come. Treat it as an experience from which you can learn.

Even if you are rejected once, twice, or even five times, don’t give up. You simply need more practice, that’s all. Keep your head up!

7. Follow Up!

It’s your job to follow up, not your customers’. Especially if you want them to keep buying from you.

Here are some useful follow-up ideas:

  • Send them manually written thank you notes – it makes them feel special and appreciated!
  • Visit them – why not pay them a short visit after one or two weeks?
  • Keep communication open

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Apply These 4 Sales Best Practices to Become a Sales Superstar

We’ve gone over the habits and personality traits that top sales performers have in common.

Now it’s time to summarize the steps you need to take in order to develop these traits and become successful in sales.

Ray, Director of Sales at a packaging company, describes his first experience in sales as if remembering a bad nightmare.

When I had my first call I was so nervous because I felt totally inadequate in my product and skills. I had such anxiety that it took me two hours to get out of the car to ask the receptionist for the business card of the packaging buyer. Finally, after several calls like that I said screw it, either they like me or they don't or I fall flat on my face on my call and took an I don't care (even though I really did) attitude. This was an important milestone for me.

Now, with over 20 years of experience, Ray has become a veteran salesman. He knows exactly what you need to succeed.

He has learned a lot in over 20 years and has an impressive track record, from entry-level field salesman to closing deals with Fortune 500 companies that helped them save hundreds of thousands of dollars each month.

According to Ray, these are the steps you need to build a successful career in sales

  1. Understand the client's need
  2. Have confidence in yourself and your product
  3. Develop genuine relationships
  4. Work on your personality

1. Understand the client's need

Doing general research on your prospect doesn’t help much.

You must find out what problem they have and how you can help them solve it.

Understanding your clients’ needs comes with a lot of listening and communication.

By knowing the best answer for any question they have, you become a valuable consultant.

Ray put it perfectly when he told me, “You're not selling a product; you're selling the need the product fulfills”.

People want their problem fixed, and they’ll pay you to fix it.

2. Have confidence in yourself and your product

Elon Musk told his employees in 2016 that it is never acceptable to discount a brand-new Tesla. He firmly believes the price of his electric cars is fair and discounting the car shows you think it’s worth less than the original price.

Musk has confidence in his product and knows what it’s worth. He knows his cars inside and out and loves what he’s created. 

The same applies to you and your product. You know how valuable it is and it’s your job to make your prospects see it too.

3. Develop genuine relationships

Being able to develop great relationships is what makes people jump from sales reps to sales managers and trainers.

Improve your communication skills and gain trust through networking.

One of the best ways to build trust with your prospects is through a connection. It can be a common contact or a common interest, but relating in some way to your customer will allow you to get a much higher success rate in closing deals. 

According to networking expert Michelle Tillis Lederman, the connector’s advantage is what allows you to achieve everything you want in life and in sales. 

The best way to go about this is to find a meaning for reaching out to people.

Go to your prospect’s LinkedIn profile and look for something you guys have in common. Then, bring it up during your meeting.

4. Work on your personality

Buying and selling is a very emotional process. People rely on their gut instinct as much as hard data.

Being genuine, outgoing, funny, and able to tell jokes and stories makes you likable and helps in developing relationships. Being highly knowledgeable and ambitious leaves a great impression on your client.

Having the right personality is half the battle when selling. If you can get your client to like you, it’s much more likely they’ll like your product.

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Succeeding in sales is challenging, but remember that top sales performers are those who work smart, not those who work hard.

If you want to become a sales superstar, first look at the top sales leaders of all time and learn as much as possible from their techniques, habits, and personality traits.

Then, make sure you also take advice from today’s sales leaders, because sales and business are constantly evolving and you need to adapt the skills and tools you use.

Once you have an understanding of what it takes to become a successful salesperson, it’s time to follow our best sales practices to become a superstar..

Now you’re ready to become a top sales performer!

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