5 Capabilities Sellers Must Have to Be Top Performers

When sellers are at the top of their game, they have an enormous positive impact on the bottom line. Likewise, struggling sellers can result in a real drag.

Knowing exactly what it is that top-performing sellers do differently than other sellers is the first step in building a sales team of top performers—and achieving stronger sales results.

Top-performing sellers have higher average win rates, are 2.4 times more likely to meet sales goals, and are 1.7 times more likely to achieve premium pricing.

Which skills and behaviors should organizations foster in their sellers to boost performance and results?

To understand what sets the best sellers apart from the rest of the field, RAIN Group conducted a global study of 1,000+ sellers and sales managers with results released in the Top-Performing Seller Benchmark Report. The research analyzed 100 skills and behaviors across 13 different categories to find the attributes shared by top performers.

The Top-Performing SellerSM model illustrates the findings based on research and decades of field experience.

Read on to learn more about the capabilities and behaviors that correlate with top performance in sellers.

Achieving the Outcome of Value

Value converts to sales, but too many sellers aren’t delivering the value buyers seek. Buyers say 58% of their sales meetings are not valuable. This means the first seller to demonstrate real value often takes the lead in a sale.

Top-performing sellers are more likely to create and communicate value for their buyers, according to the research. For example, top performers are more likely to:

  • Make strong ROI and buying cases for their buyers (63%)
  • Present value more persuasively (60%)

The best sales reps have significantly stronger skills to drive the perception—and the reality—of the value of buying from them.

Winning the Sale

Across the sales cycle, top performers build a strong foundation with buyers and are better able to navigate challenges that arise.

Top-performing sellers are more likely to:

  • Lead thorough needs discoveries (58%)
  • Influence buyer thinking about what to buy (57%)
  • Collaborate with buyers deeply across the buying process (59%)
  • Make effective differentiation cases (55%)
  • Overcome price pressure and maintain margins (81%)
  • Overcome objections (29%)
  • Lead highly effective finalist presentations (65%)

These capabilities enable sellers to effectively lead buyers through the buying process. By diving deep into buyers’ needs and collaborating with them, sellers can be viewed by buyers as a partner rather than an adversary.

These skill sets help top performers close more deals and kickstart strong relationships with their customers.

Driving Account Growth

The best sellers don’t just sign a contract and disappear. They build long-lasting relationships with their accounts, which results in higher customer satisfaction and higher lifetime value.

Many sources report it costs five times, or more, to upsell existing customers than it is to acquire new ones, which highlights the importance of driving growth in an account.

We found that top-performing sellers excel here. They are more likely to:

  • Execute and implement growth plans (65%)
  • Create compelling ideas to bring to accounts (62%)
  • Find unexplored opportunities for account expansion (60%)

Top performers consistently drive value at key accounts and discover new avenues for cross-selling and upselling.

Succeeding With People

Sales is a relationship-driven profession, and the best sellers know how to connect meaningfully with their buyers.

This is a critically important capability because buyers place a great emphasis on their relationship with a vendor. In fact,  85% of buyers in a Salesforce survey say the experience a company provides is as important as the product or service they’ve purchased.

Top-performing sellers inspire buyers to reach out for advice and ideas, build long-term relationships, and collaborate more deeply than their peers. They are more likely to:

  • Develop enterprise-level relationships (91%)
  • Inspire buyers to reach out for advice (88%)
  • Build long-term, value-based relationships with buyers (63%)
  • Connect personally with buyers (53%)

A sales rep who knows how to connect with people and establish a genuine relationship will win more sales.

Maximizing Personal Effectiveness

Each of these capabilities is important, but it takes more than selling skills to be a top-performing seller. Top performers have much stronger personal productivity behaviors compared to their peers: optimizing their time, staying focused, and holding themselves accountable.

For example, top-performing sellers are more likely to:

  • Remain focused on their agenda and avoid distractions (73%)
  • Maximize their time in a way to consistently deliver results (62%)
  • Hold themselves accountable for their commitments (46%)

Top performers constantly challenge themselves to learn, grow and optimize their resources.

The research is clear: top-performing sellers are significantly more capable in five critical categories of selling:

  • Achieving the outcome of value
  • Winning the sale (opportunity management)
  • Driving account growth
  • Succeeding with people
  • Maximizing personal effectiveness

Organizations that want to build a top sales team will develop these capabilities in their sellers and reap the benefits of higher win rates, sales goals attained and premium pricing.


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