We’ve all been there: you walk into an office for your first day of work and as you’re talking to your new coworkers, you start to hear a name. Other salespeople mention it in passing, but eventually, you get the picture: so-and-so is by far the best-performing sales rep and everyone else is just chasing their lead.
Most sales offices have a top performer, someone who is constantly leading the board and who sets the standard for everybody else. Not only does this person make a great living, but they usually also get special privileges. In a sales environment, there’s no better place to be.
There is, however, usually some chatter about why and how these people became top performers. It can be tempting to ascribe others’ success to factors beyond our control because it gives us an excuse for why we’re not where we want to be. Unfortunately, most of these explanations aren’t true.
Here are eight common myths about top performers:
1. They’re charismatic
Charisma can help, but by itself, it’s not enough to take an average salesperson and turn them into a top performer. In fact, most salespeople know a few incredibly likable people who tried their hand at sales only to wash out or give up. Being likable helps, but without effort, understanding, and commitment, it won’t get you very far.
2. They’re pushy
This is (wrongly) assumed by the general public, and it’s wrongly assumed by the coworkers of top performers. More than likely, the top performer is assertive, confident, and not scared to ask for the prospect’s business or afraid to walk away. This is different from pushiness, which is an unpleasant, badgering behavior that not only gives salespeople a bad name, but usually doesn’t work.
3. They can smooth-talk anyone
There are some very smooth salespeople out there, but the top performers aren’t usually the smoothest. Instead, they’re usually the ones who focus on the future, and on what matters, keeping their pipeline full and moving existing deals through the pipeline without fanfare or too much inconsistency. Sure, the dealmakers we see in movies can charm just about anyone, but real life is a lot more mundane, and takes a lot more hard work.
4. They have some sort of secret formula
When someone is really good at what they do, it can seem like they have a secret formula they’re not sharing with everybody else. But the truth is that top performers come in all shapes and sizes, and they’ve each figured out what works for them given the product they sell and the client base of that product, which varies from industry to industry. So in some ways, yes, they’ve figured out a formula, but unfortunately, it’s never a one-size-fits-all prescription.
5. They’re being favored
It can be tempting to attribute a top performer’s success to nepotism, and sometimes it’s true. But usually, no matter how well-connected a salesperson is, it won’t be enough to keep them performing at a high level — at some point, getting fed leads isn’t enough, and a sales rep’s true ability has to come out. So if someone is at the top of the board all the time, it’s usually because they deserve to be there.
6. They’re cutthroat
This is another common misconception the public has about salespeople, and this one doesn’t stop at the door. Contrary to popular belief, most highly successful salespeople are masters at cooperation, knowing how to get buy-in from stakeholders and from their coworkers. Of course, top performers are cut-throat with their external competition, as all businesspeople are, but those who step on people to get what they want rarely build the type of relationships and reputation that it takes to get to the top of an industry.
7. They just get lucky
Luck can explain a lot, but it can’t explain consistency. A sales rep might get lucky by randomly landing a huge contract, but when that sales rep seems to be landing them month after month, year after year, it’s time to look for another explanation. Of course, being lucky doesn’t hurt, but luck without preparation and follow-through is worthless, unless you’re buying scratch tickets.
8. They’re born, not made
This is perhaps the most pernicious myth that’s still echoed in sales circles everywhere. The myth goes: great salespeople are naturally gifted; either you have it or you don’t. Fortunately for everybody else, this is most certainly a myth. There are hundreds of thousands of salespeople who were terrible when they started, but through a commitment to their work, determination, and the willingness to hold themselves accountable, they’ve worked their way up into the upper echelons of the profession. If only the naturally gifted could excel, then billions of dollars would be left on the table. You can become one of the best, just ask the best!