In Sales, What Differentiates the Top 5% Players?

Jonathan Farrington

As you can imagine, I am often asked by sales leaders, anxious to recruit the best salespeople they can afford, just what is it that makes a consistently top performer – what are their characteristics, where are their strengths, and what differentiates them?

Over the past fifteen years I have trained and developed thousands of sales
professionals, from foundation right up to “master craftsman” level. This has given me the opportunity to formulate an accurate profile of a ‘Top 5% Achiever’.

What Is It That Top 5% Players Do?


  • Position themselves with the real decision-makers and avoid those without ‘approval power’. They are able to first identify and then access the formal decision making unit.
  • Not only get the order, but a satisfied customer, repeat sales, enthusiastic reference sites and constantly increase sales penetration within their accounts.
  • Know how to minimise the uncertainties of a cold call on a new account, by careful planning and rigorous opportunity assessment.
  • Recognise when to treat an old account as a new prospect and keep the relationship fresh, alive and maintain profitability.
  • Never entertain business they do not want, because they recognise that it takes just as long to work an unprofitable opportunity through the sales funnel, only to lose it at the death, as it does a profitable one. They trust their own judgement, but also rely heavily on objective assessment.
  •  Readily identify and know how to deal with the four different buying influences present in every sale – i.e. Economic Buyer, Technical Buyer, User Buyer and Ally.
  • Understand how to prevent sales from being sabotaged by an internal enemy -they insulate themselves by developing strong allies within.
  • Are able to recognise fail-safe signals that indicate when a sale is in jeopardy. This comes from experience, but also information supplied by their allies.
  • Are rigorous in tracking account progress and are able to accurately forecast future sales, because they use proven methodology which allows them to weight every opportunity in the pipeline.
  • Avoid ‘dry-months’ by allocating time wisely to their critical selling tasks – i.e. Prospecting for new business, covering the bases with existing opportunities and finally closing the best few.

In summary, the very best sales performers do not achieve that status overnight. They work tirelessly to develop and hone their skills-sets, insist on regular top-up coaching, and seek out those who are outperforming them so that they may learn and improve still further. They have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge of their industry and sector.

Finally, they concentrate on eliminating any weaknesses and are anxious to be assessed and receive feedback on a regular basis.

Copyright © 2019 by Jonathan Farrington All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission of the publisher.