Corporate Executive Board study of 6,000 identifies qualities that make for high fliers


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Employees who can use constructive tension and push authority can not only get the best out of their peers, but are also four times more likely to be a top performer, According to a Corporate Executive Board study of more than 6,000 sales representatives.

CEB classified these effective characteristic traits as that of a challenger. Challengers understand value and economic business drivers, voice unique views and love to debate.

In addition to the challenger, CEB also identified four other profiles that exemplify the habits of most salespeople.

Relationship builders focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships and advocating across the customer organisation. They are generous with their time and strive to meet customers' articulated needs.

Hard workers always go the extra mile. They will make more calls an hour and conduct more visits a week than just about anyone else on the team. They also actively seek feedback and advice for improvement.

Lone wolves are deeply self-confident, usually following their own instincts over the rules. They typically do things their way or not at all.

Problem solvers are detail oriented, focusing on post-sales follow- up and on ensuring that service issues related to implementation and execution are addressed quickly and thoroughly.

Challengers use their deep understanding of their customers' business to take control of the sales conversation and to push their thinking. They are not afraid to share even potentially controversial views and are assertive with their customers and colleagues. ?Second, when compared to actual sales performance, one profile dramatically exceeds the others in likelihood to achieve star performance: the Challenger.

On average, 39% of star performers were Challengers. In complex sales, that number rose to 54%. A quarter of lone wolves were high performers, and this reduced to 17% among hard workers, 12% among problem solvers and 7% among relationship builders.

The CEB report found the employee least likely to achieve star performance is the relationship builder. While quality customer relationships are unquestionably vital to commercial success, relationship selling is not-at least not when it is designed solely to ensure customers are happy and well taken care of. When it comes to growth, the best sales reps are challenging the status quo, not reinforcing it.

Challengers succeed by delivering the very thing customers are looking for the most from a supplier: disruptive insight that challenges their thinking and increases their competitiveness. In addition, challengers approach every customer interaction in a tailored manner, aligning that insight to each stakeholder's specific needs and priorities. Yet, Challengers are assertive enough to respectfully push back when stakeholders express skepticism about the insight or resistance to pricing.


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