By Paul Reilly

According to a recent study in the Harvard Business Review, only 12 percent of salespeople are rated as excellent by buyers. That percentage is shockingly low. So, if your benchmark is excellence, there is an 88 percent chance you can improve.

Our world is becoming increasingly commoditized. Products and services are viewed as similar or exactly the same. With merger-mania, corporations blend in and look the same. However, the salesperson remains the unique dimension for creating value.

In our groundbreaking best-sales-practices study, we identified ten characteristics of top-achieving salespeople. We interviewed over 600 customers to identify these characteristics. In our latest edition of Value-Added Selling, we provide an in-depth analysis of top-achievers and how they create personal value. Here is an abbreviated list to help you create more personal value like a top achiever.


Do you study your opportunities? Do you study your craft? Do you study the industries in which you sell? Top achievers do. Customers want to work with knowledgeable experts. In fact, “knowledgeable” was the most common descriptor of top achievers.

Study your target opportunities, study their industry, and study your profession. The more you learn, the more value you create. If you’re not spending two hours per week studying, you’re missing an opportunity to create more value.

Don’t expect this investment to provide an immediate gain. Instead, take a long-term view. Professional study is like amassing a large inventory of value-added insights and ideas. Each new thing you learn is placed on the shelf. When the timing is right, you’ll be able to pull from your inventory and deliver your value-added insights in a compelling way.

Results Oriented

Top achievers get things done. When nobody else has inventory, top achievers find it. When customers need something pushed through, top achievers take care of it. Top achievers focus on results, enabling customers to achieve their goals.

Top achievers abide by the mantra, if it is to be it is up to me. Top achievers understand how to get things done internally. They understand the internal workings of their company. And they apply pressure, when needed, to get things done for the customer.

Problem Solvers

Top achievers don’t look for products to quote, they look for problems to solve. Top achievers explore problems like an investigative journalist. They ask questions, research, and expose problems. Oftentimes, top achievers inform customers of a problem they didn’t know they had.

In our training seminars, salespeople often say, “Well, it’s hard to find problems to solve.” With this attitude, no wonder it’s hard to find problems to solve. Problems aren’t always easy to find or obvious to solve. That’s why most salespeople give up.

The key is opening your eyes—problems have a funny way of hiding in plain sight. Salespeople are often blinded by their own ambitions. These sellers focus more on making a deal than making a difference. What if you approached an opportunity with the mindset of solving problems versus selling product?

Only 12 percent of salespeople are rated as excellent. This same study showed that 65 percent of salespeople are rated as average or poor. There’s a good chance your competition is an average value creator. Your personal value produces a significant competitive advantage. The worth of a salesperson is measured in the value they create, not the discount they give. The only limit to your personal value is the edge of your imagination.

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