By Paul Reilly

Everyone has pondered this question—regardless of their profession. New doctors admire the top heart surgeon and wonder, “Why him?” New players idolize the team captain and wonder, “Why her?” Salespeople venerate this year’s president’s club winners and wonder, “Why them?”

In the search to uncover why, the focus shifts to what and how…

What are their daily habits?”

How do they approach their work?”

What activities lead to their success?”

How can I mimic them?”

Our research on top achievers provides plenty of what and how. For example…

  • 95% of top achievers (TAs) routinely plan every call.
  • TAs call on high-level decision makers at twice the rate as the general sales population.
  • The most common descriptor of TAs is “Knowledgeable.”
  • TAs are less likely to discount.
  • TAs spend 60% of their face-to-face selling time listening to customers.
  • TAs spend 82% of their time selling to existing customers.
  • TAs attribute 79% of their success to customer relationships.

These statistics explain the what and the how. But that’s not enough…

Duplicating the what and how isn’t enough to attain the TA’s results. Following Gordon Ramsey’s burger recipe won’t ensure you’ll replicate his quality. Other ingredients influence the outcome.

You can only understand why TAs are successful when you understand who they are.

So who are TAs?

Top Achievers are People of Value

In 1955, William Miller of Life Magazine interviewed Albert Einstein and asked him to comment on success. Einstein said, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value. He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he hopes to receive.”

Einstein could’ve been speaking directly to salespeople. TAs focus more on serving people than just selling products. For TAs, it’s about making a difference, not just making a deal. Yes, TAs are extremely driven; but their passion to serve overshadows their drive to succeed.

Humility is inherently present in Einstein’s definition of success. Only humble sellers can step outside themselves and focus on helping others. TAs are not the outspoken, domineering, and prideful sellers you expect. They operate with quiet confidence—humility over hubris.

Would customers describe you as a person of value?

Top Achievers are Empathetic

Are you viewing the world through your eyes or the eyes of the customer?

Empathy is the root of excellence in sales. Viewing the world through the customer’s eyes clarifies their definition of value. From this vantage point, the definition of value flows from the customer to you rather than from you to the customer.

It’s worth noting that many TAs were once customers and sat on the other side of the table. One top achiever explained during a recent seminar, “It’s easy to define value for my engineering customers because I was an engineer.” TAs leverage their experiences to create value in the present.

Would customers describe you as empathetic?

Top Achievers Embrace the Right Attitude

You move in the direction of your thoughts and behave as you believe. Top achievers are equipped with the right mindset. They are pragmatic optimists who shield themselves from negativity and focus on what they can control. They resiliently push past roadblocks and progress through.

TAs don’t feel sorry for themselves or bemoan, “Why me?” Self-pity is the most useless emotion. Consider this question…Do you ever feel better after feeling sorry for yourself? Sure, TAs experience frustration, but they balance it by focusing on what they can control, namely, their attitude. TAs focus on what they can control.

Would customers agree that you embrace the right attitude?

Why are TAs successful? It’s the culmination of what they do and who they are. Embrace humility over hubris. Recognize empathy as the root of excellence. Temper your drive to succeed with your desire to serve. You must continuously choose this path in the face of adversity. A friend recently handed me a card with a simple yet powerful phrase, “Be who you are and be that well.” Be like those top achievers and be that well.

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