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ATD Blog

Cultivate These 3 Habits to Develop Winning Sales Teams

Thursday, September 9, 2021

What is the best way to develop high-performing sales teams? Are there specific traits and habits that top-performing salespeople possess? How can sales leaders cultivate these habits to help their teams win more consistently and more often?

These are some of the questions ValueSelling Associates set out to uncover. This research study, conducted in conjunction with Selling Power, surveyed more than 150 senior B2B sales leaders in the US to identify the mindsets, attributes, and behaviors of top-performing salespeople. Here, we’ll focus on three of those essential habits.

Balance Empathy and Ego

Top performers know how to strike a balance between empathy and ego. They establish a clear need for their product or service by understanding the buyer’s needs, and they do it without arrogance.

Empathy enables salespeople to truly understand their buyer’s perspective. The more they can relate to the prospect, the deeper the relationship will be. Reps can uncover this information by doing research about their prospect’s business and industry, being mentally present, and focusing the conversation on the customer rather than themselves.

While empathy itself is innate in people, certain components—such as active listening and asking questions—can be developed with the right coaching. Most importantly, managers must model the same empathetic behaviors that they encourage their teams to practice.

Top sales performers earn an average score of 7.5 for practicing empathy versus 5.8 for the rest of the reps.


Implement a Consistent Methodology

Sales leaders agree that having a consistent methodology across the organization is critical to build a team of top performers. A methodology creates a common skillset, toolset, and mindset around the sales process.

For example, all salespeople should be unified around the definition of a qualified opportunity or a high-value activity. Without these common definitions, salespeople may spend too much time on the wrong activities. Top performers align their behaviors with the sales methodology and know what it takes to uncover whether an opportunity is qualified.

As a result of the pandemic, sales professionals continue to do much of their work remotely. Management and onboarding are more difficult in a virtual environment, and as a result, a structured sales methodology is even more important. To be successful, build in frequent and consistent check-ins, and combine this with technology, data, and analytics that can measure your results.


Top sales performers are more likely to use a consistent sales methodology with an average score of 7.5 versus the rest of the reps with a 5.4 average rating.

Bring a Learning Mindset

Top sales performers love to learn and are open to feedback. When it comes to hiring them, sales leaders should look for signs of a learning mindset:

  • Do they invest in their personal development outside of work?
  • Do they believe there is always more to learn?
  • Are they willing and able to effectively self-evaluate their strengths and areas for development?

We believe that everyone needs a coach and managers must be a role model for the right behaviors. When reps struggle, coaches should course correct and help them see what to do differently. Leaders should also celebrate achievements—even the little ones—to reinforce leading indicators of success throughout the sales cycle.

Top sales performers earned an average score of 7.5 versus 5.9 for the rest of the reps for this key attribute.

With the right coaching and development, many average sales reps have the potential to become top performers. For sales leaders, it is critical to look at the entire sales team and diagnose each individual’s challenges and potential for success. As you develop the talent on your team, think about how cultivating these attributes can help your sales team members become top performers.

About the Author

Julie Thomas, president and CEO of ValueSelling Associates, is a noted speaker, consultant, and author of ValueSelling: Driving Sales Up One Conversation at a Time. She credits her mastery of the ValueSelling Framework® for her own meteoric rise through the ranks of sales, sales management and corporate leadership positions and takes pride that Gartner has positioned ValueSelling Associates as a Leader in the 2021 Magic Quadrant for Sales Training Service Providers.

Julie’s work is devoted to helping sales organizations compete confidently on value, not price. She teaches a simple process to manage the conversation with prospects and customers that develops a mutual understanding regarding how sales representatives can add value to the buyer and their business. Julie believes in the power of the human-to-human connection. She is passionate about helping sales professionals master communication skills to compete and win in an increasingly technology-enabled sales environment.

Because of Julie’s leadership, ValueSelling Associates has been recognized by both SellingPower and Training Industry magazines as a leader in the sales training industry.

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