There is perhaps no enterprise business role more visible, or more studied than sales. After all, we not only keep score of their successes and failures, we publish them widely for their peers and all the world to see. Yet despite the scrutiny, what do we really understand about the motivations and subsequent behaviors of high-performing sales people?

SiriusDecisions set out to answer these questions in a comprehensive survey of sales reps conducted earlier this year. The 2016 Sales Talent Survey, completed in February 2016, surveyed B2B sales professionals from a cross-section of organizations. Respondents came from 26 industries, with the heaviest representation in software, technology hardware, telecommunications and materials management.

We’ve highlighted some of the most intriguing results below, and also shared some recommendations for sales pros interested in understanding how to translate this data for their own teams.

First, what constitutes a high-performer? For the purposes of the research, SiriusDecisions qualified high performers as reps who achieved their quota goals for 2 years or more. This group was comprised of:

  • 56% Baby Boomers
  • 15% Millennials
  • 55% who had more than 20 years of sales experience

On the War for Sales Talent

  • Only 4% of high-performing sales reps are actively in the job market
  • 46% of high-performing sales reps intend to leave their current jobs in the next 3 years
  • Millennials are 58% more likely to have sought a new position in the previous 2 years

On Money & Motivation

  • 93% of high performers say meaningful work is slightly more important than compensation
  • High performers were 27% less likely to be interested in a sales management role
  • High performers were 56% more likely to turn down a sales job offer over concerns about company leadership, viability
  • 82% of Millennials ranked access to leadership,  meaningful work, and company vision as equal to targeted earnings in importance

On the Role of Front-Line Sales Managers

  • 77% of sales candidates see the direct manager as the most influential person in the hiring process
  • 49% of high performers identify onboarding as very to extremely important when considering a new position, but
  • Only 6% of sales managers indicated they were completely ready and able to coach and mentor new hires

On Learning & Coaching Preferences

  • Millennials had a 71% higher affinity for high-touch training tactics (e.g. manager-led, role play, etc.)
  • High performers were 12% more likely to place high emphasis on formal training for products, messaging, and sales methodologies
  • 70% of high performers see coaching and collaboration as very important to their job performance, and yet...
  • 22% receive no coaching at all

Key Takeaways for Sales Leadership and Enablement Professionals

  • Sales enablement pros should take a more proactive role in the hiring and recruiting process for new reps, ideally centered on a specific, activity-based competency model that identifies what reps at your organization need to know and do to be successful
  • We know that sales coaching is critical, but it must be done effectively to deliver the promised benefits. Good sales coaching is about listening and demonstrating what “good” looks like—not simply telling reps what to do.
  • And when they do coach, sales leaders must focus on skills, not just immediate deals, to help more reps move up the ranks and become high performers.
  • Close collaboration with sales operations can help measure your efforts and provide the critical analytics required to assess progress against KPIs
  • Emerging, data-driven tools like Qstream can help sales team manage and measure sales behavior change at scale, while providing the critical reinforcement both experienced and new reps need for long-term retention and adoption.


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