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Top 12 Differences Between the Best Sales Organizations and The Rest

blog author
Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

In our Top-Performing Sales Organization research, our goal was to assess what the Top Performers do differently than The Rest to achieve the best results. Top Performers have higher win rates, meet their annual sales goals, are more likely to set challenging sales goals, and are more likely achieve maximum prices in line with the value they provide.

We analyzed data from 472 sellers and executives representing companies with sales forces between 10 and 5,000+ sellers. Top Performers represent the top 20% of our database. The Rest—the bottom 80%.

So what specific factors separate the Top Performer group from The Rest? What are they doing differently to achieve superior results?

The performance-related factors we studied organize into the 8 categories of the Sales Performance WheelSM: Strategy, Structure, Operations, Enablement, Talent Management, Training, Capabilities, and Motivation.

Of 72 factors total, the following were the greatest gaps we found.

Top 12 Factors Separating Top Performers from The Rest

  1. Our sales organization is effective at maximizing sales to existing clients across capability areas
  2. Our company leaders prioritize developing sellers to be as valuable to our buyers as possible
  3. We are effective at assessing seller skills, knowledge, and attributes that support top sales performance
  4. Sellers have core consultative selling skills
  5. Accounts are assigned to people best suited to succeed with them
  6. Our sellers consistently forecast their own pipelines accurately
  7. Sellers have fluent, expert-level knowledge of customers
  8. Sellers have skill of driving and winning individual sales opportunities
  9. Quoting and proposal support is strong and prioritized based on opportunity attractiveness
  10. Managers and leaders are effective at creating and sustaining maximum selling energy from sellers
  11. Sellers have the skill of driving account growth
  12. Our management and tracking of key performance indicators and metrics allow us to improve performance, address problems, and inform decision making

Think about the picture this paints: a top-performing sales organization prioritizes value (#2). It has a team with core consultative selling skills (#4) that is able to drive and win sales opportunities (#8) and grow accounts (#11). The organization also has an effective seller assessment in place (#3), tracks metrics with key performance indicators (#12), and has accurate pipeline forecasts (#6). Moreover, managers and leaders create and sustain maximum selling energy (#10).

With all of the above in place, it’s no wonder the #1 factor—effectiveness at maximizing sales to existing clients across capability areas—is so much more effective at Top Performers than The Rest.

Read: 5 Keys to Maximizing Sales with Existing Accounts

It’s worth noting that the smallest gap between the Top Performers and The Rest relates to the potential revenue growth of their offerings (with practically no difference—#72 of 72 factors studied). It’s not like the Top Performers simply have more attractive products and services to sell. The difference is that they are better at selling.


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Topics: Sales Research