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  • Writer's pictureBrian Burns

Four Ways to Be in the Top 20% of Sales Reps recently put out the results of a study they did analyzing over a million sales calls. They worked to find the most effective methods and the best practices, synthesizing them into what they called The Nine Secret Elements of Highly Effective Sales Conversations. But these things shouldn’t be a secret. They need to become common practices if we’re going to keep performing at top level. But, it might surprise to find how much of this is a secret and how much you should be doing that you’re not already.

To give you a taste of all the info you can get from this study, here’s a look at some of the most surprising information you’ll find inside.

Star Performers Are Rarer Than You Think

According to Gong’s research, around only 20% of a sales team is made up of what they call star performers. These are the A players at the top of their game. These are the guys and gals who are not only closing a crazy amount of deals, but they’re doing it well. The other 60% of the sales team is a sea of average players while that remaining 20% are the poor performers who need to get it going or get out of the business. Chances are, you’re not going to find yourself in that bottom 20%, but you could easily be sitting in the middle of the road 60%. And what separates these two tiers of reps is the sales call. You may want to say those top performers are naturally gifted salespeople, and while that’s true for some, anyone can make themselves appear that way by crushing a sales call.

It’s Not What You Say; It’s When You Say It

This might come as a shock to a lot of people out there since sales calls seem to be made up of nothing but what you say (and we’ll get into exactly how much you should be speaking a little farther down). But timing can be more key than the content of your pitch. Chances are, someone can do what you do, and you’re not the only place this client is looking. If there are similar businesses out there and you’ve already highlighted how you’re different, what can you do to drive that home and push it over the top? Well, one great example of pacing information in a call is not mentioning pricing until late in the conversation. Let them salivate at what you have to offer for the first 75% of the call and then get into how much it’s going to cost them. Successful sales reps also allocate a reliable 13% of the call time to discussing next steps. Average reps will give about 6% of their time to this; the next level players spend double that time making sure following steps are finalized.

Speak Less Than 50% of the Time

It sounds counter-intuitive, but the statistical evidence doesn’t lie here. The top performers only talk 46% of the time during their sales calls, allowing the other 54% to the customer to offer questions and comments. An average performer while talk up to 68% of the time, over 20% more than the top tier and the lowest performers talk a whopping 72% of the time. The key here is that the less you talk, the more you listen, and the more the customer feels like they matter to you beyond a number or a bottom line. You’ll learn from your prospect and forge a connection with them that can go miles beyond flashy sales language.

Address Your Competition Fast

As part of the what to say when point, you’ll want to hit the topic of competition head-on and early in your sales call. Don’t let it be the elephant in the room, let them know you know what you’re up against. It shows confidence. It’ll be up to the chances of closing a deal by 49% if you throw in an early “Who else are you considering?” into the call right off the bat. By the time you get to pricing and closing out, they’ve forgotten the competition

There’s a plethora of more information to gleam in the study, and we’ve only hit four of their secret nine elements of a great sales call. So head over to to check out more of what they have to say on the topic and to hear more about the best and worst practices of the top and bottom players check out my PodCast “The Brutal Truth About Sales & Selling.”


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