Top 5: Give Me a Yes

What common threads do the top 5% of salespeople share? Follow TOP 5 on ESA’s Catalyst, a series of posts on the top performers of today. This month, we ask our friends Herb Greenberg and Pat Sweeney from Caliper for their insights.

Just how important is it for a “Top 5″ Performer to hear the word YES? Very.

As we delve a little deeper into the common threads of the top 5% of performers in the industry, it’d be a mistake to underestimate the importance of Ego Drive. In short, ego drive is the desire to hear that “YES”, the affirmation of a final commitment.

So, what’s the big deal with ego drive? Well, let’s compare two salespeople side-by-side. Assume all things equal: same potential on their prospect list, same number of hours worked, same presentation ability, same number of calls and meetings, etc. The “winner” would be the one with the higher ego drive. And we use the word “higher” here on purpose: As the folks at Caliper have proven to us time and again, ego drive is an essential and measurable character trait. It is also directly related to performance.

Here’s the tricky part: It’s the “least-trainable” ingredient of the recipe for a strong salesperson. Empathy (another must-have for salespeople) can be acquired over time, especially as I learn more about specific industries. Ego drive is a little trickier — it’s more of a hard-wired characteristic.

Whether you’re working the “front-line” or managing the sales team, it’s a good idea to know where you stand on the ego drive spectrum. It’s a strong indicator of the developmental potential present. One way to do it: take a Caliper assessment, which provides relative measures of essential sales traits. Herb Greenberg and Pat Sweeney, two of Caliper’s executive leaders (they’re also best-selling authors and ROI conference speakers) have published excellent insight on sales performance. Their 2012 release, How to Hire and Develop Your Next Top Performer, sheds some light on ego drive:

Ego-drive is a unique quality that makes a salesperson want and need to make a sale in a very personal way. Individuals with ego-drive feel that the sale has to be made. So the prospect is there to help fulfill a personal need. To the top salesperson, getting a prospect to say “Yes” provides a powerful means for ego enhancement.

When we asked Peter Byloos, M.D., CEO of Handicare, “What is it about convincing someone else that gives you a kick?” he didn’t miss a beat. “It’s the achievement,” he said, definitively. “It’s all about winning.” He paused for a moment and then added, “It’s not about the money or the title or the rewards or any of that. For me, it’s just about winning. I guess everybody has their own motivators, but winning a deal is just great fun. To win when you know your competition was in there trying to get the deal and knowing that you won. That’s as good as it gets.”

Important to note here: as critical a quality as ego drive is in today’s market; just as important is keeping a balance between this and other essential traits like empathy and ego strength (the thick-skinned capacity to hear the word “No”).

Sales managers would be well-advised to consider this in the context of their next hire. Often times we hire experience over potential; we need a developmental salesperson and hire a list-manager. As the industry continues to sharpen its focus on the developmental side of things, the winners will be the ones with the right folks in the right seats on the bus.

Salespeople can use this information to get a good read on their relative performance vis-a-vis their peers or competition. Knowing your relative sales make-up can give you meaningful insight into your ability to get-the-call and close the deal.

The presence of ego drive can make the difference between average performance and Top 5% caliber.

Read Greenberg and Sweeney’s book, HOW TO HIRE AND DEVELOP YOUR NEXT TOP PERFORMER, available in bookstores and at on September 7, 2012. Please visit for more information.

Herbert Greenberg, Patrick Sweeney, How to Hire and Develop Your Next Top Performer, 2nd edition: The Qualities That Make Salespeople Great, © 2012, McGraw-Hill Professional; reprinted with permission of the publisher.

Dave Eckstein, ESA & Company | Real. Local. Results: 2012Dave Eckstein is a Partner in the firm ESA & Company. He specializes in highly profitable market share growth for local businesses and gets a kick out of demonstrating a declining cost of customer acquisition. He plays baseball, but isn't that Dave Eckstein.

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