Top 5: Resiliency a Must-Have

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.

Your ability to hear and respond to the word “NO” is vital.

The media exec of today hears about 15-20 NOs for every YES they earn. This fact underscores a third essential trait for the top 5% of performers in the industry: resiliency or Ego Strength.

While the first two traits we covered (empathy and ego drive, or the desire to hear a “YES”) are more about controlling the outcome, ego strength is all about the capacity to respond to a negative outcome.

Top 5’ers know how important it is to respond to the many NOs they hear. But they also realize that not hearing enough NOs is an even bigger problem — a point Lynne Edwards shared at ESA’s ROI2012 conference.

Ego strength is not only an essential ingredient for top performers, it is also measurable and “learn-able”. Tools — like Caliper’s Profile or ESA’s SalesMeter — are available to give you a sense of where you or your team might fall on the spectrum.

In Herb Greenberg and Pat Sweeney’s new book, How to Hire and Develop Your Next Top Performer, they illustrate the importance of ego strength in today’s highly competitive and “tighter” B2B sales markets:

People with resilience—and it is extremely difficult to succeed at anything in life without it—view rejection as something to get over, to get through, to get on the other side of. At the end of the day, this quality has a lot to do with defining who we are. Top performers—in sales, management, leadership, whatever your pursuit—learn from negative experiences and turn them into defining moments.

Chris Pierson, director of sales for Stratix Systems, a technology company that focuses on document and information management, told us, “We look for salespeople who have demonstrated earlier in their lives that they know how to compete. That they’re in it to win. But they know how to take defeat. They are driven to win. So the setbacks don’t define them. They’re just something to get over. People who are resilient bring their sense of self-worth and pride and drive to any situation. And they know how to make it better. That’s who we look for. People who are built that way.”

Sales managers can ask current team members or potential hires about their capacity to deal with adversity and rejection, but ego strength is a trait that requires objective measurement. Everybody has a redemption story to tell, but many aren’t up to the blunt challenge of “R&R” — rejection and resiliency — in today’s hyper-competitive markets.

Salespeople should see those NOs as both what they are, and what they could be. They represent an opportunity to improve — or even to re-approach the same proposal with a new angle. And those who aren’t hearing the NOs are probably not trying hard enough.

Ego strength is a key variable for today’s Top 5% performer, especially when you consider the challenging economic climate. This might sound wrong — but it’s time to go seek out and prepare for your NOs.

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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