Selling is a tough job that requires ongoing skills development. However, the best salespeople clearly have talent that predisposes them to success.

It’s not unlike the top performers in sports: Only a select few athletes have the raw material required to become a professional. This doesn’t excuse the athlete from training, but there’s an internal drive that you just can’t teach. Either you have it or you don’t.

So if you’re a sales executive, you should focus on hiring people who possess the right stuff. If you’re a salesperson, you should ask yourself if you have the right stuff. Here are the characteristics that I believe define the top performers in selling.

Administrative Skills: Selling requires paperwork—especially in the construction industry. The effective salesperson helps clients adhere to construction specifications, processes orders to ensure timely delivery, communicates with staff members, and tracks sales opportunities in writing.

It’s important to get past the idea that the sole job of selling is persuasion and that salespeople are above paperwork tasks. The successful salesperson sweats the details.

Willingness: There are three types of employees in any organization: vacationers, prisoners, and contributors. If you’re an executive who has to choose between a vacationer and a prisoner, pick the prisoner because at least he or she cares. The vacationer is trying to do as little as possible en route to a biweekly paycheck. The real heroes in organizations are the contributors—those willing to do more than expected. They aren’t working for a paycheck; they’re working for a cause. They sweat the necessary details to make the job easier for co-workers. They never say, “It’s not my job” but instead go the extra mile in support of their employer and team.

Perseverance: I am surprised in seminars when salespeople tell me that they have no time for prospecting because of all the paperwork that they have to do. The best salespeople are those who work long days, use peak business hours for client interactions, and postpone administrative tasks until the off hours. More important, top salespeople don’t give up. They fight through tough times and constantly strive to make “one more” call each day.

Desire for Personal Growth: This is a non-negotiable trait when I’m hiring a new salesperson. The only way to succeed in the business environment of the 21st century is to constantly evolve. This means studying sales techniques and the psychology of decision-making, plus making a commitment to technological advancement. If you’re not growing, you’re going to fall behind your competitors—and fast.

It’s not a new concept that top employers are hiring based on attitude, desire, and the prospect for future performance. In your quest to hire or become a top performer, if you don’t understand the internal drive it takes to win, then you’re already losing. — Rick Davis is the president of Building Leaders, a training organization devoted exclusively to the sale of building materials. His latest book, The Sales Secret, is now available. To order it, go to, call 773.769.4409, or contact Rick at