Every sales rep wants to be the best, and most think they already are. But chances are nearly every one of those hyper confident smooth talkers is wrong. It doesn't take long to realize what separates the cream of the sales rep crop--the ones who can seamlessly relate with prospects, move opportunities from casual interest to serious commitment, and nail big deals almost effortlessly--from the rest of the competition.

InsightSquared, a sales performance analytics company that gives real, actionable insight on every sales metric under the sun, knows what makes that cream, the top 1% of sales people, rise to the top. But what are the other 99% of sales reps doing that's keeping them from achieving sales nirvana?

These are the 8 big ways that nearly all sales reps screw up every day, and which keep them from being as good as they think they are.

1. Let Time Get Away From Them

The #1 reason most sales reps aren't doing their best work is time management. Every minute of every day is important, but most sales reps aren't thinking about time management beyond putting important events in Google Calendar. They aren't prioritizing important leads, or planning out follow ups, or trying to wring out every moment of value from every minute of the day.

They're not practicing the obsessive, top 1% time management that means they're able to recover from unexpected problems and plot out the best strategy to really guide a big buyer to the finish line.

2. Let Stress Take Over

Everyone wants to work hard, but too many people think hard work means long hours, stress, and constant pressure. That couldn't be further from the truth. Sales reps who find themselves in a constant state of stress aren't working hard, they're working dumb. Constant stress means they're mismanaging their time, not preparing as well as they should, or both.

This can't be emphasized enough: no one can really excel at sales when they're constantly stressed out. Sales reps need to be calm and collected to give their full attention to prospects.

3. Don't Ask Good Questions

The best sales reps listen. The rest don't know when to shut up.

99% of sales reps spend too much time trying to win buyers over with their fat mouthes instead of listening and formulating great questions to tease out exactly what prospects really want.

Every buyer is different, and though it might be tempting to fall back on the usual spiel that reflect what the average customer wants to know, that basically just makes you a human FAQ page, not a great sales rep. It prevents real connection and empathy with a buyer's pain points.

Miss those opportunities, and you won't be able to guide tough deals over the finish line.

4. Treat Every Buyer's Process the Same

After going through hundreds or even thousands of sales pitches, sales reps think they know exactly how a buying process will go, and fall back on that familiarity to guide new buyers through the process.

They're forgetting that every buyer is unique and needs a different approach at different stages of the funnel. There's nothing wrong with following a defined, proven process, but you can't call yourself great just because you know how to follow directions.

5. Don't Know The Competition Like They Know Themselves

Working in sales means being an expert on your product. Sales reps need to stay constantly up on any changes and new features, and know how their product can work for any number of buyer personas.

But all that expertise doesn't mean much if you can't convince a buyer that your product is absolutely head and shoulders above the competition for their needs. Where 99% of sales reps fall flat is that they ignore Sun Tzu's classic advice: "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles."

6. Don't Know When to Walk Away

No rep is ever going to nail 100% of their sales. The trick is learning when to walk away from a buyer who's just not a great fit. The sooner you can spot it, the better, but most sales reps aren't as effective as they should be at seperating a difficult sale from one that's never going to happen. That means they'll waste a ton of their precious time (see #1) when the top 1% are already moving on to the next thing.

7. Stop Learning

Just as a great product is always changing and improving, so are great sales reps. Where the rest of sales reps fall flat is right when they feel most confident--they stop reading every book, listening to every podcast, and following every blog, and stop asking for the coaching and help necessary to improve their abilities, assuming they know it all. They think achieving a consistent level of success means there's nothing left to learn. That's exactly the moment when they stop being great.

8. Don't Bring the Killer Instinct

Michael Jordan wasn't the best basketball player ever just because he was an amazing athlete. What separated his Airness from the pack was an insatiable drive to win. Everyone wants to win, of course, but that's not enough. Without a need to win, sales reps aren't going to be able to dig deep and find the focus to really nail every step of the process and achieve sales greatness.

If you recognize yourself in any of these habits, chances are you're not in the rarefied air of the top 1% of sales reps. But that doesn't mean you can't get there.

There's no great secrets to successful sales--there's just efficient habits, commitment to the customer, and a drive to always get better. Get rid of these 8 bad habits, and you can go from part of the rest, to being the best.

Published on: Feb 5, 2016