A recent study examined the performance, personality, skills and attributes of 79,747 salespeople from 4,317 organizations and found five elements that all top salespeople had in common. What I have done is taken the elements they identified and then interpreted how they each relate to top annuity producers.

1. Possess selling-related knowledge
Top producers waste less time with bad prospects.
Knowing who is a receptive prospect was the most important factor in being a top producer. Top producers identified the prospects that were most likely to buy and ignored the rest. They didn’t waste time making presentations to prospects that don’t have the authority to buy.

Top producers are knowledge-brokers that have know-why, know-who and know-how.
Top producers are perceived by prospects as knowledge-brokers in that they possess information that is unavailable to others—–due to connections, background, expertise–and they will use this information to benefit the prospect.

2. Adapt
Top producers are adaptive sellers who are in tune with a prospect’s emotions.
Top producers match the selling strategy to the needs of the prospect. They rank high on emotional intelligence. When top producers feel a fact-based presentation isn’t connecting with a prospect they will change to a story-based.

3. Cope with ambiguity
Top producers cope better with uncertainty.
The sales process is one of ongoing uncertainty and top producers face just as much uncertainty as everyone else. The difference is top producers have developed coping mechanisms that permit them to function is spite of the uncertainty.

4. Have higher cognitive aptitude
Top producers are smart.
Top producers have above average IQs. This does not mean that one needs to be Albert Einstein to be a $10-million annuity producer, but it does mean there are no dummies in the top ranks.

5. Work engagement
Top producers work.
Top producers are self-motivated and proactive. Because of their drive, top producers tend to be leaders in other areas of their lives as well.

Source: “Drivers of sales performance: a contemporary meta-analysis. Have salespeople become knowledge brokers?” Verbeke, Dietz & Verwaal. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 39: 407-428; 2011.