In the last year and a half, we have been on a mission at InsightSquared to rapidly grow our sales team. Like most growing companies, we have ambitious bookings and revenue goals, so we know that we need to continue adding new sales reps essentially as fast as we can find them.

Of course, we can’t simply hire every rep who sends us a resume ‒ we need to maintain rep quality even as we drastically increase the volume at which we hire. More than anything else, this means knowing what to look for. We need to understand, in other words, exactly what makes a great sales rep.

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At first, we stuck pretty close to what the conventional wisdom says about the traits of superlative inside sales reps: relevant professional experience, great listening skills, and a natural ability to connect with prospects. We started aggressively screening for these skills in our interviews, and this helped us expand our team in a short amount of time.

But eventually we realized something. Aside from seeing these traits endorsed by other sources and having them roughly match our instincts, we had no real reason to believe the conventional wisdom around what makes a great sales rep.

And this was a problem for us. We pride ourselves on being an incredibly data-driven company, so we knew that if we really wanted to define the traits of a rockstar rep, we were going to have to crunch the numbers ourselves.

So we did.

This is the story of how we used real, never-been-seen data to help us learn what exactly makes a great sales rep. The results flew in the face of what we thought, and especially about what conventional wisdom had us believing.

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How It All Started

About two years ago, we started getting the same question from many of our customers: Can you help us determine how our sales team stacks up against the rest of the industry? It didn’t take long for us to realize we could help these companies out. Because our product plugs directly into Salesforce, we knew that we had access to a huge amount of raw sales data. With the right methodology and by asking the right questions, we could help our customers see how they compare to industry-wide standards. So, we analyzed a lot of data and, last spring, released a comprehensive report establishing clear benchmarks for inside sales teams.

It didn’t take long for us to realize that this information wasn’t just valuable to our customers. It could help us make decisions about our own business as well – especially in terms of how we should think about how we hire, train and compensate our sales reps.

What Makes a Great Sales Rep?

When we started analyzing the data, we paid especially close attention to the metrics we collected on individual rep success. We had tons of data from more than 50 inside sales teams and, within that, we had tens of thousands of discrete pieces of data outlining individual rep performance.

In fact, by looking at Salesforce data on win rate, deal size, bookings totals, and number of activities logged, we could finally see what separates the best reps from the rest. No more conflicting conventional wisdom. No more gut-based proclamations. No more shopworn theories. Just cold hard data.

The Methodology

With the abundance of data in tow, we started thinking critically about how this information could be most useful to us. We didn’t only want to know what a good rep looks like (in terms of activities and results), we wanted to get to the underlying question of what makes a great sales rep. We wanted to find out exactly what the best sales reps were doing that the others weren’t.

Ultimately, we decided to separate the top 25% of reps (those who brought in the most revenue) and analyzed what they did differently in terms of the aforementioned metrics.

To say the least, the results surprised us.

The Results

The vast majority of our conventional-wisdom research told us that great sales reps close deals more quickly and win deals at a higher rate. But when we analyzed the actual data we collected, we got a completely different story.

The first thing we learned is that great reps do NOT have higher win rates or shorter sales cycles than average reps. This flew in the face of everything we thought we knew – at first, we didn’t even believe it.

But when we dug in, it all started to add up. There were two things that unambiguously separated the top 25% of sales reps from the rest:great reps win more and larger deals. In fact, our data was pretty clear. Great reps close 80% more deals in a given quarter, and they do so while maintaining an industry-average win rate. Additionally, they close deals that are, on average, 20% larger.

The Top 25% of Reps

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More deals closed in a given quarter
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Larger in average contract value

This information, though shocking at first, completely changed the way we viewed our sales reps – both those we wanted to hire and those already on our team. We still look for reps with great listening and relationship-building skills, as well as reps who have a lot of experience selling software. But even more than that, we hire and reward reps who are able to work more opportunities and close bigger deals without hurting their win rate or sales cycle.

But this was really just the tip of the iceberg. To learn more about our research and to find out exactly what makes a great sales rep, download the full guide below.

[Free Guide] What Makes a Great Sales Rep?

We studied 50+ sales teams to find out what separates the best reps from the rest.

Read our data-backed guide to learn more about the best sales reps’ win rates, sales cycles, and deal sizes.