Examining the DNA of High-Performing Sales Reps: Insights from the Frontline


Top sales reps are often quick-witted, charming, masters of negotiation that are skilled in building and maintaining relationships with valuable clients.

These mystic creatures are hard to recruit and even trickier to retain. But don't fret, we're here to help.

We reached out to a panel of sales leaders and managers to shed light on what makes top reps exceptional, and the conditions needed to keep them happy and engaged.

The expert panel:



In your experience, what are the top three traits of high-performing sales reps?

When asked about the top traits of high-performing sales reps, our experts converged on several key characteristics, including integrity, effective communication, resilience, and a customer-focused mindset.

Here were some of the not-so-common answers:

  • "Discipline." - Tracy Tucker, Honeywell
  • "Ability to instill confidence." - Shannon Moyes, Volanté
  • "Intellectual curiosity." - Terry Miller, V-Kata

What have you found to be the best motivators of high-performing reps?

While financial incentives remain a primary motivator, experts like David Kotte and Rick Green highlighted the importance of recognition, career advancement, and a positive work culture in motivating high-performing reps. Tracy Tucker’s emphasis on discipline over motivation offers a paradigm shift, suggesting that a solid, process-driven approach can lead to sustained performance.

"More and more, reps care about having control of [...] their schedule and time—when and how much they work [as well as] where they work/live/play. What kind of brands/companies/industries do they get to work with, and the perks/extras, such as having fun or desirable elements to the job (travel or no travel, access to sports/events, etc.)"

photo-rick-green Rick Green, Post House Creative

"$$$$$$$$—treating them with respect, encouraging them to use their PTO, providing attractive leads and increasingly larger opportunities as they grow."

photo-shannon-moyesShannon Moyes, Volanté

"Motivation is emotionally based which is why it ebbs and flows.  Discipline, on the other hand, is process-based.  If you have a solid process, you only have to win one mental battle a day, whether or not you will choose to be disciplined today."

photo-tracy-tuckerTracy Tucker, Touchmate

"If reps are not self-motivated by income then it will hard to get them motivated otherwise. Mentorship and good career path planning with reps are key to keeping them engaged."

photo-terry-millerTerry Miller, V-Kata

"Recognition/Awards, an influential voice within the organization, Competitive pay, titles and career advancement opportunities, a positive company culture, and clear goals."

photo-david-kotteDavid Kotte, Premier Mounts

"A fair and focused comp plan!"

photo-kadie-newburn Kadie Newburn, Bartender® Software

Developing a comprehensive motivation strategy that includes financial, professional, and personal growth opportunities can help retain and inspire high-performing sales talent.


Do high-performing sales reps typically do well in management roles? Do you recommend promoting top reps into sales management positions?

The transition from sales to management elicited varied opinions. While some high-performing reps may thrive in management roles, as David Kotte observed, others may not, echoing Rick Green’s cautionary stance. The key lies in matching individual capabilities and interests with the role, a sentiment echoed by Shannon Moyes and Terry Miller.

"It's a matter of career path planning and understanding their ambitions...but it is risky taking your best revenue producer and moving him or her out of a customer-facing role and can often backfire."

photo-terry-millerTerry Miller, V-Kata

"You will have high-performing reps that are GREAT in management roles and then you will have some that BOMB in these roles as well, but the risks far outweighs NOT promoting that individual because you risk losing them to other competitive companies within the industry."

photo-david-kotteDavid Kotte, Premier Mounts

"Most of the really good Sales or Biz Dev people I've worked with didn't excel in management - I think it's because all the things they love about selling and generating business get set aside for the minutia required of a manager or managing people."

photo-rick-greenRick Green, Post House Creative

"I'm a big believer in putting people in jobs that they like. They will always perform better when invested in the role and genuinely happy to be there. Their success from there in that position truly depends on the company and on the person."

photo-shannon-moyesShannon Moyes, Volanté

"It depends on the person's ability to communicate and lead others.  Not all great players make great coaches.  If a leader has been successful on his or her own, that's great, but it is more important to recognize potential and foster it in subordinates."

photo-tracy-tuckerTracy Tucker, Honeywell

Careful consideration should be given before promoting top sales performers to management, ensuring they possess the necessary leadership qualities and desire for the role.

Which specific skills are essential for a sales rep to excel in today's market?

"The ability to build relationships with a variety of personality types and sell across multiple stakeholder departments. You need to be able to win more than just one person over in most sales nowadays."

photo-shannon-moyesShannon Moyes, Volanté

"Own mistakes and apologize for shortcomings. Fix problems ASAP. We're human, [so] issues will arise [and] things will go wrong—own it—talk it through—fix it to the best of your ability."

photo-rick-greenRick Green, Post House Creative

"...strong discovery skills are an absolute must. Good discovery will impact every other step in your customer journey or sales process. Once you can properly ID the problem—how you can solve it and how big it is financially—then your odds of winning a deal go up exponentially."

photo-terry-millerTerry Miller, K-Vata

What is a common challenge faced by sales reps and how do the best performers overcome it?

The experts shared insights on overcoming typical hurdles in sales, from maintaining discipline in prospecting, as noted by Tracy Tucker and Terry Miller, to adapting sales strategies to meet budget constraints, as Shannon Moyes suggested. David Kotte’s advice on viewing rejection as an opportunity for growth resonated across responses, emphasizing resilience and adaptability as crucial for overcoming sales challenges.

"Sales reps must avoid complacency.  They sometimes start out as aggressive hunters, but when the pipeline fills up, they turn into farmers.  This leads to a lack of new deals for the future.  Hunting needs to always be a disciplined part of the sales rep's process."

photo-tracy-tuckerTracy Tucker, Honeywell

"High-performing sales reps approach rejection as an opportunity for improvement rather than an excuse or setback. Get valuable feedback and use that to refine your pitch, how you address potential concerns (i.e.., be proactive), and enhance your understanding of customers’ needs/wants."

photo-david-kotteDavid Kotte, Premier Mounts

"...companies don't impulse buy a Strategic Analysis or a Marketing Film—if they don't already know about us and trust us […] it's too late. I spend 75% of my time talking to brands we may work with a month, six months, or two years from now."

photo-rick-greenRick Green, Post House Creative

"Being pulled in different directions.  [High-performing reps] need to be able to make time and prioritize important tasks."

photo-kadie-newburn Kadie Newburn, Bartender® Software

Encouraging a mindset of resilience and continuous improvement can help sales reps navigate the ups and downs of the sales cycle more effectively, ensuring a steady pipeline of opportunities.

How—if at all—has technology changed the role of sale reps and which tools are indispensible?

The consensus among experts was clear: technology has fundamentally altered the sales landscape. From CRM systems to virtual communication tools, technological proficiency has become indispensable. David Kotte and Shannon Moyes underscored the importance of embracing these tools not only for operational efficiency but also for building and maintaining client relationships in a digital age.

"One of the most important advances is in the area of business intelligence tools like ZoomInfo, D&B Hoovers and LinkedIn Sales Navigator.  These software and networking tools make the study and mapping of organizations easier than ever before and can help the sales rep find the right person or people they need to target as prospects. "

photo-tracy-tuckerTracy Tucker, Honeywell

"The CRM is THE technology that can have the biggest impact on a rep’s performance. Most modern CRM have incredible levels of marketing automation that is most often underutilized or completely overlooked."

photo-terry-millerTerry Miller, V-Kata

"A good CRM, a quality cell phone, and a good headset! Necessary."

photo-shannon-moyesShannon Moyes, Volanté

Embracing technological tools and ensuring sales teams are proficient in their use can provide a competitive edge, allowing reps to engage more effectively with tech-savvy clients.


Selling is not for the faint of heart, nor is designing income and operational frameworks for sellers to thrive within.

As the industry continues to evolve, so too must the strategies for developing and motivating sales talent. By embracing a nuanced understanding of the traits, skills, and motivations that drive success in sales, solutions providers can build dynamic teams capable of navigating the complexities of the modern marketplace.

As we look to the future, the ability to adapt, learn, and lead will define the next generation of sales champions.

About the Expert Panel

  • Shannon Moyes is the VP of Sales and Marketing at Volanté, a company that creates point-of-sale solutions  for enterprises such as retirement and senior living facilities.
  • Terry Miller is the President of V-Kata, a sales and management consultancy.
  • Rick Green is the Vice President of Business Development and Creative at Post House Creative, a content creation and video production company based in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Tracy Tucker is the VP & General Manager at Touchmate, an integrator of touch-enabled technologies such as point of sale system and self-service kiosks.
  • Kadie Newburn is the Senior Regional Sales Manager at Bartender® Software, a leading barcode labeling design company.
  • David Kotte is the Midwest Regional Sales Manager at Premier Mounts, a company that specializes in display mounting solutions serving the audio/visual industry.
James Korte
James is a marketing strategist and designer at BlueStar, having worked in professional sports and advertising previously. He's a jiu-jitsu practitioner, 90s hip-hop fan, and Dad to three boys.

Subscribe to Get Our Latest Content