(reading time: 2 minutes)

Aside from using our AI-Powered CRM that is designed to take salespeople to the next level, what is it that makes you legendary? Is it your ability to close in record time? That special charm you have with prospects? Or maybe the way you can sell a pen?

The Harvard Business Review recently published a study that laid out what distinguishes good salespeople from great. (And it doesn’t have anything to do with a huge pipeline.) If you guys aren’t reading the HBR, I recommend it as a great resource for insight into both sales basics and the more complex stuff. Site access is free in July and August, so check it out if you have the time.

Here are some takeaways from the study that we think are the most important for salespeople:

Depth Trumps Breadth – That’s What Makes a Legendary Salesperson!

We at Spiro advocate that salespeople kill more opportunities. Staying at the lower end of 20-40 opportunities in your pipeline at any given time allows you to form high quality relationships with a few people, instead of low quality relationships with a lot. The study shows that spending more time with less people is the magic formula for results.

If you’re working too many deals, you can spread yourself thin and hurt your close rate. If your prospects aren’t a good fit or are dragging you along, move on.

Make Relationships Count – That’s What Makes a Legendary Salesperson!

At my last company, I made it a point to go on sales calls with everyone in the organization, rotating through different sales teams. I was there even if it meant arriving at 5:45 a.m. — 15 minutes before Dunkin’ Donuts opened for coffee (don’t know how I managed that)! I did it because I knew that my network inside the organization was just as important as my network outside the organization.

Turns out I was on to something. According to the study, top performers had larger, better quality relationships with their network inside their organization. These great salespeople spent an average of 10-15 hours shooting the shit (so to speak). Again, what’s important is the quality of your relationships, not the quantity. All those big meetings might just be a waste of time after all.

Go Hard or Go Home – That’s What Makes a Legendary Salesperson!

Like Thomas Edison said, there’s no substitute for hard work. If you’ve noticed a common thread between all these findings it’s time and effort. Sales can be a demanding job, but it’s a job where some elbow grease can pay off big time.

Most successful salespeople work a lot of hours. I always say that our productivity in sales is elastic, meaning that it’s impacted by the very productivity we’re trying to increase. If you save a salesperson x amount of time, he or she is not going to close x more deals because we’re measured by effectiveness. Basically, a half done deal might as well be no deal – it’s all or nothing, folks.

Legendary salespeople know that you have to work as many hours as required to get the job done. If you’re not going to put in the extra time then (prepare for a tough love moment) maybe you shouldn’t be in sales. If you’re finding that you’re just not getting the opportunities you need to improve your sales performance, then maybe it’s time to move on to a different organization. Either way, remember that the bottom line is you gotta pay to play, baby!

Share this post:

About the Author Adam Honig

Adam is the co-founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. He is a natural sales leader with a mission to help salespeople make more money using artificial intelligence — or any sort of intelligence for that matter. Adam has been a founder of four companies which resulted in two triumphant IPOs and two legendary mergers. He is best known for speaking at various conferences including Dreamforce, for pioneering the ‘No Jerks’ hiring model, and for flying his drone while traveling the world.


  • This is true. Hours spent on work are important but people need to remember that we need to recharge ourselves, get energy. After I launched new startup this month I’m sleeping few hours a day. I can do it but there will come day where I will need massive energy juice to get back on track so I would not burn out.

  • Listen twice as much as you speak.

  • Olivier says:

    Absolutely and Unbelievable truly right. Here in Europe, could only see managers think Ing the opposite. Would you please tell to our people how to sell on the right way? Thks 🙂

  • Joe says:

    Does Spiro work with Salesforce IQ?

  • shawn mayernik says:

    I particularly liked the section “Make Relations Count”! Too often we take the relationships within our organization for granted and do not invest in them with the same amount of time and energy as we do client relationships. We need to remember those inside relationships can be a goldmine of help and support.

  • Farmer McDonald says:

    there is a difference between smart work and hard work. I think a sales rep who puts 8 hours at 80% productivity has greater results than a rep who puts 10 hours at 50%. A lot of people crate tons of “busy work” that gets them nowhere but they get an illusion of doing something! Do not fall into that trap people.

    If hard work is most important why do farmers use tractors if they can plow their fields with shovels? Works Smart!

Leave a Reply