8 Skills Every Top Performer Should Possess

Top performers are three times more valuable than the average employee, according to their managers. These same individuals are also responsible for 61 percent of their department’s output. 

Take a moment to think about the stars within your organization. They are the contributors at the top of the leader boards. They’re the people you want to watch, follow, and learn from. What’s the secret to their success? How does everything they touch turn to gold?

From motivation to preparation, we explore the eight skills of top performers you need to rise up and meet those top performers at their level.

Do you ever wonder if you really need that hour-long meeting? You might not if you’re only intently listening for 20 minutes. So it’s important to dial in and make sure that we’re actively listening.

George Leith

Chief Customer Officer, Vendasta

Top performers seek first to understand their customer's problems and goals. By actively listening they can better prescribe a solution to solve the problem, helping a customer improve or grow their business.

Try using the three A’s of active listening in your next conversation: 

  • Attitude: effective listeners keep an open and relaxed attitude to get more out of an exchange
  • Attention: hone this skill with memory games and meditation to improve focus
  • Adjustment: rather than steering a conversation towards where you want it to go, be willing to modify your path and goals based on the feedback and input your receiving from the other party

Skills of Top Performers | #2 Resilience and Grit

“Persistence wears down resistance. The average salesperson or entrepreneur gives up after two calls with the prospect, and that’s just not enough. You want to make sure you’re working harder. That’s the grind mentality and it comes from a refusal to give up,” Leith says.

Top performers most often are less attracted to winning, than they are petrified of losing, according to Leith. It’s an employee’s ability to bounce back and continue hammering away that keeps them at the head of the productivity pack.

Skills of Top Performers | #3 Empathy

Approach every interaction with a client or team member without judgement. The ability to walk in another person’s shoes is a skill many top performers share. 

The first thing that comes to mind when things aren’t working out the way we expected is, “what the heck is that person’s problem?” or “why don’t they get it?” The reason we ask those questions is because we don’t really understand what their challenge is. Everybody is dealing with some sort of a challenge. That smile is a mask. That laugh is actually nervous laughter. It’s hiding some massive challenge they’re dealing with. If you really want to be successful, understand what battle they’re in and have empathy.

George Leith

Chief Customer Officer, Vendasta

Exhibiting empathy can help you anticipate your customer’s needs and build better relationships. 

Skills of Top Performers | #4 Always Prepared

Pave your path to success by walking away from a wing it mentality and come prepared for every interaction. Do your research in advance, set an agenda and decide on takeaways, whether you’re heading into a sales call, a meeting with a colleague or even a job interview.

Bringing insights to a client conversation will build trust. Preparation can also help you find the solution that best fits a client’s needs. Personalizing a proposal and preparing for potential objections in advance, for example, will help in the negotiation process later on. 

Skills of Top Performers | #5 Self-Motivated and Competitive

Being self motivated is about knowing yourself and accepting your strengths and weaknesses. 

“There are days when I just want to stay in bed, and that is perfectly normal. It took me a long time to be vulnerable and share that with others. 

“Top performers are constantly working to win every day. They don’t have to be pushed, they expect failure and they learn from it. They expect to not always knock it out of the park and to grind hard,” Leith says. 

Despite the challenges and failures they face, top performers always use that competitive edge to pick themselves up and move forward.

Skills of Top Performers | #6 Strive to Establish Trust

Establishing and keeping trust is fundamental in any business relationship. Making regular deposits into a trust matrix removes a prospect’s fear of making the wrong decision, according to Leith.

Getting the trust of a client, prospect, family member, team member, brother, sister, aunt, dog, cat, doesn’t matter, is one of the hardest things that you can ever do. It comes from keeping your promises, returning calls, and even being early to a meeting. 

“Put fear on one side of a scale, and trust on the other. We should constantly be making deposits onto the trust side of the scale. Eventually, fear diminishes,” Leith says

Your client or colleague will realize that you have proven to them, time and time again, that you’re going to keep your promises. You always come through for them. Once you’ve gained that trust, protect it with everything you’ve got. Trust is extremely hard to earn back once you’ve lost it, according to Leith.

Skills of Top Performers | #7 Ask the Right Questions

Seeking to understand is an important skill that top performers should develop. By approaching each prospect with the mindset of being a student, you can better understand the needs of the person with whom you interact.

I was on a sales call recently, and I was with a younger sales development representative (SDR). We were doing some needs analysis. At the end of the call, the SDR said, “You didn’t present anything.” I responded by saying, “Yes, but we gained an hour worth of learning.” We knew exactly where we needed to go with the next presentation. Taking that time to understand the prospect also prepared the client to make a further investment.

George Leith

Chief Customer Officer, Vendasta

Skills of Top Performers | #8 Considered the Authority

Position yourself as an authority in your field. Become a light B2B buyers and colleagues can turn to.

We want to work to become a trusted expert. That’s in sales, but it also is in leadership. Are you the person that has the right answer or can get the right answer time and time again?” Leith asks.

Work on building an online presence through: 

  • Social media channels
  • Content development
  • Amplification of this content through industry experts

By building this position in your market, you become a beacon that prospects are drawn to, according to Leith. 


People who consistently demonstrate key productivity skills are:


  • 55 times less likely to start projects that never get finished
  • 17 times less likely to have an inbox with too many unread emails
  • 18 times less likely to feel overwhelmed


By weaving these principles into your everyday tasks, you can turn practice into performance. So pick one, work the angle until you nail it, then move onto the next. 

About the Author

Nicole Lauzon is a Content Marketing Manager at Vendasta and has spent the last decade of her career helping local businesses tell their stories. Kickstarting her professional journey as a writer and producer for a major Canadian television network, Nicole would later spend five years as a PR Agency Creative Director, managing brand journalism, social media, blog and video content for corporate, non-profit and local business clients. Whether Nicole is marinating over her next piece of writing or enjoying some down time with her family, she likes doing it in floral print.

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