Purpose The purpose of this paper is to clarify which knowledge, skills and behaviors are used to describe excellent performance in professional communication. As the demand for talented communication professionals increases, organizations and educators need an empirically defined set of performance criteria to guide the development of (potentially) excellent communication professionals (ECPs). This research aimed to render a competence profile which could assist in the development of recruitment, training and development to develop relevant programs for high-potential communication practitioners. Design/methodology/approach This mixed-method research was approached in two phases: first, a series of focus groups (n=16) were held to explore work field perspectives resulting in a concept profile, and second, a series of expert panels (n=30) following the Delphi method were conducted to determine the extent of agreement with the findings. Findings Participants clarified that excellent performance is characterized by competences which transcend normative technical skills or practical communication knowledge. The five domains, 16 item ?SEEDS? competence profile describes that ECPs are distinguished by their compounded ability to be strategic, empathic, expressive, and decisive and to see patterns and interrelationships. Research limitations/implications Although a broad range of relevant professionals were involved in both phases, the study could be considered limited in size and scope. Research was conducted in one national setting therefore further research would be necessary to confirm generalizability of the results to other cultural contexts. Originality/value Although many competence frameworks exist which describe normative performance in this profession, specific criteria which illustrate excellent performance have not yet been identified. This competence profile clarifies characteristics which typify excellent performance in professional communication and can be helpful to educators and employers who wish to identify and create suitable training programs for ECPs.