Does Sales Personality Matter?
By David Pearce, President, SalesTestOnline.com
Many of the hiring managers I have met over the years have had a rather skeptical view about sales personality testing. Some managers are just dubious of testing in general and not specifically averse to sales personality tests per se. Others just fundamentally believe they are great judges of character and don't see how a sales test can help them do a better job of gaining insight into the character and traits of sales candidates. Others are reticent due to a previous bad experience with a particular testing instrument. I may not like to hear these objections but I certainly understand them.
What I find extremely difficult to understand is the view of some managers that sales personality has no bearing on the potential success of sales people. Please understand I am not referring to whether or not one believes they need a test to measure it. I am referring to their rejection of the idea that a sales person's personality traits have no impact on that sales person's potential for sales success.
Many of the commentators I have read of late seem to believe that having reps use sales enablement tools, sales tracking software, CRM apps and training them to follow a specific sales process negates any need to consider the specific personality traits of sales candidates themselves. I get the feeling they believe their sales people will all take to and use these tools with an identical level of skill, as if the sales people were automatons.
Others suggest that you can be a great sales person even though you may lack what they refer to as a 'sales personality'. My problem with these commentators is that they seem to suggest that there is such a thing as a 'sales personality', as if there were only one true persona that one must possess in order to be a success at sales. This erroneous view of sales personality is based on their specific experience with sales. For them 'sales personality' begins and ends with the specific 'sales personality' they have been exposed to. Unfortunately very often it takes on the old stereotypical descriptions with which we are all too familiar.
So what is meant by the term 'sales personality'? This covers a lot of ground but it generally refers to the style of the sales person that results from their underlying personality traits and temperament and motivation. It does not refer to the learned aspects of the person such as industry and product knowledge, educational background, training or experience. Below are 4 trait drive scales. A sales person's style or 'sales personality' is the result of where they would rate on these scales. To be clear, it is not just how they rate on the scales but more important how the trait drives combine, blend and emphasize each other that really matters, as this is what creates a sales personality style.
As examples, the oft-mentioned 'Hunter' sales type would have a high level of assertiveness, high sociability, low patience and low dependence. By way of contrast, 'Farmer' sales types have a low level of assertiveness, high sociability, low patience and high dependence.
Trait Drive Scales
Assertiveness - Need for control. Competitiveness. Need to win. Ego drive.
Sociability - Need for interaction with others. Empathy and persuasiveness. Extroversion.
Patience - Need for stability and predictability. Initiative. Comfort with repetition and routine.
Dependence - Need for rules, structure, guidelines. Need for approval and security. Need for direction.
Outside of the realm of sales it is obvious to anyone that people have highly individualized personalities, with their attendant natural strengths and weaknesses. It should therefore be equally obvious then that people bring their natural strengths and weaknesses to the role of sales and there are therefore far more types of sales personalities than simply hunters and farmers.
Our 30 years experience with evaluating sales candidates has taught us that there are a huge variety of sales personality styles. This experience has also taught us that sales jobs are also highly varied in their requirements. A successful sales personality then is one that is well matched to the requirements of a specific job. This explains why a sales person can be very successful in one sales role but quite ordinary in another. He or she has the same skills, tools and experience but the sales personality that the role requires is different.
Read the following statement and decide whether you agree or disagree: Sales people rarely fail because they lack skills, training, product knowledge or education; they typically fail because their personality is a bad fit for the job.
Having asked many thousands of hiring managers this very question over the last 30 years I have yet to have one say they disagree with that statement. Of course this is anecdotal, but are these experienced hiring managers wrong?
We have conducted dozens of studies of our client's sales teams. We have always found readily identifiable and similar personality traits in the sales personalities of their top sales people; as well, the poorest performer's styles are equally identifiable because they lack the success traits. In other words, the sales personality traits of top performers are measurable, identifiable and predictive of sales success.
So, does sales personality matter? The answer is a resounding yes. Not only does sales personality matter, it is a critical component that must be accurately identified in order to predict sales potential.
If you do not measure sales personality when hiring you could be making a very serious and very expensive hiring mistake. Measuring the sales personality of candidates is only one half of the equation as you must also analyze the job itself in order to properly understand what type of sales personality the role requires. Finally, given that candidates can be very adept at hiding their true sales personality and playing a role you can be easily fooled into thinking you are hiring the right person. For this reason, the few dollars it would cost you to use a sales personality test is money well spent.
David Pearce is the President of SalesTestOnline.com. Established in 1986, SalesTestOnline.com is North America's #1 provider of sales personality tests as well as personality tests for sales positions used to evaluate sales employees for sales competency. SalesTestOnline.com has over 1400 satisfied customers (97% re-order rate) who use our personality sales test to measure sales aptitude assessment when hiring. Our online sales assessment test is customized to your unique criteria, fully automated, instantaneous, extremely accurate and very economical.
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