Sales Assessment Testing: You Don’t Really Want to Hire a Patient Sales Person Do You?

getting-directions-495Today I read another article by a sales guru offering highly misleading advice about the ‘traits’ of successful sales people. This particular article, like many others of this genre, was offering advice regarding what ‘traits’ managers should see as desirable when evaluating sales candidates. The writer covered a number of areas having nothing to do with traits so it is entirely possible that these other parts of his article offered good counsel. It is with his wrongheaded advice about the traits that I have a problem. I find this type of misleading advice about ‘sales traits’ and ‘sales personality’ not only quite common but also rather aggravating. To me, it has the feel of observing someone offering street directions to a lost tourist that you know fully well are complete b*******t. So, just as I would feel compelled to interfere and set the lost tourist on the correct path, please do not view this post as a rant. Instead my intention is to provide some clarity and precision to the discussion about traits and style of personality that is required for certain aspects of sales.

In this instance the writer was making the case that ideal sales people are ‘patient’ personalities because of the long selling cycles in the business with which he was familiar. Also, that patience is a necessary trait in order to continue following up with prospects who today are less willing to engage with reps and therefore ignore their efforts to contact them via email, social media and voicemail. His premise is that since it takes a long time to get the sale, top reps need to be patient enough to wait for the sale to come.

To many of you on first hearing this, it probably sounds like it makes sense, so what is the problem? The problem is that it reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the core traits necessary for specific sales behaviors. In this case what is clearly misunderstood is the actual traits necessary to hang in for a long sales cycle and to generate engagement from prospects via continual follow up.


Let me start by describing the actual Patience trait drive. Patience can be thought of as the motivational need for stability and predictability. One can also view it as the need for routine, maintenance of the status quo, passiveness and comfort with repetition, steadiness, and a predictable pace. It will impact a sales person’s sense of urgency, deadline orientation, and individual initiative. As well it impacts work pace, multi-tasking, response to change/routine, and response to sameness/variety. You could also see it as reactive-ness vs. pro-activeness.

High Levels of Patience

High levels of this factor mean that the person is very patient, passive, reactive, unhurried, relaxed, calm, deliberate, tolerant, amiable, likes routine/familiarity, likes stability of repetition, dislikes change.

Low Levels of Patience

Low levels of this factor mean that the individual is very impatient (does not have much patience), is restless and pro-active, thrives on change/variety, has nervous energy, deadline oriented, a multi-tasker, is bored by routine and repetition.

The issue then is, if you do hire a sales person with a high level of patience, you have basically hired a passive and reactive person who is certainly good at waiting for things to happen-a ‘passive order taker’. In all my years of talking to managers about the traits they want in sales people I have never had one say they want to hire a ‘passive order taker’. Quite the contrary, almost invariably they will say they want to hire a pro-active self-starter with a sense of urgency-an impatient sales person.

So how do we square this seeming contradiction that sales takes a long time and yet the sales person needs to be impatient? It is true that individual trait drives such as patience will give you insight into the sales person’s on the job behaviours. It is however more accurate to look at all of his or her traits together as a combination. Traits working together tend to emphasize or soften each other and often combine with each other, resulting in whole new sets of behaviours. In this case what we actually require is for the sales person to be impatient and pro-active, as this will ensure he or she has a sense of urgency and will demonstrate the required initiative. This alone is not enough however because the person must also have other trait drives that make them quite dependent on structure in their work such as systems, procedures and guidelines. Individuals with this need for structure also tend to be quite detailed. The final trait drive necessary is a good level of emotional control.   In other words, someone who is disciplined enough to stay with things and to maintain a consistency in their activities. So, in combination they need to have a sense of urgency along with a real need to work a specific plan or set of procedures along with a sense of discipline.

Having tested hundreds of thousands of sales people over the last 30+ years I can assure you that this combination of traits is what you will find in a very high proportion of sales people in these long cycle sales roles.

The point of this article is not to contradict or challenge another’s ideas. Instead my goal is to demonstrate the need to better understand what motivates the people you hire and intend to hire.

In order to be able to define and identify the differences in people you need to use hiring tools that lessen your reliance on gut feel and imprecise definitions of the motivational traits of sales candidates. When these tools are used as part of your hiring regime you will operate with a far more advanced understanding of what traits the job requires. Furthermore, mirroring your better understanding of the job, you will operate with a far more objective, clear and precise understanding of what truly makes the candidate tick.   This is precisely why you should use a sales assessment test such as ours in your hiring. We would be pleased to hear from you if you would like to learn more.

Sales Personality and Job Turnover: Watch out for This Combination of Traits

credit-union-employee-turnoverIt is the rare sales organization whose management is not concerned about sales staff retention. Today, any manager who does not realize that job turnover is very costly on many levels probably has his head in the sand, to put it politely. No surprise then, that when prospective clients open up and talk about the specific issues and problems concerning them, reducing unwanted turnover is often a high priority.

Sales staff turnover and its reasons, causes and impact is a big and highly complex topic. There are literally thousands of articles, studies and papers on this subject by a wide variety of experts and respected authorities. Our goal with this article is not to go down this well traveled road yet again. Instead what I will describe are the traits of certain individuals and why those traits give them a far higher turnover propensity.

Forewarned is forearmed according to the old saying. Since these specific combinations of ‘job-hopping’ traits are readily identifiable in sales candidates, you will see that you do have the opportunity to proactively lower turnover right at the source of much of the problem.

Will this put a stop to job turnover? No, but you can definitely alleviate much of it. As noted earlier, there are many reasons why a particular sales organization has a turnover issue: poor compensation, bad products/services, incompetent management etc.  The list is long. The core reasons for the turnover we will be addressing here can be traced directly to the personality traits of the sales people themselves. You will also see that there is a quandary in this because much of what makes these sales people prone to higher turnover, also makes them potentially very effective hunters and closers. The point of this article is to define, clarify and untangle the candidate’s traits. It is hoped that hiring managers can then make better hiring choices by understanding that the risk of turnover can be very different between two outwardly equal candidates.

To illustrate the issue let us look at the trait drives of two high potential ‘sales hunters’ below. I am purposely using the traits of sales hunters because it is in these sales environments where hunters are hired, that this combination of ‘turnover traits’ is most often found.

Examples #1 and #2 show exactly the same trait drives in 4 of the 5 areas that are displayed. Assertiveness is high, sociability is high, patience is low and dependence is low. It is this combination of 4 trait-drives that results in very high potential to be effective at making new contacts, having a sense of urgency and thriving in free wheeling independent sales environments with an emphasis on commissions and other individual incentives. They both have this high potential but what we will show you is that the one critical trait drive where they differ-emotional control, creates a far greater likelihood of job turnover in the one who’s emotional control is low (#2). As well as increasing the potential for job turnover, it tends to make these individuals rather scattered and disorganized. If you have ever had to hire and manage a team of sales hunters you will be very familiar with these issues.

Example #1
Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 1.30.15 PMExample #2
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Emotional Control

What is meant by the term ’emotional control’? It is the balance between logic and emotions in the manner one makes decisions-“the head vs. the gut”. It can have a strong influence on a person’s work focus, organization and attention to detail. As well, it impacts their decision-making style, how consistent they are and of course, turnover propensity (job hopping).

Middle Range

When one is in the mid-range on this factor it means that the person thinks about and considers the consequences of their actions prior to taking those actions. Their decision-making tends to be governed by a nice balance between logic and emotions and therefore, they are logical enough to think things through prior to acting yet still spontaneous enough to act quite quickly.


When one has a high level of this factor it means that the person tends to be extremely logical in their manner of decision-making. These individuals tend to over analyze to the point of procrastination or ‘analysis-paralysis’.


Individuals with the low level of Emotional Control that we are discussing here tend to be very gut-level, spontaneous and impulsive. Their decisions are often arrived at without properly thinking through all the implications. These individuals are highly prone to job turnover.

Traits in Combination

It is true that a sales person’s strengths, weaknesses and sales style have much to do with that person’s individual trait-drives. In fact, it is far more accurate to think of the traits in terms of how they combine with each other. The reason for this is because working together the traits tend sometimes to emphasize, or in other cases to soften, the individual traits and very often will combine with each other to result in whole new sets of behaviors.

Hunters with Mid Range Emotional Control

Traits are like two-edged swords, so what we think of as ‘strengths’ also tells us about the person’s ‘weaknesses’. Describing hunters with mid range emotional control from this perspective would mean we would say the following: They have very large egos and do not like being managed, they are very impatient, possessing a lot of nervous energy and with a great need for change and variety. As well, they are extremely independent with a dislike for details, rules and procedures and hence they are not afraid to go over the line to achieve their goals. Risk oriented and venturesome they will have little hesitation when it comes to trying new things, procedures or taking a chance on a new company or sales role.

Hunters with Low Emotional Control

If the above is describing a hunter with nicely balanced emotional control, what you need to understand is that when you add low emotional control to the mix you are amplifying and emphasizing the negative aspects of their traits. They therefore become extremely scattered, disorganized and lacking focus. They are a bit like loose cannons with regards to rules and being managed. They can be quite inconsistent and can be very impulsive and prone to make overly quick decisions that they later regret. This pronounced impulsiveness in combination with their impatience, poor manageability and oversized ego equals very high turnover propensity.

High Turnover is Not Inevitable

As mentioned earlier in this post, many of the issues, and much of what of I am describing, will sound quite familiar to you if you have hired and managed hunter sales types. It would be a big mistake though to believe that this kind of turnover is inevitable and therefore unavoidable. Hiring hunters AND controlling this kind of turnover is completely doable as long as you can go deeper than the interview because on the surface there is really no way to tell the difference. This is where we can help you. When you use you will see the difference very clearly and can avoid these common and very expensive hiring mistakes.