High Assertiveness = Closing Sales


Here at SalesTestOnline.com we’re given the opportunity to evaluate large numbers of top sales people within a wide ranging and highly varied group of sales forces. Name the service or product, and we’ve probably tested many successful sales people who sell it.

Sales roles do differ considerably of course, so the criteria for what it means to be a successful rep can vary a lot from role to role. These differences aside, nothing is a more fundamental definition of sales success than closing the sale.

Since sales closers are the ones who ‘put food on the table’ so to speak, management is always interested in better understanding the commonalities among these closers with the end goal of hiring more of the same. This of course means we often find ourselves discussing the traits of their top closers based on the findings of our sales assessment test.

We do our utmost to make them understand that when it comes to the traits of top closers, it is about the combinations of traits and how they work together that ultimately matters. As well, that while these trait drives are critical and important, they are just one factor among many that determines success. Put simply, when it comes to why someone is likely to be successful there are no easy answers.

That said, in my experience, hiring managers really appreciate it when they’re able to zero in on a single indicator that tends to predict sales success. So with qualifiers mentioned, this article is about that single indicator, a high level of assertiveness.

One of the pitfalls of talking about personality traits and other characteristics is that many of the terms one references mean different things to different people. As we define it, assertiveness refers to a need for control, competitiveness, self-motivation, drive, dominance, ego and the need to make one’s own decisions and to be in charge.   Therefore, when we say that they have a high level of this trait drive it means they are authoritative types who can be assertive in putting forth their ideas, they are dominant in the sense of wanting to be in charge and have a real need to control their own destiny and to make their own decisions. Tending to thrive on competition, they are motivated by being measured, whether against others or against goals. Their competitiveness and large egos mean they have a very strong sense of self worth and a need to win. As well, they tend to think big with little concern about risk and will be highly motivated by, and responsive to, commission and incentive based compensation.

In study after study of top sales closers, the majority and often the vast majority, possessed a high level of assertiveness. This holds true not only for most kinds of B2B sales but also many kinds of B2C sales. What the reps are selling and whether it is a tangible or non-tangible seems to make little difference. Sales force size also has no bearing on the results. Below are a few examples:

  1. Home improvement service sold to homeowners: Of the top 30 closers just under 70% had high assertiveness
  2. Business consulting sold to senior executives: 75% of the top sales closers had high assertiveness.
  3. Real estate investment sold to high net worth individuals: 60% had high assertiveness.
  4. Telecom services for business: 80% had high assertiveness
  5. Educational Services sold to individuals: 55% had high assertiveness.

What’s more, while these numbers show the clear relationship between high assertive and top closers there is one other factor that adds weight to the assertiveness equals closing argument. That is, many of those reps that are not in the ‘high assertiveness category’ actually have ‘moderately high assertiveness’. In other words, just because a rep does not have high assertiveness it does not necessarily mean that his assertiveness is low.   In fact when you combine these two groups, the ‘highs and the moderately highs’ they vastly outnumber those with low assertiveness in every single case.

Many would have you believe that traits and personality have nothing, or at least very little, to do with sales success. They would prefer you to believe that the determination of potential success is exclusively about training reps, imparting product knowledge and having reps follow specific systems, methods and procedures. Our data and our experience demonstrate clearly that traits matter a lot.

Are you using a sales personality test to identify candidate traits and fit? If not, then you are essentially operating blind and failing to measure a critical predictor of sales success. Unacceptably high costs, wasted time and money due to hiring mistakes will be the inevitable result.

Does any of this sound familiar? If so and you’d like to explore a solution I would enjoy having a frank conversation with you. Please feel free to email me directly at dave@salestestonline.com