Introverts and Sales – Go Ahead and Hire that Introvert*

images-4*just make sure they have these other traits

There are many myths and misconceptions about which personalities are appropriate for a career in sales. Having talked to thousands of hiring managers about the personality types they are attempting to hire, we’ve encountered, on a first hand basis, many of these misconceptions and misguided ideas.   A common view relates to introversion versus extroversion. Specifically, that if you are introverted you are not suitable for sales.

Many of these managers hold on to these mistaken ideas because they lack a fundamental understanding of basic trait drives, temperament and motivation. The result is that their view of sales candidate suitability is hinged on one single trait drive, in this case, whether one is either introverted or extroverted.

Because of their simplified view of personality, they miss the main point, which is that you cannot tell very much about a person’s suitability for sales (or any other job) based on any single trait drive. All humans have multiple trait drives. Therefore, what really matters is how all of their various trait drives work in combination.

Using extroverts as an example, take hunters compared to farmers. Despite the fact that the kinds of sales roles for which they are suitable are basically opposites, they actually share significant similarities in some key areas of personality. Specifically, they are both extroverts and they both have a sense of urgency. What makes them so different in sales style? It has everything to do with the trait drives where they differ, hunters being much more assertive and much more independent than the farmers. When these differences combine with and impact the similarities it means they come off in a completely different manner and have completely different sales strengths and weaknesses.

Given that we are talking about sales, the most obvious concern with introverts is of course related to all aspects of how they will interact with customers and prospects.   Aggravating the situation is the fact that many introverts also tend to have a great fear of failure, are very passive-reactive as well as lacking in drive and assertiveness. Please understand me, these are not ‘bad’ traits since there are no ‘bad’ traits. It is just that when combined with their interaction style they are usually more suited to other kinds of roles or possibly some highly specialized sales roles.

There is a type of introvert, though, that can be very successful in many sales roles. In particular, they are very effective in roles where they are selling services and products that I would describe as more ‘technical’. IT, financial products, things that are typically sold to engineers, architects or other technically oriented customers are among many examples. They are often highly effective in these roles, since they tend to be quite naturally consultative and tend to have a firm grasp of their subject matter. They are perceived as less ‘salesy’ and more as an expert or a problem solver. Their style is often quite effective when selling to very senior level prospects as they have a very businesslike and no-nonsense demeanor that tends to mesh very well with these type A analytical customers.

So what are the other trait drives that contribute to the success of these sales introverts? Like the hunters referenced above, these introverts have a very high level of assertiveness. Additionally, they are very impatient, which is where their sense of urgency is derived from. As well, like most introverts, they tend to also be quite perfectionistic. As a ‘package’ of traits it means they are not only highly driven by the need for achievement but also very strongly motivated by a fear of failure. They tend to not only want to get things done but they are also very meticulous about details and getting things done ‘right’. Systems and procedures are important to them so they tend to create them for themselves if they are not already in place. They are skeptical of others so they tend to be very hands on and very work focused to the point that they are often thought of as workaholics. In fact, many sales people who have this style are successful not because they are the best ‘natural’ sales people but because they just out work their peers.

These are the introverts you want to hire for sales. Unfortunately, interviews are not where they can highlight their natural strengths, with the result that sales hiring managers will often pass them over. Hiring managers can be particularly gun shy about hiring this type if they have hired the ‘wrong’ type of introvert in the past. In these instances the old saying of ‘once burned twice shy’ comes to mind.

Unfortunately many sales hiring managers rely too much on face-to-face interviews. In the case of interviewing introverts they are doing a disservice not only to themselves but to many candidates as well. Why? Because, there is no realistic way in interviews to discern the difference between the introverts you should hire, and those that you definitely should not. Of course, this is exactly why you should use a sales personality test!

I do hope you have found this article helpful. I would be very pleased to hear from you in order to answer questions about our sales personality test and to learn about your specific sales hiring challenges.

Sales Testing – Faux Hunter-Closers and How They Fool You

images-2One of the things that all hiring managers seem to agree on is that interviewing sales people is largely a hit and miss affair. Even the most savvy sales hiring veteran will admit to being fooled by sales candidates who looked and sounded great at the interview but who ultimately turned out to be sales failures.

Many of these hiring mistakes can be chalked up to the candidate ‘playing the role’ based on what they believe you are looking for, which of course means that during the interview you are seeing the ‘act’ rather than the ‘true person’. As I have often pointed out, this role-playing should not be thought of as the candidate being ‘dishonest’.  On the contrary, it is just what job candidates quite naturally do since they want the job. Unfortunately, even though we tend to rely on interviews, they are, in the opinion of most experts, a flawed vehicle for obtaining true insights into potential sales success.

While it is true that candidate role-playing is not cheating in the true sense, it is still something that the candidate is conscious of doing throughout the interview process. The purpose of this article is not to talk about the above-mentioned candidate role-playing, nor to address, once again, the inherent flaws in job interviews. What I wish to describe is a second way that you, and other interviewers, are frequently fooled when interviewing sales candidates, and in particular when you are hiring sales closers. In these instances you are deceived because you have misread and misidentified the traits and behaviors you are witnessing right before your very eyes. These candidates are not playing a ‘role’ but just behaving transparently and being themselves.

To understand these situations it is worth noting the specific trait drives that account for the success of hunter-closers. Their success is derived from a special combination of high assertiveness that is coupled with a high level of extroversion. This trait drive combination can be likened to, ‘an iron fist in a velvet glove’. What I mean by this is that they can be very warm and outgoing due to their extroversion but due to their high assertiveness they can apply considerable pressure as well. Prospects tend not to feel the full extent of this pressure because these sales types tend to deliver it in such a warm and outgoing manner. It is this same combination of high assertiveness and high extroversion that also makes them great sales hunters. The high extroversion enables them to quickly warm to and relate to different personalities. As well, their high level of assertiveness equips them with a ‘thick skin’, enabling them to absorb the rejection that is inevitably a big part of sales hunting.

So how do they fool you? These ‘faux hunter closers’ do have the high sociability/extroversion of the real hunter-closers. In fact they are extroverted to the extreme. But the critical piece they are missing is high assertiveness. Unfortunately, their very high level of extroversion, sociability, empathy, tends to create the impression that they are assertive and self motivated. In truth, they are anything but! Matters are complicated since their extremely outgoing nature means they are very much in their element when in job interviews and hence they know what you want to hear, what to say and how to say it. In your role as an interviewer you are at a serious disadvantage!

Hire a person of this type for a hunting-closing role and it can often take a very long time to realize and accept that you’ve made a hiring error. Why? Because while they may make the calls, (remember they are social so they do love interaction) the truth is that their interactions are really more in the vein of passive, warm, public relations. Calls will be made, but with very little or no purpose in mind. This is because the critical assertiveness of the true hunter-closer is the critical missing piece.

Many managers have hired this type and have spent untold sums of money and have wasted hundreds of hours of management time trying to turn this kind of situation around, in the mistaken belief that the problem was a lack of skill, training or experience. Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, ‘you can’t train away a hiring mistake’.

Does the above scenario sound familiar? If it does, I’ll bet it was expensive! Are you aware that our sales test can eliminate this problem?

If you’re interested in learning how our proven sales test eliminates this, and other sales hiring mistakes I would enjoy hearing from you and having a frank and open conversation about your specific hiring challenges.

Sales Personality Testing – Misconceptions About Successful Sales Personalities


A big part of our work here at involves talking to hiring managers about what personality traits are required to be a success in the sales roles for which they are responsible. A common element of these conversations is my attempt to have the client describe for me, in their own words, the ‘perfect person for the role’ in terms of style and personality traits. In the course of these conversations, clients will typically provide a wide ranging and highly diverse description that is rich in both relevant and irrelevant descriptors. That’s okay because my job, and part of what they are paying us for, is our ability to sift through this information since we have such a long history of job analysis under our belts.

One of the interesting things about these conversations is that the client often tells me what they don’t want their sales people to be like. Which brings me to the subject of this article.

For example, you would be amazed at how often clients will actually say “I don’t want a used car salesman” or “I don’t want a life insurance” salesman. I have had enough of these conversations to realize that this is their short hand or coded way of telling me that they do not want to hire sales people that are overly pushy, sleazy and unethical among other not so nice attributes. We have all seen these clichés on TV and in the movies so many times over the years that I’m sure that I don’t need to go further to spell out for you what it is that they mean.

What’s most interesting is that the facts tell a story that totally contradicts the widely held assumptions and preconceived notions about the sales people in these roles. In two recent studies of top performing sales people, one of top insurance sales people and the other of top auto sales people, our findings show that the top performers are anything but the unethical, slimy and pushy types that the public and many hiring managers assumed them to be. In fact, if these managers knew what the facts actually revealed many of them would say that these were exactly the type of sales people that they wanted to hire.

Despite the fact that the studies looked at top performers in two different industries there were a lot of shared traits between the groups and, as mentioned, these personality traits are not what is widely assumed.

Specifically, our studies show that a very high percentage of these top reps are very altruistic in mindset and are therefore not particularly motivated by commission, ‘winning’ or closing the deal. Instead, and surprisingly, they are primarily motivated by the need to help or to be of service to others. They are a conservative, careful and helpful group who tend to follow the rules and procedures and follow up with prospects very diligently.   They are anything but pushy and overbearing. Instead they are careful to do their research in order to determine the prospects needs and to thoroughly answer the prospects questions, provide information and to address any concerns. Rather than overtly pushing the prospect for the close they hang in there until the prospect is ready to ‘buy’.

One should definitely not assume that just because this style of sales person has proven to be very successful in these two companies that this sales style will work in all companies within these two industries. As well, just because a sales person has come from, and perhaps been successful in, a particular industry you should never assume that they have a sales style that is specific to all that are successful in that industry. Sales roles can and do differ dramatically from company to company within an industry. This goes a long way to explain why a sales person can be a flat out failure in one role and a great success in another, sometimes even within the same organization.

Almost every hiring manager agrees that the overwhelming reason why sales people fail is because the sales person’s personality is poorly matched to the sales role for which they were hired. It has been my experience that a lot of these mismatches are avoidable by properly analyzing the role from the perspective of it’s personality and motivational requirements. Often, this vital step either does not get done properly or is not even done at all. Without this step being performed sales people get hired with no true sense of whether they are a good fit since obviously they are not being measured against a consistent and relevant set of criteria. Talented sales people are interviewed and even hired, but when you’ve hired the wrong talent for that role the results are typically very disappointing for all concerned.

One of the great benefits of using is our thorough analysis of your sales role(s). The results of this analysis is that we clearly identify the specific sales traits that you need in your sales roles in your company. This is particularly powerful when we test a sampling of your top performing sales people in order to create your unique Target Profiles. The resulting Suitability Rating scores of your sales candidate’s test results are then highly predictive of future sales success.

If you would like to learn more about how this process works or if you have any questions about what we do and how it might be of benefit I would be pleased to hear from you. I promise to be very frank and straightforward in any of our discussions.

Tests for Sales – 5 Must Haves in a Sales Test in 2019


Whether you are using a sales test currently or are thinking of implementing one, this article is meant to spell out the 5 most basic things that any test for sales must have in 2019. For a deeper dive see this previous post, A Checklist for Selecting a Sales Test.

My assumption is that you have done some vetting of sales tests and that you are already comfortable with both their accuracy and predictability of sales success. With these two fundamental issues settled it then comes down to more of the ‘practical’ issues as follows.

Fast Test Administration

In 2019 it is just not realistic to expect candidates to complete a test that is longer than about 20 minutes. It is hard to believe but there are still some ‘old school’ sales tests on the market that take the candidate 60-120 minutes to complete. There are a number of issues with these very long and daunting sales psychometric instruments, not the least of which is getting a top candidate to set aside the time but also the issue of candidates who get part way through and abandon the test. In the current tight and very competitive job market you need to make it easy and convenient for candidates to be tested. About 20 minutes is the limit.

Taken on Multiple Devices

In the same vein as the above, you need to ensure that your sales test has maximum accessibility. For this reason, candidates must not only be able to take it on laptops, desktops and tablets but critically in 2019, on their smart phones. For many younger candidates their phone is their only device. If your sales test is not available on a phone then you will have an unnecessary and annoying barrier to evaluating many top candidates.

Geared to Your Sales Roles

As I have written on many occasions, sales roles differ a lot. For this reason your sales test must have the flexibility to be customized to identify the criteria you use to identify a successful sales person. If the sales test cannot, or is not, geared to your requirements then the test results at a minimum must be clear, concise and easily understandable. This way you will have no doubt about the candidate’s sales strengths and weaknesses. After all, the idea behind using a sales test is to make your decisions easier and better.   If the test results are ambiguous and murky in their delivery they will just serve to confuse you.

Outstanding Support

If you use a sales test it is inevitable that you will have questions about results, need some advice or even just a sounding board. Getting the information you need has to be readily accessible by email and phone. Not only that but in 2019 it needs to be especially fast. It is a very competitive job market so top candidates are often being courted by several employers. Not being able to get the answers you need when you need them could literally mean you miss out on top candidates.

Low Cost Per Test

In 2019 it is all the more important to ‘cast your net wide’ for suitable candidates. Expensive sales tests may or may not be better; that is an argument for another article. One problem with them though, is that they tend to be used so late in the hiring process as to be merely a formality, therefore negating any benefits and insights that they are meant to reveal. Testing often and early in the hiring cycle is the way to go in 2018. Of course for most businesses this is only going to happen if the sales testing is economically priced. By testing early you can quickly identify those candidates in whom you are interested and then move them along in your process. Valuable time is saved on many levels since you can do this even prior to an interview. The low cost per test also means that you can affordably test even candidates in whom you only have a marginal interest in order to ‘just make sure’ or to possibly uncover any ‘diamonds in the rough’.

I do hope you have found this article of benefit. If you would like to discuss any points in this article or you would like a demonstration of I would enjoy hearing from you.

Sales Testing – Sometimes We’ll Rain On Your Parade!


One thing I have frequently observed is that, at times, hiring managers have a tendency to ‘talk themselves into a candidate’.  This happens for a number of reasons. Sometimes it’s as simple as the fact that the candidate is personable to the extreme and knows all of the right answers to the interviewers questions. At other times the recruiter has real pressure to fill the role and has had very few candidates apply, so it is a case of hiring the best of a bad or small bunch.

A frequent situation is when the hiring manager lends great credence to the candidate’s industry experience while downplaying the candidate’s obvious weakness in other areas.  An example of this is when the candidate is a proven sales farmer but lacks the hunter sales style that the recruiter is actually looking to hire.

Experts have written volumes to explain the reasons why people make decisions that make no sense, based on the facts and evidence that is right in front of them. There are no doubt, many reasons why a hiring manager will talk himself into hiring a candidate despite all the evidence that is arguing against it.

An often over-looked benefit of using is our role as counselors and providers of sober second thought since we have nothing vested in whether the candidate is hired or not. While our sales testing is fully automated, we support it with full and unlimited telephone advice whenever you need it. We have done a lot of testing over the last 32 years and we are pleased to share our insights and advice or just to serve as a sounding board.

Whether we are confirming your nagging doubts, revealing new insights or just answering some specific questions, our approach is practical and very direct. Even if your ultimate decision is to hire the individual anyway, our insights will often assist you to give the candidate the best shot at success. And of course sometimes we’ll rain on your parade. Of course when you stop and think about the time, money and grief you’ve avoided you’ll be happy we did!