Businesses have used our sales personality test since 1986. A quick look at our web site will show that a key to the success of our service is that it is customized to the specifics of each sales role. Why? Because we’ve learned that sales roles differ considerably and therefore appropriate people for those roles can differ significantly.
That said, in the course of testing literally millions of sales candidates for an amazingly varied clientele, it is certainly the case that many of them are trying to hire sales hunters. Our service ensures they hire true hunters rather than the candidates who ‘interview well but can’t sell’. We also provide an understanding of how to manage them on a daily basis. All this to say that, after having tested so many sales people we have observed some obvious similarities in the very best sales hunters. I thought I would share our observations.
Discussing sales personalities using labels such as ‘sales hunter’ or ‘sales farmer’ unfortunately tends to feed a common misconception that I would like to dispel. Specifically, that all sales people who fall into one of these categories possess all of the same traits. It is true that some things can be common to all within that group, however other differences are typically present. Take a look at any group of successful sales hunters and you will find that even though they are all successful they can tend to get the job done in somewhat different ways. Because of this, some managers who mistakenly focus on the differences rather than being aware of the similarities, operate as if there is no rhyme or reason to why these reps are successful. On the surface it may seem quite random but when one goes below the surface by using a sales personality assessment it becomes quite obvious that there are common threads that are readily identifiable and that explain what makes a great sales hunter.
The two trait drives that are shared by all top sales hunters are firstly, a high level of Assertiveness and secondly a high level of Sociability. Just to be sure we are on the same page with our definitions, here are short descriptions of each of these trait drives.
Assertiveness refers to a need for control, competitiveness, self-motivation, drive, dominance, ego and the need to make ones 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 ego means 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.
Sociability refers to the need for social interaction and the stimulation of that interaction. It is introversion vs. extroversion or an outward (people) orientation vs. an inward (task) orientation. Please note that this is not a measure of friendliness, rather, it refers to empathy level and persuasiveness and how one communicates and responds to others. Therefore, when we say that they have a high level of this trait drive it means they tend to be very extroverted and people oriented. Their tendency is to be very stimulated by lots of social interaction. Their natural empathy and ability to quickly relate to others means they are very persuasive in their communication with a natural ability to identify the listener’s ‘hot buttons’.
Just to be very clear, while it is true that top sales hunters are high on both of these two trait drives, the emphasis is always on one trait drive or the other. What I mean is that some have high sociability but higher assertiveness (see example #1) while others have high assertiveness but higher sociability (see example #2).
An Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove
What makes this the killer combination for prospecting? We often use the term ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ to describe this trait pair, which hints at why it is so effective for new business development. The high sociability and need for interaction means the person has the natural warmth and empathy to quickly relate to and establish rapport with new contacts. When doing so they have an innate ability to find and push the prospects hot buttons and are very adept at painting clear verbal pictures when communicating. They are naturally very persuasive in their interactions. Of course it is more than just the fact that they are very persuasive. It is the fact they are also very assertive, which means they are not just sociable but they are ‘sociable with a purpose’. Their assertiveness means that in the daily grind of prospecting they possess the ‘thickness of skin’ to absorb the rejection that is a natural part of the job. The traits work together such that they can apply considerable pressure (‘pushiness’ for want of a better word) in such a way that the prospect does not feel the full extent of that pressure. It is their assertiveness that enables them to feel comfortable asking for the order, an appointment or to get a commitment from the customer.
If you hire sales hunters we would enjoy learning about your specific challenges. Besides some of the insights we have touched on above we would be pleased to share our insights regarding the unique issues associated with interviewing, hiring and managing these sales personalities. Feel free to reach out to me directly at 416-691-3661 or visit our website.