Many of our sales testing clients hire sales people to develop new business. ‘Sales hunter’ is the typical term used to refer to these sales personalities. Often we engage in discussions with clients about the relative strengths and weaknesses of these and other sales personalities and what type would best fit the role(s) for which they are conducting the sales assessment.
These discussions almost always come around to the ‘two edged sword’ conversation. This is where I liken sales traits to the proverbial ‘two edged sword’ as a means of explaining that the ‘flip side’ of the sales personality that they intend to hire also possesses some rather undesirable aspects. I am not alluding to anything deep and mysterious but rather making them aware that the very personality traits that create the sales person’s potential strengths also create potential difficulties.
This could be said of any sales personality. This article however is focused on ‘sales hunters’ only because this is a type of sales person that many hiring managers are trying to recruit. I thought they would find this helpful. (For greater detail about the specific combination of personality traits that create sales hunters please see this article Hunters Defined.)
In summary, here are the trait drives of sales hunters:
- A very high level of Assertiveness. This means they are highly competitive, dominant, authoritative and take-charge types with a need to win, be in control and be recognized. They tend to think big and be risk-oriented.
- A very high level of Sociability. This means they are very extroverted, people oriented, outgoing and therefore require a lot of interaction with others as well as recognition and acceptance. They tend to be very persuasive in the way they communicate.
- A very low level of Patience. This means they are very impatient and are restless, pro-active and have a lot of nervous energy. They thrive on change/variety and dislike routine/repetition. They are deadline oriented and possess a sense of urgency.
- A very low level of Dependence. This means they are very independent, self-reliant, resist supervision, dislike rules and guidelines and tend to be quite weak with the details. They are risk and incentive oriented.
When one views these trait drives in combination one can easily understand why hunters are good at opening doors. They have the ego drive and confidence to absorb rejection and their high sociability and people orientation means they meet and relate to prospects quickly and naturally. A combination often likened to ‘an-iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove’. Their impatience means they have a built in sense of urgency that, along with their other traits, means they are true self-starters. Additionally, they are very independent so require little direction from management and being very risk oriented they are highly motivated by incentives.
It is also pretty easy to see that their rather large egos mean that even though they may not express it, deep inside they believe they can do your job better than you, therefore taking direction is not one of their strong suits. This issue is amplified by their distaste for procedures and guidelines which, from their perspective, they find very restricting and a hindrance to their need to operate autonomously. Their weakness with activities related to reporting/paperwork/details is tied into this view of being restricted as this is seen as a waste of time that keeps them away from the other activities they would prefer to be doing. Team environments are often a problem for them since the required effort to tone down their large egos can be inconsistent-and, truth be told, they only like team-work when they can lead the team. When making sales their belief that getting the sale overrides any need to follow the organization’s policies and systems, can create extra work for management. Their tremendous nervous energy (tapping fingers, shaking keys) seems to give off waves of impatience to those around them. This lack of ‘sit-ability’ can sometimes be quite disruptive.
Of course this is not a complete listing of the potential ‘difficult’ manifestations of their various trait drives. And to be fair, some of these ‘potential’ issues with sales hunters will not necessarily be seen in all sales hunters. It is worth noting here that our descriptions of trait drives and their resultant behaviors are not taking into account other aspects of the person such as experience, age, training, education and intelligence. These, and other factors, can often have a softening or mitigating influence.
Nonetheless, if you have managed enough sales hunters you have no doubt witnessed many of these behaviors and come to wonder if these sales hunters (sometimes referred to as ‘prima donnas’) are worth the hassle; they may make the sales but they can be very disruptive. Realistically of course, you do not really have much of a choice but to work with them since you need these sales personalities because they do open new doors.
So what can be done? The first thing to understand is how to work with them as productively as possible. A great thing about these sales personalities is that their thick skin (big ego) enables you to be extremely direct and blunt in the way you communicate with them, as they tend to find this quite motivating. If possible, let them work the role as if it were their own ‘business’. With broad and general direction, incentives, authority, responsibility, minimal details and reporting they will tend to thrive. Keep them very busy, since the faster the pace and the more they have on the go the more highly motivated they tend to be. When trying to get them to ‘tone down’ some of their ‘difficult’ aspects never forget that they are motivated by ‘what’s in it for me’, therefore always try to relate your ‘suggestions’ to something that will benefit them in a way that pushes their buttons, i.e. more money, more sales, more authority, more freedom. Any changed behaviors will come about from self-interest rather than any sort of fear of reprimand. I do hope this has been helpful and perhaps contains a couple of suggestions and insights that might be of assistance. As always, I look forward to your feedback, questions or comments.