Sales Testing – Bitter Truth #3

images You can’t have it both ways!

As my mother used to say, (this sounds best with a Scottish accent) ‘Ye cannie have yer cake and eat it too’. Meaning of course that you can’t have it both ways. This phrase is definitely worth keeping in mind when you are considering the personalities of sales people.

More to the point a sales person’s core personality traits can be likened to double-edged swords. This is relevant because personality trait drives have both a favourable and an unfavourable side. This is the source of not only their sales strengths but also their weaknesses.

Many hiring managers simply do not understand this. I find this very surprising since it accounts for so many of the frustrations, issues and problems that managers mention when discussing their sales people. It is even more surprising given the fact that management’s most basic responsibility is to understand how to motivate people.

Even a cursory understanding of motivational trait drives and specifically the core temperament and motivational drives of their own sales people would be a huge help for many in sales management. Unfortunately, with no objective understanding of this, they are left to their own devices. Which means that when it comes to managing and motivating sales people they are seriously hindered.

If these managers were to begin using a sales personality test they would be amazed at how much more effective they are. I’m sure many would be asking themselves why they ever expected to do their jobs without one. There are few other areas in business with such high financial stakes, where management operates with so little in the way of objective insight.

I typically have my first ‘two-edged sword conversation’ with clients when I am learning about the requirements of their sales role(s). One thing I usually do is to ask them to describe in their words the ‘ideal’ person. Almost always I am given a list of traits as long as my arm. The length of the list is not the problem. The problem is that, without knowing it, they have created a laundry list of ‘necessary’ traits that are completely contradictory. By contradictory I mean they just can’t possibly exist within the same person. There are dozens and dozens of examples. A few common ones are listed below.

  1. Hunters and closers have naturally very large egos and are very independent. These traits mean they are weak with details and de-motivated by rules and procedures. That said, it is pretty common for hiring managers to expect them to work under tight controls and to devote much of their time to reporting and other details.
  2. Another example with hunters and closers is for the hiring manager to be overly concerned with job turnover. While controlling unnecessary turnover is a good thing the nature of these very venturesome types is that they will always have a relatively strong tendency to move from job to job. It is just part of their nature, so allow for it.
  3. The misguided belief that one can hire a sales person who is both a great sales hunter and a great sales farmer. Motivationally these styles have in many ways completely opposite personality trait requirements. You really need to decide what the focus of the position truly is and hire for that.
  4. The expectation that highly independent sales people will be great team players. Great team players are usually anything but independent.
  5. The belief that somehow a sales person can have both a great deal of ‘patience’ but also a sense of urgency. A sense of urgency is really just another way of saying impatient. One can’t be both patient and impatient simultaneously.
  6. There are unique challenges to hiring telephone sales people.  Management typically needs sales reps to have a sense of urgency and be rather proactive, yet of course, sit in one place and make calls in a rather routine fashion. What many managers don’t understand is that proactive people with a sense of urgency have an abundance of nervous energy and need great variety in their work activities. The last thing they are matched for is a role that requires them to sit in one place and perform a repetitive activity. This contradictory requirement is a key contributor to the notoriously high turnover rates in telephone sales.

Realistically, all sales roles have some of these contradictory requirements. In many instances they are rather minor. It becomes a big problem when these contradictions are quite pronounced. In this situation such as example #3 above you really need to make the decision as to what is most imperative about the role and hire for that. In some other cases like the example in #6 you really just have to live with the situation. In this instance hiring sales people to fit the routine nature of the role would mean hiring passive order takers rather than true sales people. I doubt you would want to do that.

It would be a mistake to think that using will mean that these contradictions will be completely eliminated. By using our knowledge of sales roles and sales personalities we can make you aware of them so that perhaps you can rethink the role and/or the type of person for that role. When that is not possible just having insight into the situation will make you a far better manager.

Are you trying to have it both ways with your sales people?  If so, we would enjoy hearing from you. Perhaps you might benefit from our 3 decades of experience.

Author: David Pearce

David Pearce is the President of Established in 1986, is North America's #1 provider of sales personality tests. has over 1400 satisfied customers (97% re-order rate) who use our sales test to measure the suitability of sales candidates and sales employees. is customized to your unique criteria, fully automated, instantaneous, extremely accurate and very economical.

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