The right fit: Why sales personality matters

Thought Leadership on Online Staffing presented by Salesmatchr powered by MyStaffNow.

Salespeople can make or break an organization. Do you have a great product or service? Great! But if you don’t have someone on your team who can sell it, your idea might be dead in the water.

Salespeople are the ones that help funnel the growth of a company, product or idea. Without someone to sell innovations, the energy put into creating them is wasted. Of course, finding the right salesperson for your company can be an arduous journey. But don’t give up just yet! By better understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate, you can find the right individual — and it all starts with their personality!

Too often when talking to our clients, we find that they take a lot of time sifting through resumes, yet they still come up short. Finding candidates with industry experience is typically at the top of our clients’ lists. However, what we’ve found over the years is that while industry experience is of course relevant and can lead to shortened learning curves, it does not necessarily lead to a successful hire … and then the cycle starts all over again.

The first step is to ask, “Am I looking for a sales hunter or a farmer, or maybe even a fisherman?” Tom Kelly, a Chicago-based professional sales coach and founder of Potential in Motion, defines a sales hunter as someone who is “great at building a client base from the ground up, and excels at identifying targets, prospecting and closing new business,” while a farmer is the type that “enjoys working with existing accounts, growing existing relationships, and cross-selling and upselling the existing client base.” Knowing the job function you are seeking is a crucial step on the road to finding the right person for the job. It doesn’t really matter what the job title is; what’s really important is its function.

Finding the right fit

And to see who may be a good fit for your particular job function, one must understand the personalities and habits of a top salesperson and see what separates them from those that miss the mark. To that end, let’s look at new research from Steve W. Martin, founder of Heavy Hitter Sales, where he used data from 1,000 salespeople to come up with some interesting conclusions.

According to his study, everything from a salesperson’s communication skills to their level of pessimism, even whether or not they were an athlete in high school, can play a role in their success.

The study, which focused on many different variables, found that while a multitude of organizational factors can positively impact a salesperson’s performance, top salespeople possess certain traits that help them stand out anywhere.

“Sales performance is more likely dependent on the attributes of the individual and sales environment characteristics over company-related influences,” Martin wrote in a recent Harvard Business Review article.

Here’s how you can better understand sales personality traits and figure out who you should hire for a specific role:

  1. Openness to experience

If someone is creative, intellectually curious, sensitive, thinks abstractly, and tends to hold some unconventional beliefs, then they probably have a pretty open personality. However, those with low openness tend to hold more conservative, traditional beliefs and are resistant to change. They think in concrete terms over abstract ones.

So what does this have to do with assessing salespeople? Some companies have pre-established sales systems that salespeople are supposed to dutifully follow, which may be great for more conservative salespeople looking for a comfortable sales routine. However, jobs at these companies will likely not be ideal fits for more innovative salespeople. If a salesperson prefers to be more creative in the selling process, then they should probably look for a job that allows them to determine independently how to sell a product or service.

  1. Conscientiousness

Highly conscientious people are extremely self-disciplined and ordered, with a high attention to detail. They are planners and like schedules. On the other hand, those who rank lower in conscientiousness tend to leave their things around; they are more absent-minded and sometimes forget their duties. Don’t neglect this trait in salespeople: If your position requires extreme care and a lot of self direction, then this one may be best for a more conscientious salesperson.

  1. Extraversion

As you can probably guess, those with high extraversion are enthusiastic, talkative and involved in a wide array of activities. They get their energy from other people and external activities. They enjoy being the center of attention. On the other end of the spectrum are introverts, who tend to be lower energy, quieter and have fewer social obligations. They need a lot of time alone and enjoy their solitude.

According to Joshua Crumbaugh, director of sales and marketing for the Huntsville, AL office of Platinum Mortgage, an inside sales job may be a better fit for introverts who may prefer avoiding going out to prospects’ workplaces. “While some people have an amazing ability to stand out from the crowd, others simply blend in and have difficulty thinking up new, creative ways to stand out, get noticed and keep their audience’s attention.” On the other hand for someone with a rock star outgoing personality that needs to shine, you may want that individual in an outside sales job. Ultimately, it’s all about finding the right fit.

  1. Agreeableness

If someone scores high in agreeableness, then they value getting along with others. They are generous, optimistic about human nature, trustworthy and open to compromise. On the other hand, disagreeable folks are skeptical of other people and are therefore less likely to put themselves out there for others. They can be uncooperative, unfriendly and resistant to compromise.

If the individual has a pretty agreeable personality, then an account manager position, which requires communication skills, patience and empathy, may be a great fit. However, if the salesperson has difficulty getting along with others, then a more solitary sales rep role would be a better fit.

  1. Achievement orientation

According to Martin, 84% of top-performing salespeople consistently crush their sales goals because they rank highly on achievement orientation. These reps are focused on attaining their goals and are vigilant about tracking their progress. Another interesting piece of knowledge he garnered was that a similar proportion of top performers played a sport in high school, an experience Martin predicted makes them “well equipped to function in competitive environments where self-discipline is a necessity.”

Another point worth mentioning is that the most successful reps maximize the resources available to them. The study found that more than half are “power users” of their CRM and other internal systems, compared to less than a third of underperforming reps.

Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, and identifying these traits in your candidates ahead of time and in the most timely fashion is the first step to finding the best sales candidates.

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