I regularly write about sales from the unique perspective of someone with 280 data points on 1,750,000 salespeople for a total of 490 million data points to play with. I mine that data to find correlation, causation and new insights as to how salespeople sell, why they do it, and the outcomes that occur as a result. This is true science.
Then there are the articles written by those without the data, who use observation and anecdotal evidence, using very small numbers of salespeople, and write about traits, usually personality based, that have little basis in fact. That is junk science.
The problem with personality is that there is no one or combination of personality types or traits, that are predictive of sales success. Period. Anyone who says there are is sharing an opinion, not science.
However, personality does come into play in the profession of sales, even if personality isn’t predictive of sales success. There are two areas where personality plays a role:
- Sales Managers must manage at least 10 differing types of personalities
- Sales Teams tend to develop a personality of their own
Let’s begin with the various personalities that sales managers must deal with.
PETE THE PERFECTIONIST – Pete won’t start anything until he is sure he can do it perfectly.
NICK THE KNOW IT ALL – Nick is easy to spot because he drives you nuts. He knows everything, as evidenced by his willingness to say, “I know!” You can’t tell him anything new and he will always defend the way in which he has always done things.
ORSON THE OVER ACHIEVER – Orson is always busy, always striving to break the record, out-earn his latest paycheck and set a new company record.
LOIS THE LOYALIST – Lois is like a puppy dog, always following you around, sucking up, learning from you and even idolizing you. In fact, she’d love to have your job if it meant you would be getting a better one!
CONTENT CARL – Carl has sales know how but isn’t using it as aggressively as he once did. His sales are probably flat and his calls for new business are dropping every year.
NEED FOR APPROVAL ALICE – More than anything, Alice needs for you to like her. Her need for approval will cost both of you a fortune in lost business.
UNSTABLE URSULA – Ursula needs to get her head on straight, might come from a dysfunctional family and is used to being yelled at. In fact, it’s the only thing to which she seems to respond.
MIKE THE MAVERICK – Mike plays by his own rules, is difficult to manage, won’t take direction and drives you nuts. The only reason he still works for you is that he outperforms everyone else on the sales force.
MISERABLE MARVIN – Marvin complains a lot. He has more excuses than hooky playing high school renegades. His performance is always below acceptable levels and despite that, everyone thinks he has potential – except that he’s never approached it.
You can learn how to manage these 10 personalities in this article.
A sales team can also take on a personality. While they can take on the personality of the most influential or successful salesperson, they can also take on the personality of their sales manager.
For example, many of the best salespeople are introverts because introverts tend to have better listening skills. However, most introverts don’t make good salespeople. It’s a one-way correlation. What if the sales manager is an introvert and his salespeople are extroverts? Or, what if the sales manager is an extrovert and his salespeople are introverts. Contradictions such as these will not work out very well.
There is also risk when the team takes on the personality of an influential, formerly successful, but currently unmotivated salesperson, one who doesn’t exhibit the behaviors that the sales manager wants to see from everyone. This is a recipe for under performance.
The best-case scenario is where the most successful salesperson is also the most influential and likeable salesperson and has a style that everyone is comfortable with and over time, they choose to emulate it to the best of their ability. A sales manager who can quietly help that metamorphosis occur, one whose ego won’t get in the way, is ideal.