February 25, 2021
Which personality types and traits are best suited for a role in sales and which sales-specific skills should an aspiring rep bring to the table? Take Dealcode's sales personality test and discover what kind of seller you are.
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“Naturals” born with sales skills and just the right sales personality type don’t automatically translate their abilities into immediate sales success. In other words, there simply isn’t one singular predefined notion of what it takes to be a successful salesperson. Or at least there isn’t anymore. However, research suggests that personality can indeed play a significant role in determining success in sales. It may just not be the one you have in mind.
Take the conventional stereotype of the top sales performer: Sales skills or personality traits tied to this cliched role don’t usually stray too far from a hard selling mentality marked by self-assertiveness and aggressive tactics. Like the “Wolf of Wall Street”, they have an idea or a product and won’t stop until you’ve got it. This pushy, overt or even arrogant selling style is one reason for the somewhat stigmatized “stock image” of successful salespeople - as well as for the profession as a whole. In reality, the odds of realizing success with an approach even somewhat resembling this method are few and far between. Plus, this type of selling simply doesn’t suit many personality types.
So, which types of personal qualities do employers look for right off the bat? Are introverts or extroverts better suited for a role in sales? Some may even wonder (in even more extreme terms): Am I predestined to excel or fail in a forward-facing sales role or similar corporate setting by who I am as a person? While some may prescribe the Myers-Briggs personality test E-S-F-J as the one true and best sales personality, many more open-minded takes on sales aptitude see little merit in working or thinking in absolutes.
It’s true: many new hires learn valuable sales skills and techniques from their higher-ups. Nevertheless, one quite effective way of setting yourself apart from the competition in sales is with your personality. Effective salespeople are aware of this, and learn to embrace who they are and how their sales personality affects their own personal selling style.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at which personality types and traits are best suited for a role in sales and which sales-specific skills an aspiring rep should have. We’ll double-click into contemporary research into which personal qualities and personality traits act as catalysts for success in sales. Dealcode will also examine a variety of different seller personality types, their individual characteristics and merits as well as show you how you can find out your own by taking the Sales Personality Test.
What sets the best salespeople apart? Former Silicon Valley sales leader Steve W. Martin conducted thousands of interviews with top performing B2B salespeople to find out. Alongside carrying out interviews as part of a series of strategy workshops, Martin also administered personality tests to participants to further examine the links between certain personality traits and their chosen sales approach. The results showed that many successful salespeople share a number of key personality attributes.
According to Martin’s findings, the majority of top sales performers tend to exhibit the following personality traits:
Modesty: In stark contrast to the conventional stereotype of the self-asserting “sales shark” sketched above, over 90% of skilled salespeople displayed modesty and humility.
Conscientiousness: 85% of sales leaders were shown to possess a firm sense of responsibility for the results of their assignment.
Achievement Orientation: More than 80% valued performance and worked to measure progress regularly.
Curiosity: Four out of five stellar salespeople were shown to have a hunger for knowledge.
Lack of Gregariousness: Top performers were found to rank less sociable, friendly or outgoing compared to lower performers.
Lack of Discouragement: Optimism and the ability to bounce back from a loss plays a crucial role in staying mentally prepared for what’s around the corner.
Lack of Self-Consciousness: Good salespeople don’t embarrass easily and aren’t afraid to put themselves out there.
Each of these sales personality traits have a decisive impact on the style of selling sales reps opt for and how they deal with setbacks, work alongside team members and ultimately how they understand and interact with their buyer.
Consider the “Wolf of Wall Street” image of successful sales professionals. More often than not, this is the selling style or sales personality - or at least something close to it - those outside of the field expect to encounter when it comes to reaching out to a sales rep. Their energy, affinity towards multi-tasking and fast-paced work style easily allow these individuals to be described as extroverts.
This widely discussed sales personality characteristic has captured the attention of veteran hiring managers and young professionals alike looking to acclimate to a new workplace or assignment.
So what is extroversion and how does it compare to introversion? Simply put, the two terms refer to how people “recharge” and process stimuli. Those described as high in extroversion feed off the crowd (or gain energy through social stimulation by spending time with other people). Extroverts are also often interested in the external world and tend to direct attention away from themselves accordingly. Common descriptors used to refer to extroverts include sociable, talkative, assertive or excitable.
Introverts, on the other hand, recharge their internal battery (or feel at most at ease) in solitude. Those low in extroversion tend to be more independent as they don’t need the constant attention of others or company of larger groups to remain focused and content. Introverts are also commonly highly self-aware, careful decision makers and analytical thinkers.
Sales personality aside, we have all bore witness to the truly negative connotation “solitude” carries throughout our society as a result of the global pandemic. We’ve all come quite accustomed to hearing anecdotes centered on the burden of the need to social distancing - framed as a definite deviation from the norm. Extroversion is simply more frequently celebrated and valued in Western Society while introversion as a personality trait is occasionally equated with being “antisocial.” However, this simply couldn’t be farther from the truth. Introverts don’t inherently lack the social skills needed to interact on a greater level; they simply don’t require the social stimulation to feed their happiness like extroverted individuals do.
When it comes to useful sales skills, extroverts excel at projecting positivity on the phone and maintaining a high level of personal interaction all throughout the day. Cold calling comes easy to them as they feed off social interaction. However, too much positive energy or even the slightest lack of self-awareness within their interaction has the potential to put the conversation into jeopardy. In other words, where an introvert may pause and reflect on progress, an extrovert may continue barrelling forward towards a proposed goal.
An ambivert on the other hand combines the best of both worlds. Those embodying characteristics of both personality types possess adequate external as well as self awareness and have the ability to effectively balance the two. For example, when interested in a topic or engaged in conversation, ambiverts may display extroverted tendencies. However, when less engaged or when the social situation calls for introverted abilities, e.g. active listening, ambiverts can seamlessly adapt.
While the extroverted sales personality almost seamlessly aligns with our preconceived notion of the natural-born sales rep, introversion has its merits in the workplace alongside its outgoing counterparts. Ambiverts can also make great salespeople, however whether they meet their mark can depend on who they’re talking to on the other end.
Whether you’re intent on expanding knowledge of your industry or want to hone in on specific sales skills, the driving force behind professional development of any kind is the want to learn more.
Become expertly acquainted with your product with a firm grasp of the ins and outs of your industry and you’ll be better poised to effectively and professionally handle common concerns or objections.
Beyond a dedicated interest in expanding one’s knowledge base, curiosity also also translates into effective communication. It’s important for sales reps to lead with curiosity in all interactions to fully understand the challenges a customer may be facing. Active listening skills help reps delve deeper into the day-to-day workings of a deal, get to know their client and build lasting customer relationships. Responsive and devoted sellers will begin to take on the role of a trusted advisor and less that of a typical salesperson. Curious sales “consultants” know more at each turn in the conversation leaving them better able to ask the tough questions when the time comes.
Top sales performers of all personality types have mastered the art of active listening - you should too.
Solution providers no longer sell just one or two primary products or services. And no longer is your product the pivotal element of your relationship with your client. Buyers now value the experience accompanying their purchase, or the “full package” suppliers provide their customers from start to finish more than ever. Achievement oriented sales reps know how to effectively measure short-term progress while also staying on track towards long-term goals. Here, it’s essential to see the deal through a broad lens: How does the product fit into the grander scale of things (i.e. how does it help my prospect accomplish their own goals) and how will this further our client relationship down the road? Prioritizing your company’s relationship with your customer (or sending the right message to your potential client) is the first step towards selling an experience instead of a product.
So let’s say you already have a firm idea of where you stand you in your current role but want to further diagnose your strengths and weaknesses? Do some aspects of your sales position simply come natural to you? And why do some deals go south even when you’ve got all your bases covered. Whether you’re a hunter or farmer, your sales personality may hold the answer.
Take the Dealcode sales personality test to discover what kind of seller you are at heart. Following completion, you’ll receive an individual analysis as well as guidance on how to best accelerate your B2B sales career through targeted improvement today.
Conclusion: There’s no one prescribed golden combination of sales skills and sales personality type which will fast-track you to guaranteed immediate success. Neither is there one best personality type for sales which triumphs over all others. And rightfully so: We all bring our own unique strengths to the table and should be willing to actively embrace these.