Team Building

Personality Traits and Qualities of a Good Salesperson

qualities of a good salesperson madmenIn the Mad Men universe, Don Draper is widely recognized as an aggressive, uncompromising, and risk-taking ad man. His pitches to prospective clients often end in him outlining in exquisite detail why they're doing it wrong. Case in point: Sunday's episode when, after Don takes a particularly hard line with Dow Chemical, his partner Roger remarks: "I'll buy you a drink if you wipe the blood off your mouth."

While we may admire Don's audacity in the context of our living rooms, most of us would agree that this is probably not a man that we'd hire. Furthermore, brashness, braggadocio, ego, and a ready temper probably don't top the wish lists of qualities managers want for their sales teams. At the same time, managers may be hard-pressed to know which qualities they should be looking for.

Steve W. Martin had a similar question and spent over a decade researching the answer. He interviewed 1000s of salespeople, administering personality tests and comparing the results of high-performing sales people to their low and average counterparts. His findings, which I will summarize here, can be found in full over at the Harvard Business Review.

Qualities that top-salespeople possess:

  • Modesty - Sorry, Don, but 91% of top salespeople had medium to high scores of modesty and humility. A good salesperson is team-oriented and wants to do what's best for the account.
  • Conscientiousness - 85% of top salespeople had high levels of conscientiousness. That is, they feel a strong sense of duty and responsibility toward their work.
  • Goal-oriented - 84% of top salespeople scored high in achievement orientation. They want to set, work toward, and achieve goals, which they view as a top measure of their success.
  • Curiosity - 82% of top salespeople had extremely high levels of curiosity. They are driven by a need to know and understand the world around them.

Qualities that top salespeople lack:

  • Lack of gregariousness - This may be a surprise, but top-performing salespeople scored 30% lower on gregariousness than their below-average counterparts. Martin theorizes that too much friendliness between salesperson and client leads to a salesperson being unable to assert dominance in the relationship.
  • Lack of discouragement - Less than 10% of top salespeople identified as having high levels of discouragement. This translates into competitiveness and a drive to continually improve performance.
  • Lack of self-consciousness - Less than 5% of top salespeople had high levels of self-consciousness. This is a vital trait for cold-calling and making tough calls on accounts.

Jenna Hannon

Jenna Hannon is a Canadian born technology marketer and writer living in Silicon Valley. She is currently Strategic Communications at Fanhattan, advisor at Treasure Data. Jenna is also an adrenaline junkie; as a kiteboarder, skateboarder, snowboarder and surfer.

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