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David Sidwell

7 personality traits of top salespeople

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review published the results of research into the personality differences between top and average performing salespeople. The top performers had the following personality attributes:.

1. Modesty.
Contrary to conventional stereotype of salespeople as pushy and egotistical, 91% of top salespeople had medium to high scores of modesty and humility. Results suggested that ostentatious salespeople who are full of bravado alienate far more customers than they win over.

Selling Style Impact: Team Orientation. As opposed to establishing themselves as the focal point of the purchase decision, top salespeople position the team (presales technical engineers, consulting, and management) that will help them win the account as the centrepiece.

2. Conscientiousness.
85% of top salespeople had high levels of conscientiousness, responsibility and reliability, with a strong sense of duty. They take their jobs very seriously and feel deeply responsible for the results.

Selling Style Impact: Account Control. The worst position for salespeople to be in is to have relinquished account control and to be operating at the direction of the customer, or worse yet, a competitor. Conversely, top salespeople take command of the sales cycle process in order to control their own destiny.

3. Achievement Orientation.
No surprise here - 84% of the top performers tested scored very high in achievement orientation. They are fixated on achieving goals and continuously measure their performance in comparison to their goals.

Selling Style Impact: Political Orientation. During sales cycles, top sales, performers seek to understand the politics of customer decision-making. Their goal orientation instinctively drives them to meet with key decision-makers. They focus on the people they are selling to, and how the products they're selling fit into the organization, rather than the functionality of the products themselves.

4. Curiosity.
Curiosity can be described as a person's hunger for knowledge and information. 82% of top salespeople scored extremely high curiosity levels. Top salespeople are naturally more curious than their lesser performing counterparts.

Selling Style Impact: Inquisitiveness. They ask customers difficult and uncomfortable questions in order to close gaps in information. Top salespeople want to know if they can win the business, and they want to know the truth as soon as possible.

5. Lack of Gregariousness.
Top performers scored 30% lower in gregariousness (preference for being with people and friendliness) than below average performers.

Selling Style Impact: Dominance. The results indicate that overly friendly salespeople are too close to their customers and have difficulty establishing dominance, and their recommendations and advice are not followed.

6. Lack of Discouragement.
90% of successful salespeople were rarely discouraged and only occasionally sad. Less than 10% of top salespeople were classified as having high levels of discouragement and being frequently overwhelmed with sadness.

Selling Style Impact: Competitiveness. Top performers are able to handle emotional disappointments, bounce back from losses, and mentally prepare themselves for the next opportunity to compete.

7. Lack of Self-Consciousness.
Over 95% of top performers were not easily embarrassed: they weren’t bashful or inhibited in their behaviours.

Selling Style Impact: Aggressiveness. Top salespeople are comfortable fighting for their cause and are not afraid of rankling customers in the process. They are action-oriented and unafraid to call high in their accounts or courageously cold call new prospects.

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