7 Personality Traits of Top Salespeople – from Harvard Business Review

What determines the performance of top salespeople? Answer: Personality, not knowledge.

Love this article in Harvard Business Review, as the author, Steve W. Martin, (bio below)

Steve. W. Martin

shares 7 personality traits that top salespeople have in common. He personally interviewed thousands of salespeople and administered personality tests to 1,000 of them.

“My goal was to measure their five main personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and negative emotionality) to better understand the characteristics that separate them their peers. The personality tests were given to high technology and business services salespeople as part of sales strategy workshops I was conducting. In addition, tests were administered at Presidents Club meetings (the incentive trip that top salespeople are awarded by their company for their outstanding performance). The responses were then categorized by percentage of annual quota attainment and classified into top performers, average performers, and below average performers categories.

The test results from top performers were then compared against average and below average performers. The findings indicate that key personality traits directly influence top performers’ selling style and ultimately their success.”

With my background in sales, I relate to the personality traits that made me so successful in winning business.

In addition, check out my article “How to Hire Great People Every Time” which shows why the obvious candidates are often not the best choices.

I summarize the article here, but invite you to read the full article at 7 Personality Traits of Top Salespeople.

The key question in my mind is this:

If personality traits are what make a top salesperson, why don’t companies try to hire those personality traits?

In my experience, here’s what almost all companies look for in salespeople:

  • Industry experience
  • Quota achievement

But as the research shows, top salespeople have 7 personality traits in common. Here are the 7 Personality Traits of Top Salespeople.

  1. Modesty
    Modest salespeople work well on modern sales teams. Modest people make good team members.
  2. Conscientiousness
    This trait enables salespeople to manage the sales process. Staying on top of key issues and concerns is a key item. (We believe in the adage “A Promise Made is a Promise Kept.”)
  3. Achievement Orientation
    This helps them to understand the politics of a situation and drives them to meet with key decision makers. (We’re known as the Fearless Competitor.)
  4. Curiosity
    Curious salespeople ask open and revealing questions in the sales meetings which close gaps and speed decisions.
  5. Lack of Gregariousness
    Many are surprised by this finding, but sales needs to earn trust. Too much talking destroys trust. Great salespeople use words selectively.
  6. Lack of Discouragement
    The top salespeople often have a background in sports, so they know how it feels to lose and how to come back from it. Sales is about competition and bouncing back from losses.
  7. Lack of Self-Consciousness
    This points to a fearless attitude. Are they willing to take a chance and reach out to a top executive? (As mentioned, we’re known as the Fearless Competitor.)

The author sums up the article:

Not all salespeople are successful. Given the same sales tools, level of education, and propensity to work, why do some salespeople succeed where others fail? Is one better suited to sell the product because of his or her background? Is one more charming or just luckier? The evidence suggests that the personalities of these truly great salespeople play a critical role in determining their success.

Steve W. Martin

Steve W. Martin

Steve W. Martin teaches sales strategy at the USC Marshall School of Business. His latest book on sales linguistics is Heavy Hitter Sales Psychology: How to Penetrate the C-level Executive Suite and Convince Company Leaders to Buy.

For Dave Stein’s take on assessments, check out Understanding the Value of Assessments for Sales Hiring

Do you measure the personality traits of your sales candidates? What has been your experience with it? Please enter your comments below.

We invite you to purchase our $49 Demand Generation training course.

Read my blog on Kindle

Jeff Ogden (@fearlesscomp) is President of the B2B lead generation consultancy, Find New Customers. Find New Customers helps companies rapidly grow revenue by transforming how they attract, engage and win new customers. Contact Find New Customers by calling (516) 495-9350 or by sending an email to sales at findnewcustomers.com.

Find New Customers, can certainly help your business dramatically improve the flow of sales-ready leads to salespeople.” Paul Dunay, Buzz Marketing for Technology.


20 thoughts on “7 Personality Traits of Top Salespeople – from Harvard Business Review

  1. My mother used to say that I’d be good in sales because I liked to talk. Boy was she ever wrong. As you point out, less talking is better when it comes to being in sales. Ask questions and listen. Great article and thank you for your insight.

  2. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this
    matter to be actually something which I think I would never
    understand. It seems too complicated and very broad for me.
    I am looking forward for your next post, I will try
    to get the hang of it!

  3. I am really loving the theme/design of your site. Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility problems?
    A few of my blog visitors have complained about my blog not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Chrome.
    Do you have any tips to help fix this issue?

  4. When someone writes an article he/she maintains the idea of a
    user in his/her brain that how a user can understand it.
    Thus that’s why this post is outstdanding. Thanks!

  5. Having read this I thought it was really informative.
    I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this informative article together.

    I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and posting comments.
    But so what, it was still worth it!

  6. I like the helpful information you supply on your articles.
    I will bookmark your blog and test again right here regularly.

    I am quite sure I will be informed many new stuff
    proper here! Best of luck for the following!

  7. Yacon Syrup has pleasant sweet taste and allows been believed to taste
    in order to figs or raisins. Pour a little of the
    marinade into each squash and coat the sides. It enhances the flexibility in joint and nourishes the tissues in a
    natural way.

  8. It is normal with ADHD for other people to think we are faking
    it. Very BAD Minecraft Present Code Generator 360 Correct “Information”.
    When Troy Hunt, Australian software architect, analyzed the nearly 40,000 Sony passwords stolen by Lulz – Sec found that of the multiple accounts with the same
    user name (e-mail address) 92% used the same password.

  9. (ABC) indicated that Huisgenoot, You and Drum have reached the top of the their list.
    Kanchan Kumar Vaidya writes about “ daily news newspaper , Hindi news portal , Hindi Samachar.
    Lifestyle news and Indian economy news are most demanded sections from
    the news for people. The reception from the general public wasoverwhelmingly positive.

  10. com, nevertheless they have established clips from Japanese
    news regarding their animated segments. A lot derive from countries where folk have an inadequate command of
    English. The latest news coming our method is that most is just not well between Madhuri
    Dixit and Shri Ram Nene. PR Submission Benefits
    PR submission websites are a fantastic way to obtain information.

  11. My brother recommended I would possibly like this website.
    He used to be totally right. This post truly made my day.
    You cann’t imagine simply how a lot time I had spent for
    this info! Thanks!

  12. The best method to advertise your website is to use article-marketing sites.
    Viral contests let people share them and grow exponentially.
    Another way of getting your money’s worth is by ensuring
    that the strategy they provide fits in well with your own company’s strategy.
    Hence, you can easily know about your website as well as the required changes that need to be made.

  13. Thank you for some other wonderful post. Where else may just anyone
    get that kind of info in such a perfect method of writing?

    I’ve a presentation next week, and I’m at the look for such information.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s