Seven personality traits of top salespeople

Over the past decade, author, researcher and teacher Steve Martin has interviewed thousands of top business-to-business salespeople who sell for some of the world’s leading companies and administered personality tests to 1000 of them. His findings indicate that key personality traits directly influence top performers’ selling style. On the Harvard Business Review blog network, he has identified seven main personality attributes of top salespeople and the impact of these traits on their selling style.

1. Modesty. Contrary to conventional stereotypes that successful salespeople are pushy and egotistical, 91 percent of top salespeople had medium to high scores of modesty and humility. Furthermore, the results suggest that ostentatious salespeople who are full of bravado alienate far more customers than they win over.

2. Conscientiousness. Eighty-five percent of top salespeople had high levels of conscientiousness, whereby they could be described as having strong sense of duty and being responsible and reliable. These salespeople take their jobs very seriously and take command of the sales cycle process in order to control their own destiny.

3. Achievement Orientation. Eighty-four percent 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.

4. Curiosity. Curiosity can be described as person’s hunger for knowledge and information. Eighty-two percent of top salespeople scored extremely high curiosity levels. Top salespeople are naturally more curious than their lesser performing counterparts.

5. Lack of Gregariousness. Another surprising discovery was that overall, top performers averaged 30 percent lower gregariousness than below average performers. The results indicate that overly friendly salespeople are too close to their customers and have difficulty establishing dominance over them.

6. Lack of Discouragement. Less than 10 percent of top salespeople were classified as having high levels of discouragement. 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. The byproduct of high level of self-consciousness is bashfulness and inhibition. Less than five percent of top performers had high levels of self-consciousness.

Martin says 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 go to the top person in their accounts or courageously cold call new prospects.

• For the full blog visit: blogs.hbr.org

 

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