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Seven Personality Traits of Top Salespeople

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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.

 

Over the past decade, Martin interviewed thousands of top business-to-business salespeople who sell for some of the world's leading companies. He also administered personality tests to 1000 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.

His findings indicate key personality traits directly influence top performers' selling style and ultimately their success.

By all means full the article in HBR as well (link below). Here we discuss the main key personality attributes of top salespeople and their impact of their traits on their selling style. You may be totally surprised and realize you’re looking for the wrong type of person for sales…

  1. Modesty. Contrary to stereotypes, successful salespeople are not pushy and egotistical., 91% of top salespeople had medium to high scores of modesty and humility. The results even suggested the loud, extravagant back-slappers that Hollywood portrays as sales stars actually alienate far more customers than they win over.
  2. Conscientiousness. 85% of top salespeople had high levels of conscientiousness, and could be described as having a strong sense of duty and being responsible and reliable. Top salespeople take command of the sales cycle process in order to control their own destiny.
  3. Achievement Orientation. 84% of the top performers scored very high in achievement orientation. They fix goals and continuously measure their performance.
  4. Curiosity. If you measure a person's hunger for knowledge and information, 82% of top salespeople scored extremely high curiosity levels.
  5. Lack of Gregariousness. Overall, top performers averaged 30% lower gregariousness than below average performers. Instead they go for dominance, the ability to gain the willing obedience of customers (so that the salesperson's recommendations and advice are followed). Results indicate overly friendly salespeople are too close to their customers and have difficulty establishing dominance.
  6.  Sales Course

  7. Lack of Discouragement. Less than 10% of top salespeople discourage easily or are frequently overwhelmed with sadness. A very high percentage of top performers played organized sports in school. There seems to be a correlation between sports and sales success as top performers are able to handle emotional disappointments, bounce back from losses, and mentally prepare for the next opportunity to compete.
  8. Lack of Self-Consciousness. Self-consciousness (how easily someone is embarrassed) shows up in less than 5% of top performers. Top salespeople comfortably fight for their cause and are not afraid to rattle customers in the process.

Why do some salespeople succeed where others fail? Given the same sales tools, same level of education, and same propensity to work… not all salespeople are successful. This evidence suggests personality plays the critical role in determining success.

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.

Go Read Steve W. Martin in HBR