Sales Personality Traits Draw A Fine Line Between Success and Failure

Not all salespeople are successful. Given the same experience and education,Sales Personality Personality Test why do some salespeople succeed where others fail? Is it motivation? Product knowledge? Evidence suggests that key personality traits directly influence a top performers’ selling style and ultimately their success. What follows is a list of my findings after reviewing thousands of sales personality tests and post-hire discussions with clients.

Collaborative – A fine line exists between confidence and bravado, ambition and selfishness. Ego and greed are two sales personality traits that don’t mix well with clients. While there is no question that the salesperson who believes “that second place is the first place for losers” can be successful, that’s a tough blueprint for sustainable relationships. Long-term high value clients don’t develop when every sales transaction has a winner and loser. Top performing salespeople in all but the low-margin, high volume transactional sale requires the ability to collaborate with, not compete against, customers. The focal point of every sales transaction should be team, which includes the customer and other critical players within the company. A dash of modesty and humility wouldn’t hurt either.

Conscientiousness – The stereotypical salesperson is often deemed to be synonymous with over-promising, under-delivering. It’s also a given that most top performers don’t like completing and submitting reports. But not liking details and low compliance doesn’t bode well with clients. One trait that differentiates top performers from average and below-performers is conscientiousness, having a high level of reliability and accountability.

Curiosity – A passion for asking questions (and then listening for the answer) is a trait that over three-quarters of top performers possess. Especially in today’s marketplace, a thirst for knowledge and desire to be a subject matter expert is a must. Unfortunately for many previously successful salespeople, a large part of their past success relied on others spoon feeding them information. But now, the ability to solve problems quickly is a key differentiator. This doesn’t mean that every top performer is a walking/talking encyclopedia. But it does mean that he or she has to know what to ask and where to get the information about a customer’s business, competition, and customers almost on the fly. On the other hand, low performers take too much for granted and accept too much information at face value.

Sociability – One of the most surprising differences between top performing salespeople and those ranking in the bottom half is their level of sociability and outgoingness – and that doesn’t mean hire extroverts, reject introverts. Many “best fit” models place a high value on extroversion as a predictor for sales success. But research has shown time and again that listening skills are just as important to selling as networking and persuasiveness. Managers tend to be impressed with the extrovert who can walk into a room of 100 strangers and within minutes be the life of the party. They are the analog equivalent of the Facebook user who has 5,000 “friends,” a large rolodex. But extroverts have a tendency to do a lot of talking and not enough listening (That’s what makes them extroverts!) But how many salespeople do you know (or maybe even hired) that has thousands of contacts but few sales. While presentation and interpersonal skills are critical, over-reliance on sociability and extroversion as key indicators for hiring salespeople leads to a significant number of failures. In other words, the introvert who is curious, articulate, and personable yet reserved, can be just as successful if not more so than the gregarious extrovert.

Stability – Resilience and coping skills are likely the most overlooked traits when it comes to selecting salesperson. Emotional stability which drives both resilience and stress management is also the most misunderstood trait. In one study after the other, too much stability is as bad as too little when it comes to predicting top performers. In fact, in several studies, 50 percent of low performing salespeople had so much composure that they lacked a sense of urgency, an Achilles Heel in most sales organizations. Likewise, candidates who had an “edge” about them – always restless and anxious, almost ADHD-like – often turn out to be the high-energy, always “on” individuals. Management rewards them for hard work and loyalty, only to discover that they are also high maintenance, demanding, and needy. Over time, the team of “Energizer” bunnies wears everyone down around them, including the manager. Of all the sales personality traits, the right amount of emotional stability is one of the most predictive of top performance.

These five traits can be assessed easily with a number of different employee assessment tools, including a combination sales personality tests and behavioral interviewing. The assessment model I recommend is based on the 5-Factor model, most easily remembered by the acronym OCEAN – openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. We currently offer three different assessments based on this model – Clues, Prevue, and ASSESS.

Learn more about each of these assessments and how they might fit in your business, contact us today for a complimentary, no-obligation, employee selection consultation. We guarantee that you will take away valuable information that you can implement immediately to improve your company’s hiring process – regardless of whether you become a client of ours.

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This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.

Jobs in Demand Can’t Be Automated.

The evidence that many forms of traditional work are getting automated and outsourced is mounting. Basically, jobs in the 21st century workplace are moving from simple and manual to complex and knowledge-based.

Another way of putting it is based on what Gary Hamel describes as the Creative Economy. We have moved from:

  • Industrial Economy based on physical capital
  • Information Economy based on information
  • Creative Economy based on ideas

When dealing with work problems we can categorize the response as either Jobs in Demand Can't Be Automated.   known or new. Known problems require access to the right information to solve them. This information can be mapped, and frameworks such as knowledge management help us to map it. We can also create tools to do work and not have to learn all the background knowledge in order to accomplish the task. This is how simple knowledge gets automated. Any job that deals with the routine and repeatable is at risk for being replaced by software and offshoring.

On the other hand, work that is valued, and therefore creates high-demand jobs, is in facing the complex and complicated, not in addressing problems that have already been solved. There will always be however complex problems that cannot be solved through automation.

Complex, new problems need tacit knowledge to solve them. Exception-handling is becoming more important in the 21st century workplace. The system handles the routine stuff and people, usually working together, deal with the exceptions. As these exceptions get addressed, some or all of the solution can get automated, and so the process evolves.

The competitive marketplace, with its growing complexity due to our inter-connectivity, requires that the modern and future workforce focus on new problem solving and exception-handing. Valued skills will be needed for managing, interpreting, validating, transforming, communicating and acting on ambiguous and fast changing information. Results will depend upon collaboration (working together on a problem) and cooperation (sharing without any specific objective). Workers with these skills can perform tasks requiring a level of action that can’t be automated easily.

A recent white paper (Future of Work) published by Vistage summed up the challenge nicely:

One challenge for organizations is getting people to realize that what they know has little value. How to solve problems together is becoming the real business imperative. Sharing and using knowledge is where business value lies. With computer systems that can handle more and more of our known knowledge, the 21st century worker has to move to the complex and chaotic edge to get the real (valued & paid) work done. In 50 years, this may not be an issue, but right now there are many people who need help with this challenge. This is the important work of leaders everywhere: enabling the current workforce to enter the 21st century.

Learn How to Applicants Test General Mental Abilities.

 

This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.

 

7 Reasons Why Employees Fail

If you ask 100 managers explain why employees fail, you will likely get at least 101 different answers. But once you remove all the smoke, mirrors, theories, and old wives tales, there are really only seven reasons. 

1. Lack of Technical Skills/Knowledge. Everywhere you turn these days it seems you read and hear about the shortage of skilled workers and the Baby Boomer brain drain. A lack of skills and experience may prevent a candidate from being hired but is far from the most common reason, an employee is terminated. In fact, most employers seems to be overly tolerant of under- and unskilled employees they like.

2. Cognitive Skill Mismatch. Cognitive skills, or general mental abilities, are playing an ever-increasing role in employee performance. Unfortunately, few employers recognize or understand how important they are. But human nature tends to want to hire “really smart people” even when the job doesn’t require it or the culture support it. That just leads to early boredom and frustration. Just as common a mistake is underestimating the role cognitive skills play when an employee is up for a promotion. A very capable supervisor with average or even low abilities might fail as a manager because the new role requires them to manage a more complex environment and respond at a faster pace. Going forward, more employees will fail if cognitive skills are ignored.

3. Poor Personality Fit. At the core of every human being are key personality traits that determine how people respond to competition, initiative, conflict, flexibility, traditions and organizational policy, large groups of people, mental toughness, curiosity and more. Research shows that these traits predispose many workers toward a “natural” competence in areas such as drive for results, follow-through, detail-orientation, planning and organizing, interpersonal skills and stress management. Mismatches between a proven “best-fit” profile for the job and the individual in the job leads to significantly higher incidences of turnover, poor performance and stress.

4. Poor Behavioral Style Fit. Behavioral styles predict no more and no less than how an individual will behave in the workplace. It doesn’t predict success or competence but the way people will respond to (or ignore) problems, people, pace of the environment and procedures. Mismatches between job and personal styles and inter-personal styles don’t necessarily guarantee failure but do ensure that stress and conflict will eventually show its ugly and costly face. How an individual learns to adapt and a manager learns to respond ultimately determines if harnessing the energy of behavioral style will boom or doom employee performance.

5. Poor Values Fit (Motivation).While people can learn to adapt behavioral styles, adjusting personal values, or motivators, is not so easy. In fact, people generally don’t change what’s most important in their lives without some life-altering event like the death of a loved one, a personal tragedy, starting a family, divorce and so on. When values collide, some people will adjust their behaviors to reduce conflict between other people or the job. But with time, the tension between different values wins out. Workers then decide to leave the job or fight for their cause. In either case, the cost to the employer (and many times the health of the employee) is enormous. Selecting individuals who are motivated by the job and/or company culture is just one way to make sure employees expend their energy on productivity not conflict.

6. Poor Team Fit. While team fit is a very common cause of employee failure, it is really cited as the reason. But it has been my experience and contention that fit on a team trumps job fit any day. A highly skilled employee who doesn’t mesh with the team for any number of reasons either will be driven out of an organization by conflicting co-workers or the co-workers themselves might leave. In either case, the effectiveness of a competent employee will never be realized if he or she doesn’t fit on the team.

7. Poor Cultural Fit. Team and cultural fit may be synonymous for small business. But in larger organizations, a highly skilled individual can become a lost soul if his personal values clash with the culture. It could be as simple as the employee wanting the opportunity to climb the career ladder but the path to do this is reserved for a chosen few. Or it could be the Fortune 500 executive who accepts a position in a non-profit organization. Competence and experience don’t have a chance to shine if the culture suffocates it. More commonly, value differences over faith, politics, or management style can easily turn a high performing employee into a failure.

So there you have it – the seven reasons employees fail. Now the question becomes” what can an employer do to prevent these failures.”

One of the most efficacious things a company can do is match people to jobs, teams and cultures. Hire, promote, and build teams that play to employee skills, behavioral style, motivations and values respectively. Making these good employee job matches requires that managers possess rich and detailed information about their employees and candidates. Pre-employment and professional development assessments are not only cost effective, valid, and legal but also a prerequisite for recruiting, retaining, and engaging employees.

This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.
 
 

How Far Have We Fallen If Punctuality and Cleanliness Are Job Training Achievements?

Last month’s gain of 192,000 net new jobs indicated that job creation might finally be on the uptick. The unemployment rate -down to 8.9 percent – has now declined nearly a full percentage point since November 2010, the steepest drop over a three-month span since 1983.

While that’s good news, Elaine Chao, former Secretary of Labor, reminded participants attending the 2011 Human Capital Institute Summit, that we actually need 200,000 net new jobs per month just to keep up with our growing population. (That’s not so bad compared to China, where they need 25 million net new jobs per year just to keep up with their growing population.)

New jobs and a falling unemployment rate, despite what the press and political pundits might have you beleive, aren’t the only things that matters when we look toward an economic recovery.

The labor participation is still quite low. According to Chao, we’re only at 62.4 percent, the lowest it has been in 25 years. Chao describes the reason for the low participation as a general lack of confidence that people currently have around their ability to find new jobs.

Chao also confirmed her belief that American workers still have high education levels and strong skills sets. It’s just that we don’t have enough of these skilled, educated workers to fill jobs in the fastest growth areas – Nanotechnology, Geospacial Technology, Life Sciences, and Healthcare – that will plague employers for years to come.

Up until this point in her presentation, there wasn’t much to argue with – facts are facts.

Then the tide turned for me. It was her example of “one of the few great remaining training grounds” – the fast food industry. I’m not disputing that the industry isn’t doing a good job. But I find it depressing that she felt their efforts warranted such attention because the fast food training curriculum must cover these basics:

  • Punctuality is important.
  • Personal hygiene is important.
  • Anger management/conflict resolution.
  • When this boss tells you something, it isn’t a suggestion!

Is training workers to be punctual and clean something so compelling that a former Secretary of Labor feels it’s worthy of commendation? Has our education and training systems fallen so far that timeliness and cleanliness are significant achievements? When we’re talking about finding a way to ramp up the skills of workers so that we can compete effectively in a changing global marketplace, shouldn’t we be recognizing companies or industries that excel at training workers to think creativity, solve complex problems, manage virtual teams, or deliver outstanding customer service?

The state of our workforce may be improving but if training punctuality and personal hygiene is the best example of good job training we can offer, we will be seriously outmanned in our efforts to compete in a global economy.

This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.