Dependent as companies are for top-line growth on the selection, assessment, and development of their sales people, they naturally invest a good deal of time, budget, and mental energy in the process. But how effective are we at absorbing scientific learnings about what determines success in a sales role?
When we ask sales directors what they look for in potential recruits, they place a lot of emphasis on the rapport established during the interview process. After all, the argument runs, this person needs to be able to establish great relationships with our customers. Hence, the enduring mystery of why so many pleasant, affable, ‘natural’ sales people perform brilliantly at interview but disastrously in their role: while building rapport is important, research from CEB in the US tells us that if sales people are defined by their emphasis on building relationships, then they are unlikely to be high performers. Why? Because this emphasis means that they tend to yield rather than challenge the customer or take control of the sale.
We see sales recruiters frequently put candidates through personality tests that measure dimensions of personality originally conceived by Karl Jung. When asked what they look for in potential sales people, recruiters frequently cite extraversion. Surely, high performing sales people need to be outgoing types if they’re going to put themselves out there and establish a rapport with the customer, don’t they? The evidence suggests otherwise.