April 17, 2013

I consider that an education should last a lifetime, meaning you should never quit learning. Although I have been a sales trainer for a long time, I still consider myself very much a student, and relish finding new things to share with those interested in getting better results and making more money through improved sales techniques.

To that end, here are a couple of surprising facts about salespeople which I recently came across on the Web. Hopefully they can provide new insight and spark some ideas to help improve your business.

91 percent of the top salespeople are modest and humble

What? The top salespeople are not all loudmouth braggarts? Having trained over 70,000 salespeople, we at Asher can attest to this personally, but this is also backed up by facts. According to findings of personality tests administered to 1,000 sales professionals by USC’s Steve W. Martin, 91 percent of top salespeople scored medium to high in modesty and humility traits.

So for a sales manager evaluating prospective salespeople, keep in mind that they will likely “sell” you in job interviews in a similar fashion to how they will pitch your company’s products. If they come across as conceited and pushy to you, beware — even if their numbers look good on paper.

Top salespeople aren’t all that friendly

Another surprising fact revealed by the tests is that top salespeople are not especially friendly with buyers. Compared with poor performers, top performers scored 30 percent lower in gregariousness, which Martin defines as the preference for being with people and friendliness. Rather than become all “buddy-buddy,” they are able to establish dominance and get the willing obedience of their prospects in following recommendations.

This makes sense when viewed from the viewpoint of dealing with a trusted advisor. Would you prefer to hire an accountant or attorney that has a syrupy Mr. Nice Guy disposition, or one that, while approachable, is confident and serious with his advice?

Consider adding tests, such as aptitude assessment tests, to your onboarding process to identify prospects with desirable traits, such as dominance or persuasion.

Between 50 to 80 percent of salespeople fail to meet their quotas

Depending on the source, the reported percentage of salespeople who actually hit their quotas ranges between a disastrous 20 percent to a still-disappointing 50 percent. Poor sales organizations simply reprimand and fire, but this is costly and unproductive. A better approach would be to conduct the aforementioned aptitude assessments on existing staff and prospective hires, and invest some training dollars on those who show potential.

An article in Inc. which cites a study performed a couple of years ago by the Bridge Group shows that it takes an average of 4 and a half months for sales representatives to be fully productive, and stresses that it is more cost-effective to train than to offload. I agree with this, as long as the trainees have been tested first.

Sales have a lot to do with personality. Many things can be taught, but if the basic characteristics needed for success in sales are not present in your sales team or prospects, this is an uphill battle. Spend your training dollars wisely by using aptitude assessment tests and putting people in the right roles.