July 25, 2019

Research demonstrates that while you can improve a salesperson’s performance through training, the bulk of their success comes from innate personality traits. In other words, there is a lot of truth to the phrase “they are born with it” when it comes to selling.

An employment aptitude test such as the Advanced Personality Questionnaire (APQ) reveals these personality traits so recruiters, trainers, managers, and the tested applicants themselves can gauge weaknesses and strengths as they relate to specific sales roles.

So, what are the personality traits which make for a successful salesperson, and how does each relate to outside sales hunters and inside farmers?

There are nine primary traits covered by the APQ, and over 20 secondary ones. As you read the main ones described below, take note as to whether you feel you score high or low for each. You just might find a shift in your role as a salesperson (hunter to farmer, or vice versa) is in order.


Are you focused on achieving your quota, and able to knock barriers out of the way?

Goal orientation is the hallmark of the best outside salespeople. And the way it manifests in day-to-day work is through a marked sense of urgency and focus on getting things done now. Those with a low Intensity/Drive as revealed in an employment aptitude test might be easily distracted and fail to follow through when presented with challenges.

However, they also tend to be very patient and even-keeled, which appeals to buyers who require a lot of hand-holding. This makes them good customer service and inside sales reps.


Do you like to be in control and work without a lot of supervision?

Outside sales hunters tend to act without checking in with their bosses on every decision. Often called “rainmakers,” they can generate business seemingly out of thin air, because they see opportunities everywhere and don’t rely on anyone else to pursue them. One negative is this can lead to “lone wolf” syndrome where they see sales meetings and formal sales processes as pointless.

Inside sales farmers usually prefer a cooperative team dynamic and are eager to share successes with fellow salespeople. They “team up” with buyers rather than challenge them, and this can lead to slower deal velocity when compared with hunters.

Need to Analyze

Are facts, figures and details overweighted in making your sales presentations?
Hunters tend to focus on benefits and skip the minutiae of deals – which could turn off analytical-type buyers who need to be reassured that all “I”s are dotted and “T”s crossed. Having a low need to analyze trait, however, opens the door to selling the movers and shakers of the world, who tend to be more impulsive.

Conversely, those with a strong need to analyze rely less on intuition and experience to sell and prefer to lay things out in detail. These salespeople excel when selling to engineers, accountants, or technical buyers.

Need to Serve

Do you show concern and feel compassion for others?

A low score in this trait on an employment aptitude test reflects self-centeredness to some degree, but that is not always a negative. Hunters tend to have a low score here, but this enables them to stay on-task and avoid distractions due to personal issues.

Farmers and CSRs score high in this trait as they excel in building relationships and catering to the often capricious needs of high-maintenance customers.


Are you willing to control the buyer from initial contact all the way to closing?
Assertiveness is a trait important for both hunters and farmers. Above all other traits, if this one is missing, a career in sales is just not feasible because it takes assertiveness in order to break through buyer fears and rebuffs. Those who aren’t assertive simply give up too easily to make a living in sales.


Do you take criticism easily, or do you find the need to defend yourself and explain your faults away?
When someone scores high for this trait on an employment aptitude test, it can mean they find it hard to recognize their own weaknesses. This makes coaching a bit of a chore. Low scorers tend to take criticism personally, and are consequently more willing to work on their weak spots (coachable).

Drive for Recognition

When other people think of you, do they consider you a social butterfly? Or are you more reserved?
It’s probably obvious that hunters tend to have a higher drive for recognition than farmers, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a liability to be reserved. A low drive for recognition goes hand in hand with deeper one-on-one relationships as there is less need to spread oneself around. This makes a low score on this trait a possible clue to a good farmer.

That being said, the high drive for recognition present in most hunters means they go for the “Circle of Excellence” awards and other status symbols by closing the most deals as quickly as possible – a boon for any organization seeking to crush revenue goals.

Interpersonal Trust

Are you often skeptical of the intentions of co-workers, buyers, and management? If so, an employment aptitude test would likely show a low score in the Interpersonal Trust trait.

This doesn’t necessarily divide hunters from farmers, but a low score could indicate troubles building rapport due to rigid beliefs. And trusting too much could lead to the “everyone’s a prospect” syndrome, wasting time. Regardless of hunter or farmer, becoming aware of their score in this trait allows salespeople to consciously modify their attitude to become more effective when dealing with varying personality types.


For the final trait, think about whether you generally have a positive or negative outlook, especially when faced with challenges.

High scorers are positive thinkers who believe they control their own destinies and are responsible for their own status. They tend to make things go right despite opposition. This makes this trait very important for hunters.

Low scorers can become negative if not supported by positive reinforcement. As such, they work better in team environments, as inside sales farmers tend to do.

How do you feel you did? Are you more of an outside sales hunter? Or perhaps you lean towards an inside sales farmer? If you would like to be sure, I invite you to take the APQ employment aptitude test to get a complete picture. It includes compatibility scores for a wide range of sales jobs as well as coaching tips to s-t-r-e-t-c-h traits into more optimal ranges depending on your job.