A recent HBR blog suggests there are seven traits that top performers have.
36 separate virtues were tested to find where the biggest differences between high and low performers lay.
The selling pool was from Enterprise Sales (“selling complex solutions such as software, hardware, business services, and big ticket capital equipment“), so beware, as different environments apparently show different results. Also, the list seems geared towards promotion of the psych-testing the author offers, which can always skew conclusions, can’t it.
Still, it seems clear that immodesty, unconscientiousness, no achievement orientation, no curiosity, highly gregarious, easily discouraged, and self-consciousness are all characteristics to avoid if you want to be a sales star.
I’m not traditionally a fan of these kinds of studies. They seem to play on the tired stereotype of the loud, brash, fibbing, fleeting, motormouth, short-cutting rep-cum-conman. And outside of Hollywood, successful salespeople have pretty much never fitted that mould. I also find them a bit like surveys that say things like “customers buy from reps that listen”. I yearn for more depth.
I also don’t think that ‘traits’ in isolation can ever provide a magic bullet. Top performers to me share factors like following a defined process, enjoying successful delivery and freedom-through-management that these kinds of lists could well benefit from incorporating in some way.
Nevertheless, anyone that reinforces the solid fundamentals can be applauded I guess.