FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Putting the Cart Before the Horse:
Does a “Sales Personality” Guarantee Successful Salespeople?
Researchers say no, cite one critical behavior that trumps personality
Dallas, TX – October 30, 2012 – Attention, employers: A recent study of U.S. salespeople suggests that personality tests “put the cart before the horse” when it comes to predicting sales success.
Years of high unemployment have led to a surge in applicants for sales positions. That’s hardly a boon for employers, who have a harder time than ever singling out potential top producers from the tide of wannabe superstars. With every hire, sales managers are betting that these new sellers will be worth the time, effort, and money spent on training them. The stakes are high: Across industries, 80% of all new sales hires wash out in the first year.
To help tip the odds in their favor, many managers turn to personality-based tests. But despite their popularity, studies show that having a “sales personality” is only one piece of a complex puzzle. In fact, says Trelitha R. Bryant, executive vice president of field testing and research at Dallas-based Behavioral Sciences Research Press (BSRP), focusing on personality to forecast sales success is putting the cart before the horse.
“Before personality traits, sophisticated training, or financial incentives can even come into play, salespeople must first have prospective buyers to sell to,” Bryant says. “That means sales prospecting. The link between prospecting behavior and sales productivity is well established.Knowing beforehand whether new hires can and will actually prospect comes first on the long list of competencies managers should look for.”
Earlier this year, Bryant teamed up with internationally noted behavioral scientist and author George W. Dudley to try to predict prospecting activity in salespeople. A sample of 1,627 U.S. salespeople from a variety of sales settings was equally split between those known to generate high levels of prospecting activity and those with very low demonstrated prospecting activity. Using a specialized psychological assessment called SPQ*GOLD®, the researchers measured the sellers’ level of comfort and willingness to prospect for new business. The same test was administered to an entirely different sample of 1,630 salespeople whose prospecting levels were unknown at the time of assessment. Then, using only a statistical model created from the first group’s test scores, the researchers were able to correctly identify 83% of the high prospectors and 79% of low prospectors in the second group.
“When you can predict sales prospecting accurately, you are in effect predicting sales success,” says Dudley. “The logic works this way: Prospecting doesn’t guarantee success. It’s possible to prospect without selling. But you can’t sell without customers to sell to, and that takes prospecting.”
Sales Call Reluctance® is the fear of self-promotion specifically found in salespeople. Its roots are based in the generalized fear of contact initiation, but more specifically associated with the fears of certain contact initiation activities and ideas associated with the role in a sales position or career.
Sales call reluctance is perplexing for sales managers, trainers and consultants to accurately predict during selection and even more difficult to detect in existing salespeople because it is not one thing. It is many. When the symptoms do become clear, it is often too late.
Through years of research, BSRP noticed the fear they were studying in call reluctant salespeople manifested differently in different individuals and common patterns began to develop. Eventually, twelve distinct forms of sales call reluctance were identified from this research. Each type is statistically unique. Each of the call reluctance types is behaviorally very narrow. Some types of prospecting may be disturbed while others are left untouched. A salesperson can be extremely uncomfortable initiating first contact with highly educated people but has no problem whatsoever asking for referrals or using the telephone. Another salesperson can be totally comfortable initiating contact with wealthy prospects but dread calling on highly educated prospective buyers. Call reluctance is the behavioral opposite of target marketing – it is emotion-based target avoidance.
Proper diagnosis of type is essential if you want to know, 1) what you are dealing with, 2) which “corrective measure” is likely to work best, and 3) what the outlook for improvement is. Type is important because it is from type that the most effective course of action is derived – “effective” meaning intervention likely to produce the biggest improvement in the shortest possible time to counter sales call reluctance. Some types are comparatively easy to overcome. Others are not. Some can’t be “cured” at all. Some types of call reluctance respond to certain training procedures better than others. Applying the wrong countermeasure, or the right countermeasure in the wrong order, or applying the same corrective technique to all types can be worse than doing nothing at all.
BSRP’s assessment, the SPQ*GOLD®, is very unique in that it focuses on the behavior of prospecting or contact initiation. It asks the general question, “Will this salesperson prospect?” And if the answers are showing no, it can explain why. It measures the twelve distinct types of Sales Call Reluctance behaviors in the individual taking the test. Those twelve types of Sales Call Reluctance behaviors are: Doomsayer, Over-Preparer, Hyper-Professional, Stage Fright, Sales Role Rejection, Yielder, Social Self-Consciousness, Separationist, Emotionally Unemancipated, Referral Aversion, Telephobia, and Oppositional Reflex.
Once type is known, help can be prescribed and the once call reluctant individual can be back on their way to earning what they are worth. Go to BSRP’s website to find out how you can take the SPQ*GOLD to see if sales call reluctance is holding you back from earning what you’re worth www.salescallreluctance.com .
The conflict most people experience when they try to stand up, step out and make their contributions visible is not pleasant. To some, it’s gut-wrenchingly stressful. Left unattended in certain professions like sales, it’s career lethal.
Each time we try to self-promote, this corrosive conflict gets re-experienced. Eventually, through repetition and association, it solidifies into a mindless habit. Once formed into a habit, we become uncomfortable every time we try to draw attention to the positive “features and benefits” that characterize us. All the conflicts, hesitations and fears associated with making first contact for career-advancement purposes, can be collected into a common cluster, technically called “Inhibited Social Contact Initiation Syndrome (ISCIS)” and nicknamed the fear of self-promotion. This fear is real and it has measurable consequences.
When the fear of self-promotion specifically contaminates salespeople, it’s called Sales Call Reluctance® because it places an artificially low ceiling on the number of first contacts which can be initiated with prospective buyers on a consistent daily basis. Some salespeople only make a fraction of the calls they could. Others make even fewer. Some don’t make any. They can’t. For them, prospecting for new business is emotionally out of bounds. Cut off from opportunities to sell, their sales careers flounder and flop, until finally, they’re finished.
Time and time again, throughout the last thirty years, BSRP’s applied and theoretical call reluctance research has shown that the fear is real, it is measurable, it can undermine careers, and the first place you’ll feel call reluctance is in your wallet. Cross–industry studies conducted by BSRP show that 80% of all new salespeople fail to complete their first year in sales. The reason is they don’t sell enough. They don’t sell enough because they don’t have enough prospective buyers to sell to. They don’t have enough people to sell to because they don’t prospect enough. They don’t prospect enough because it’s too stressful. And it doesn’t stop there. Approximately 40% of all veteran producers admit to one or more episodes of sales call reluctance severe enough to threaten their continuation in sales. Call reluctance claims more otherwise promising sales careers each year than all other factors combined. And it can be just as destructive in non-sales settings.
Could call reluctance be threatening your career? If you think you could be suffering from sales call reluctance, the people at Behavioral Sciences Research Press can provide you with some valuable information that could help get you where you want to go. Go to their website www.salescallreluctance.com .
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Does the idea of practicing self-promoting behaviors seem like something you just can’t possibly do? Or, maybe you just won’t do? Whatever the reasons may be for this, please understand that not promoting yourself will limit your success, regardless of what it is you do for a living, and it can hit those who are in contact dependent work settings especially hard.
If any of this hits home, you may be suffering from the fear of self-promotion. The fear is real. It is measurable. And it can keep competent and deserving people in many walks of life from being recognized for their contributions and therefore, earning what they’re worth. Many people who fear applying self-promotion to their career interests bring innocent expectations with them to those careers that are not met by the harsh realities of the workplace. These people often end up being unrecognized, overlooked and underappreciated. They become invisible cogs in the company engine. They work to keep the place humming, but no one knows who they are or what they do, and their paychecks most often reflect that. The reasons for being unwilling or unable to self-promote will vary from person to person, but these reasons will all stem from the same roots – fear. Once you face the fear and learn to control or even overcome it, you’ll be on your way to using those self-promoting behaviors to get you where you want to go. BSRP has a way to help you figure out if you could be suffering from the fear of self-promotion and if you are, they also have the tools to help you face the fear and get you on your way to being a better self-promoter and earning what you’re worth. Visit the website for more information on that- www.salescallreluctance.com .
The fear of self-promotion is found everywhere in motivated, goal-striving people in all kinds of careers who have trouble promoting themselves. When it is found limiting salespeople, it is known as Sales Call Reluctance® because it places an artificially low ceiling on the number of first contacts which can be comfortably initiated with prospective clients on a consistent basis. If you are a salesperson who might be suffering from sales call reluctance, keep reading because I’ll be looking at Sales Call Reluctance in more detail soon.
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Superstar self-promotion for the everyday worker is not as far-fetched as you might think. The question is, how do you take this behavior and apply it to the types of careers that most of us in the working world hold? We won’t hold press conferences and stage mega-performances like Madonna (see previous blog entry), but a scaled down version of self-promoting behaviors is absolutely do-able. Remember the three key behaviors of natural self-promoters? They are positioning, style and consistency. Try these behaviors on for size. Use positioning to get where you want to go. Open your address book, utilize your contacts list, work your networking groups, and be active and alert in your social systems, always looking for ways to help you position yourself. Let your style get you remembered. It is what will set you apart from the rest of the crowd. And keep your self-promoting behaviors going consistently. Practice. Practice. Practice. Make it a way of life.
Applying these self-promoting behaviors to the kinds of jobs that most people have is not complex. Even if some of these behaviors don’t exactly feel “natural,” they can be done. It’s all about making yourself VISIBLE. Start by taking credit for who you are and the contributions you have made. If you don’t, be assured, someone else will. Competent performance without assertive self-promotion creates a recognition vacuum. Secure credit for those accomplishments or get that promotion by making sure you are visible. And make sure your good work gets rewarded. Payoffs for good work generally lie outside your control, whether they may be public recognition or financial reward. Actively promoting your good work is likely to provide you with the payoffs you desire. Also, make sure people remember you. Develop your “style” which could be anything from an interesting signature on your emails, a memorable logo, a color you always wear, a stand-out business card, to a one-of-a-kind greeting you use. Make sure it is original and something people will associate with only you. That’s what will make you stand out from the crowd. And don’t forget about those contacts. Utilize every possible opportunity to network your way to where you want to go. Use contacts and networks to obtain introductions, sales, job positions, referrals, information, advice, etc. Lastly, never stop. Make these behaviors a way of life. Practice them consistently and constantly. If you do, you should reap the benefits self-promotion offers.
But, what if you can’t? What if the idea of practicing these self-promoting behaviors seems an impossible task, something you just can’t or won’t do? If this sounds like you, you may be suffering from the fear of self-promotion which can limit the success of anyone, especially those in a contact dependent work setting.
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The Super Bowl Halftime Show was a spectacular event with Madonna as the headlining performer. Her performance was not a retrospective of her greatest hits like some dismal halftime performances of recent Super Bowl pasts turned out to be. Fifty-three year old Madonna managed to make it fresh, current, and alive. She brought along younger artists for the performance and used them to help punch up her oldies and introduce her new music (yes, she is still out there making new music). She held press conferences, leaked information from rehearsals, staged a gigantic production involving choirs, drummers and dancers, and made it all enjoyable for those who’ve known her since the 1980s as well as those who may not have known her at all. And that’s the key with Madonna. There probably was a large group of younger people out there who really didn’t know her that well, if at all. But they do now, and that is due to Madonna’s skill as a natural self-promoter. Whether you like her or not as a performer, you have to admit, Madonna is a superstar when it comes to self-promotion.
So what exactly is it that natural self-promoters do? Natural self-promoters seem to instinctively understand the need to stand in the spotlight and are drawn to opportunities for self-promotion. However, unlike most of us, natural self-promoters seem to genuinely enjoy the process. They also are inclined to share three common behaviors. The first is positioning. Positioning is how natural self-promoters get there. They fully utilize their existing contacts, networks, and social systems and remain on the lookout for ways to develop new ones. Natural self-promoters know they are not the only people positioning for the best contacts and advantages. Sometimes there’s a crowd. So strategy shifts from getting noticed to getting remembered. That’s where style comes in. Think of style not in terms of its essence, but in terms of one of its primary functions: Style is what you do that sets you apart from the crowd and gets you remembered. Now that you’re getting remembered, how do you stay remembered? Consistency is the third common behavior of natural self-promoters. To natural self-promoters, staying in the spotlight is not an impulse or a grim necessity. It is a way of life. Self-promotion is an important aspect of modern career management. Natural self-promoters know it and constantly practice it.
So, is Madonna a superstar of self-promotion? She practices positioning. She is an icon of style. She has been a major figure in the media since the 1980s and just keeps going. I would say yes. We may not all want to emulate her in our chosen careers, but we could definitely learn something beneficial from her self-promotion behaviors.
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