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Does a “sales personality” guarantee sales success?

November 5, 2012 Leave a comment


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.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Does Social Media Help Salespeople Sell?

May 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Dallas, Texas, May 10, 2012. Social media technologies have re-shaped how we interact. But do they help salespeople sell? 

Not according to the results of two surveys presented at the 2012 annual convention of the Southwestern Psychological Association in Oklahoma, City. The surveys, reported by behavioral scientists, Trelitha R. Bryant and George W. Dudley at Behavioral Sciences Research Press in Dallas, Texas, were presented April 13, 2012. Bryant and Dudley asked 4,768 salespeople (67% men, 33% women, average age 40) in more than 1,000 U.S. companies which form of client communication is most helpful for generating new sales. The salespeople were surveyed as part of a standard assessment protocol for sales professionals which included the Sales Preference Questionnaire (SPQ*GOLD®), a psychological test used worldwide to detect emotional discomfort associated with prospecting for new business. Almost 70% (+/-1%) said established forms of communication (face-to-face and telephone contact) were most helpful generating new sales. Only 10% (+/-.14%) claimed email was most effective and less than 10% said other forms of computer-mediated communication were most effective. Results were not age-related.

“Further analyses uncovered another relationship,” Dudley said. “Salespeople claiming social media is most effective might be struggling with sales call reluctance®, an emotional impediment to production characterized by apprehension, conflict, hesitation or avoidance specifically associated with sales prospecting. They had elevated prospecting distress scores on eleven of the twelve forms of sales call reluctance measured by the test.”

To confirm their results, the research team conducted a follow-up study of 1,512 additional salespeople (64%male; 36% female, average age 40). The outcome was essentially the same (68% said conventional, 2.8% computer-mediated). “The second study confirmed what we learned in the first,” Bryant said, “including the link with sales call reluctance.  Computer-mediated social media may help find a date, keep tabs on old friends or support a political campaign. But most salespeople don’t think it’s as helpful as conventional person-to-person contact for generating new sales. ”

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