The 5 Personality Traits You Need to Evaluate When Hiring Salespeople


The 5 Personality Traits You Need to Evaluate When Hiring Salespeople

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks
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No one wants a greasy, sleazy salesperson on their payroll.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the research behind what makes certain personality traits more preferable in the workplace, particularly on your sales team. We have identified five traits that you should look for while interviewing candidates, helping you assess and identify strong salespeople during the hiring process.

Where did these five personality traits come from?

“A common personality classification system referred to as the “Big Five”  (Digman, 1990) demonstrates a large majority of human behaviors can be categorized into one of five factors: Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Emotional Stability, Openness to Experience, and Agreeableness,” explains Ideal’s Head Data Scientist, Ji-A Min.

By combining the “Big Five” as a classification system with the results of a groundbreaking meta-analysis of 117 studies by Barrick and Mount, we were able to identify the Big Five personality traits in sales performance. Learn about them below.

How The Big Five Personality Traits Affect Sales Performance

1. Conscientiousness

Interestingly, conscientiousness was the trait with the highest correlation to sales performance. Very conscientious individuals are hard workers, and are responsible, organized, and achievement-driven. They respect leadership and take pride in a job well done.

2) Extroversion

Generally, extroverted individuals are energetic, assertive, talkative, and the centre of attention—the classic “people person”.

Unsurprisingly, extroversion had the second highest correlation with sales performance. This aligns with the extroverted personality we usually picture salespeople to have.

However, it is also possible to be too extroverted in sales. Some sellers tend to dominate conversations, to the point where they could be neglecting other people’s perspectives and could make customers hesitate to ask questions. Salespeople who are too extroverted could also come across as too pushy and may elicit negative reactions from customers.

3) Emotional Stability:

Emotional stability is a spectrum. Individuals who score high in this trait are calm and “stable,” while those on the low end may be more temperamental, anxious and nervous. While emotional stability showed a positive correlation to sales performance, the relationship was not strong enough to be statistically significant. This means that although emotional stability is a positive trait for sales, salespeople are not dependent on this trait to be successful.

4) Openness to Experience:

Somewhat counterintuitively, being open to new experiences has no correlation to sales performance. Individuals who are open to experience are imaginative and creative. They are open to trying new things and new methods of working.

5) Agreeableness:

Agreeable individuals are cooperative, good-natured, trusting, and tolerant—exactly what you would expect in a top salesperson. Interestingly, agreeableness showed no relationship with sales performance. It’s possible that highly agreeable sales reps lack the necessary closing abilities that are essential to the job.

The Personality Traits You Should Look For

While each trait is important, this research demonstrates that you should be paying special attention to a candidate’s Conscientiousness and Extraversion scores. 

How do you measure these qualities?

Begin by implementing a structured interview process. This means asking the same questions to each candidate and creating an objective measuring system for each trait. You can find a number of targeted interview questions online.

There are also sales recruiting assessments that automatically determine the unique selling style of your candidates. You can even cross-reference this data with your existing top performers and identify what makes for the best fit on your sales team.

Using scientifically validated research to inform your hiring decisions will set you apart from your competition. Sales hiring is a complicated art, but there is also a science behind it that you can use to your advantage.

Remember: You can’t have the best sales team without the best sales reps. By understanding the psychology behind effective selling, you can hire the best people for your sales team and create a positive ripple effect throughout all of your sales processes.

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