The Japanese say that you have three faces. The first face, you show to the world. The second face, you show to your close friends and your family. The third face, you show to no one but yourself.
Sales requires resilience. One moment you’re dealing with a high intent prospect who’s about to close a deal, and the next, you’re explaining to your manager why you lost them at the eleventh hour.
In such a volatile environment, you end up using various personalities to deal with situations, be it consciously or subconsciously. Either way, you can’t maneuver the sales world with just one uniform personality.
To understand sales personalities in more detail, I had a conversation with Sales Confidence Coach, CEO of VisionBoard Music, and Founder of the Hi-Five to the Vibe Movement, Michelle ‘Emtre’ Hollis.
The Socioanalytic Theory of Personality
Before we dissect the various kinds of sales personalities, let’s take a moment to understand the socioanalytic theory of personality. This theory states that personality is best defined from the perspectives of both the individual and the observer.
To the individual, their personality is their identity i.e., what they perceive themselves to be. To the observer, however, that becomes reputation—what others perceive them to be.
“The truth is that every salesperson has to have a lot of different personalities. It may be exhausting, but it can become more of an internal growth too. It requires you to personally develop yourself and build that resilience to keep yourself moving forward.”—Michelle ‘Emtre’ Hollis (Sales Confidence Coach, CEO of VisionBoard Music, and Founder of the Hi-Five to the Vibe Movement)
The ‘Big Five’ Personalities & Their Effect on Sales Performance
The most popular personality assessment tests include the Jung Test, the DISC test, and the Big Five Personality Test. Of these, the Big Five test is the most scientifically validated and reliable model to measure personality.
So let’s pick the Big Five and explore the personalities listed under it.
The Big Five personality traits are:
- Openness to experience
These characteristics essentially cater to the basic human needs. The first three (conscientiousness, agreeableness, and neuroticism) align with the human need to get along, whereas the last couple (extroversion and openness to experience) caters to the human need to get ahead. Each of these characteristics has a different effect on sales performance.
Conscientiousness is the drive to fulfill one’s duties and responsibilities to the best of their ability. The main characteristics of conscientious salespeople are:
- Excellent impulse control
- Attention to detail
Thanks to their organized and results-oriented personality, conscientiousness is the most valid predictor of ideal performance criteria. Thus, conscientious salespeople are often the most sought-after by recruiters.
An agreeable salesperson is one that is empathetic, patient, kind, and trustworthy. They are able to make their prospects feel comfortable and connect with them at an emotional level.
Their emotional intelligence enables them to mirror their prospects’ emotions and feelings, leading to the creation of a common ground between them. These positive social characteristics make them highly customer-oriented, improving their sales performance as a result.
However, agreeableness, as research indicates, is more likely to have a higher impact on sales performance when juxtaposed with other more significant qualities like conscientiousness and openness to experience.
Neuroticism is the degree to which a person experiences the world. It is the extent to which they experience feelings and emotions such as anger, rejection, irritability, anxiety, and self-consciousness.
Salespeople with high neuroticism (low emotional stability) tend to get overwhelmed when things don’t go their way. They are more likely to fall into a spiral of self-doubt and insecurity when they face rejection for factors even outside their control.
Meanwhile, those with low neurotic scores (high emotional stability) tend to be less bothered by rejection and negative events in the workplace. This translates to better overall performance because sales as a profession requires the individual to deal with a variety of people from different cultures, a variety of situations from highs to lows, and a variety of emotions from excitement to dejection.
The less overwhelming their emotional response to an incident, the more easily they can move on with their day.
Extroversion is the state of being interested in and seeking gratification from what is outside the self. Extroverted salespeople actively engage with their prospects, customers, and colleagues to feed their social battery. They are a contrast to introverts, who seek gratification from within the self.
Extroverts are great salespeople to have in your sales team. They are excellent motivators and often think outside the box to explore solutions. Although they possess a significant amount of desirable sales qualities, the role of introversion and extroversion in sales performance is thought to be trivial.
#5 Openness to experience
Salespeople with high levels of openness to new experiences are most often creative, imaginative, and flexible. Their orientation towards new ideas keeps them open to change and hence, they find it easier to adapt quickly to the latest and best sales processes.
High scorers of openness to experience, obviously, have a better sales performance. Meanwhile, low scorers in this area tend to stick to old methods and hence, might have poor sales performance in comparison.
These are just the basic personality categories. As per the socioanalytic theory, you can define only a part of your personality. The other part is defined by how others perceive you. Thus, there are no labels, only broad categories. You could belong to one, many, or none of these categories.
As salespeople, you might find yourself often combining and mixing up different sales personality types to fit your need.
The Instances of Multiple Sales Personalities
Sales is an emotions game. Salespeople might have to put on a conscientious, agreeable personality when conversing with a prospect, even though they might be dealing with a negative neurotic response from a previously lost deal.
They might be bursting with ideas and things to talk about but might have to suppress the extroverted urge to express themselves as sales is more about listening to and understanding the prospect.
“Being able to acknowledge our mood, open our hearts, and heal within ourselves as we move through our career is a process. Sometimes you may just not feel like it, sometimes you may be dealing with problems outside of work. Sometimes, it might even bring up things about your character that you may be uncomfortable with—like realizing you’re scared to call somebody. But hey, dealing with such situations is how you grow.”—Michelle ‘Emtre’ Hollis
#1 During Cold Calls
For many salespeople, the term ‘cold calls’ can induce cold feet. Anxiety and nervousness often creep up on the caller as they try and hook the prospect with the value of their product for their business.
Conscientiousness is the biggest skill that helps salespeople ace cold calls. A conscientious salesperson goes into a cold call after completing their research and planning out their call from start to end, so they can put their best efforts into the call.
Meanwhile, high neuroticism can throw them off during cold calls due to the low success rate of cold calls. A negative response to rejection can follow them to their subsequent calls, creating a snowball effect of negativity. Likewise, a lack of openness to experience too can lower the chances of a desired outcome.
“I believe that the attraction point during cold calls is knowing who you are, knowing what you’re offering is a great product, and knowing that you have the ability to listen and understand what your prospect needs. Even though a cold call may last only a few minutes, you still get the chance to ask the right questions and connect with them before recommending your product. It’s not as much putting a personality on as it is connecting with your prospect’s personality.”—Michelle ‘Emtre’ Hollis
#2 When Dealing With Prospects
When dealing with prospects in scenarios with a more relaxed time frame, you can put on your agreeable personality, along with your conscientious side. Being patient, trustworthy, and observant is best in such cases.
“Being an observant leader starts with listening. Learning when to talk and when to be quiet is a skill that we can all use, no matter who we are.”—Michelle ‘Emtre’ Hollis
Extroversion too, aids you in conversations by keeping you confident, energetic, and active. It’s like having hardy, efficient batteries to keep you going. However, sales is less about expressing ourselves and more about getting the prospect to express themselves. It’s a collaborative effort. So, conscientious salespeople tend to keep their extroverted side in check.
#3 When Dealing With Colleagues
Since your ability to reach your quota has the potential to impact your remuneration, it can be easy to let your competitive side take over. When your teammates are able to reach goals that you’re not reaching, the inferiority that builds up can manifest in even worse performance, especially in cases of high neuroticism.
“It’s important to feel, and to be able to perform as a part of your sales team. This can be difficult to achieve when you’re working remote. There’s a disconnect in the sales team, you’re onboarding people, but the organization isn’t being connected in a way that’s very intentional.—Michelle ‘Emtre’ Hollis
When you can align somebody’s personal goals with who they are, you can help them see themselves as part of the organziation. That’s when you have a team of loyal employees that feel like they’re part of a family.”
How Multiple Sales Personalities Affect the Psyche
So far, we explored multiple sales personalities and how salespeople have to switch between them to get through their day. Most salespeople have the resilience to take on this responsibility. Nevertheless, adapting one’s personality so often can take an emotional toll on anyone.
You might have to switch when dealing with prospects at the top stages of the funnel as opposed to those at the bottom ones. You might have to switch when dealing with your colleagues as opposed to dealing with your manager. You have to switch from within to save yourself from demotivation. Of course, all this is easier said than done.
Add to this the emotional baggage from your personal life and you end up losing yourself. Such a situation can:
- Lower productivity
- Hamper creativity
- Affect social and communication skills
- Affect memory
- Reduce motivation
- Reduce cognitive ability
- Affect problem-solving skills
A profession as demanding as sales requires a clear mind. With so many people to interact with and so many personalities to switch between, that becomes challenging.
“Your response to difficult situations plays a huge factor. Something a prospect said might make you feel small. You might wonder why it’s affecting you this deeply because after all, you’re just selling a product. Your acknowledgment of it itself goes a long way in helping you grow. Because pushing it away or burying it only makes it worse.”—Michelle ‘Emtre’ Hollis
So What Can Sales Managers Do To Help?
Fire the ones that show high neuroticism? Host a pizza party when their sales team reports a burnout and call it a day?
Although a pizza party isn’t a bad idea, a sales manager’s responsibility goes further than that. When asked about the same, Michelle had quite a few solutions as to how sales managers can help.
#1 Create a safe space
Michelle recommends that the best way for sales managers to help their team deal with the exhaustion of switching between multiple sales personalities is by creating a safe space for them. The objective of such a space is to give your team space to breathe.
Such a space would allow them to be themselves for once without having to switch between sales personalities. This also aids them in relaxing and getting comfortable around their colleagues.
Michelle hosts her own Sacred Sunday Workshops, to help take salespeople from “sales nervous” to “sales confident” (the current one being ‘Think and Grow Rich: It Pays to Be Sales Confident!’).
“I do guided meditations and facilitate workshops where people can just connect and be happy and get to know each other without judgment. Productivity thrives when this connection is built, and they can do goal-setting together for the week ahead. And I help them do that in a fun, creative environment with music, where they feel comfortable and get to be themselves”.—Michelle ‘Emtre’ Hollis
Creating similar workshops, offering therapy, and getting speakers to come and tap into your team’s emotional intelligence and coach them for better strategies to strengthen their resilience are great ways to help them deal with demotivation.
#2 Know your team’s motivations
Nobody works for money. We work for what money brings us.
We work for the comfort that money brings to our life. We work for the security it brings to our families. We work to make sure we don’t fall behind in this competitive world.
Often, reminding ourselves why we work is the biggest motivator. Being a sales manager requires you to go farther than empty promises and the “American Dream” to motivate your sales team. You don’t want them to end up like Willy Loman did in ‘Death of a Salesman’.
To really bring their heart to it, sales managers need to know why their team is in sales in the first place. Be it the desire to be able to go on vacations and spend time with family or be it the desire to own a home, knowing what the motivation is is paramount in helping them with demotivation.
#3 Help the team visualize
Once you know your sales team’s motivation, the next step is to help them visualize. Your sales team already has expectations from their career. But they might not yet have a clear plan as to how being in sales helps them meet those expectations.
If you can sit with them and help them visualize their goals by helping them create an action plan to meet that goal (using realistic facts, figures, and timelines), they’ll gain perspective. A clear action plan and the anticipation of an estimated date to reach their goal that isn’t just an empty promise can give them a robust cause for motivation.
Salespeople are, after all logical, analytic professionals that help their prospects meet their goals by showing them proof i.e. the ROI. And that’s exactly what sales managers have to do for their team—show them the proof of their ROI.
Understanding Salespeople At a Human Level
Switching between sales personalities is not easy. But depending on the situation, the people, and the motivation, salespeople have to do it inevitably.
A low-intent prospect or a lost deal can leave a bad taste in your mouth. But a go-to-market intelligence software like Slintel can help. Slintel helps businesses discover and connect with high-intent buyers, so the pains you take to switch between multiple sales personalities doesn’t go in vain.
“In this world today, we’re just pushing strategy and tactics so much that letting people just take some time to add their real selves into the equation makes a huge difference. Equity is when people see themselves and realize that they all have a chance to be themselves and bring their whole self to the table.”—Michelle ‘Emtre’ Hollis