10 Sales Personalities and How to Manage Them

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 16, 2010 @ 07:09 AM

10peopleMy regular readers know that when it comes to evaluating the sales force or assessing sales candidates, I have no use for personality assessments.  If you're a first time or new reader, look no further than here for documentation and proof.  Regulars also know that I sometimes reprint emails received from sales candidates who have been offended by a potential employer's request to take an assessment.  Many of these uninformed, unprepared, emotional candidates refer to the assessment as a personality test - the assessment it least resembles.  There are personalities in sales, but the various traits do not predict performance and there isn't a personality trait that translates into sales because the traits are discovered in social contexts, not business or selling contexts.  That said, there are diverse individuals that you will have to manage and they aren't really personalities as much as they are characteristics.  You might call them one or two word descriptions of people instead of characterizing them as personalities.  Following are 10 Sales Characters and how you can manage them more effectively.

PETE THE PERFECTIONIST - Pete won't begin anything until he is sure he can do it perfectly. Symptoms are procrastination, failure to implement your suggestions and ferocious rewriting of his notes (because the first set wasn't perfect). Your job, should you decide to accept it, is to provide Pete with permission to fail. Assign a goal that you both know he can achieve. Tell him to get some "no's" and it's not only OK to bring back some "no's" but you would prefer it to a "think it over" or a "maybe". Read more


NICK THE KNOW IT ALL - Nick is easy to spot because he drives you nuts. He knows everything, as evidenced by his willingness to say, "I know!" You can't tell him anything new and he will always defend the way in which he has always done things. His lack of flexibility and resistance to change is his downfall. Your job, and in this case, it's too much fun to call it a job, is to challenge or dare Nick. Tell him what needs to be accomplished, but tell him you don't think he can do it. Tell him you'll have to get someone else to do it. Enough said.

ORSON THE OVER ACHIEVER - Orson is always busy, always striving to break the record, out-earn his latest paycheck, set the new company record for most miles driven in one day, etc. While you may have the urge to take some of the burden off Orson's shoulders, he actually functions best when over burdened so leave him completely alone. He doesn't need to be managed with a heavy hand. Just tell him what you expect and he'll get it done. It never occurred to him that he could find a way not to do it! Read More

LOIS THE LOYALIST - Lois is like a puppy dog, always following you around, sucking up to you, learning from you and even idolizing you. In fact, she'd love to have your job if it meant you would be getting a better one! The only thing you have to do with Lois is tell her what to say, who to say it to, when to say it, what will happen then and what to do after that. Make sure she has it down exactly and then have all the confidence in the world that your own personal groupie will get the job done exactly as you would have done yourself.

CONTENT CARL - Carl has sales know how but isn't using it as aggressively as he once did. His sales are probably flat and his calls for new business are dropping every year. He has a good existing customer base and services it well but you still want him to be more than a $100,000+ service man. Have a very serious, extremely strong meeting with Carl, in which you tell him how terribly unhappy you are with his performance. Tell him exactly what you expect from him, by when, and what will happen if he doesn't perform. Read More


NEED FOR APPROVAL ALICE - More than anything, Alice needs for you to like her. Her need for approval will cost you both a fortune in lost business in the field but you can play her like a fiddle in the office. Just tell her you are losing respect for her. Tell her she isn't measuring up to the others in the office. Tell her that she is disappointing you. She'll do whatever it takes to get back in your good graces. Read More


UNSTABLE URSULA - Ursula needs to get her head on straight, might come from a dysfunctional family and is used to being yelled at. In fact, it's the only thing to which she seems to respond. Ask her nicely to do something and she blows it off. Lose your cool with her and it's done in a New York minute.

MIKE THE MAVERICK - Mike plays by his own rules, is difficult to manage, won't take direction and drives you nuts. The only reason he still works for you is that he outperforms everyone else on the sales force including you! Managing Mike is easy. Tell him you respect his need for independence and his desire to do it his way. Tell him to stay away from the office as much as he likes, avoiding sales meetings and keeping away from the other salespeople. You'll continue to let him write his own rules as long as he continues to out-produce everyone else. If his production ever drops below a certain level, then he will have to follow the same rules as everyone else.

MISERABLE MARVIN - Marvin complains a lot. He has more excuses than hooky playing high school renegades. His performance is always below acceptable levels and despite that, everyone thinks he has potential - except that he's never approached it. Marvin is the easiest of the bunch. Create an exit plan that fires him for non-performance and a lousy attitude. Read More

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales assessments

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years.  Dave's Blog earned a Bronze Medal in 2016 and this article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016. Read more about Dave.

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