Not The Top 20 Attributes of Successful Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 01, 2022 @ 07:08 AM

bad-science

Several OMG Partners reached out to ask if I had seen the email that was circulating with the Top 20 Attributes of Successful Salespeople.

"I have," was my response and, "Look for a blistering article on Monday."

The article was 100% junk science and to use the word science would be a disservice to the word junk. Below, you'll find five reasons why this article was so wrong, so bad, so misleading, so pitiful, and just plain stupid:

 

  1. The article listed the top 20 attributes of successful salespeople and the vast majority of those attributes might have something to do with success in general but have very little to do with sales success.  The email says that, "The results revealed the top five attributes are confidence (44%); ambition (33%); adaptability (25%) self-motivation (17%); and honesty (16%)."  None of those are sales-specific! Respondents didn't come up with these attributes on their own, but were given 30 to choose from.  They were asked to select their top 5 responses and the "report" listed the 20 most frequently chosen responses.  Unfortunately, most of these attributes have more to do with personality and behavior and are not even slightly related to OMG's widely accepted 21 Sales Core Competencies and related attributes.
  2. Only 207 people participated in the survey and it came from "conversational intelligence."  Whaaaat?  207 isn't a meaningful sample size and certainly not one to brag about.  Compare that to the more than 2.2 million salespeople that OMG has assessed and a sample size on which I base all of my articles.  And what the F is conversational intelligence?  I searched Google for Conversational Intelligence and found a book by that title.  The description said, "The key to success in life and business is to become a master at Conversational Intelligence. It's not about how smart you are, but how open you are to learn new and effective powerful conversational rituals that prime the brain for trust, partnership, and mutual success."  Maybe.  But what does that have to do with the topic of this article?  I searched some more and found CallTrackingMetrics.com.  They defined Conversational Intelligence as, "The ability to identify and react to signals in verbal communications."  In summary, someone who is smarter than me will have to explain how conversational intelligence can identify the attributes of successful salespeople.
  3. Jiminny, the company behind this survey, claimed to have researched millions of articles and couldn't find a single article that was not opinion based except for a 2011 article in Harvard Business Review.  Not a single one over eleven years?  Wow.  I have published more than 100 scientific articles on the attributes, competencies, and differences between successful salespeople and unsuccessful salespeople during that time period.  It's kind of difficult to miss 100 of them unless of course my articles don't support their narrative! 
  4. It was a survey!  That's not science. In the case of this survey, it was merely 207 opinions from a limited and skewed list of options.
  5. If the author (was there an author?) knew half of what I know about successful salespeople, they would know that the unsuccessful salespeople surveyed possess most of those same attributes.  They aren't differentiators!  And how do we know that unsuccessful salespeople weren't included in the survey?  Geez!

What are the actual top attributes of successful salespeople?  We should begin with the 21 Sales Core Competencies in which top salespeople score exponentially better than weak salespeople. Over the years, I have written many articles that articulate these differences but there have been a few which, from my perspective, stand-out .  If you're interested in how things have evolved over the past 11 years:

This article was from 2009.

This article was from 2015.

This article was from 2015.

These two articles were both written in 2016.   Also 2016 (HBR v OMG)

This article was written in 2018.

Junk science, limited data, tunnel vision, and in this case, a stupid-as-a-bowl-of-jelly analysis continue to appear although not as frequently as the fake news in politics.  But why do we continue to see them?

Today, it's easier than ever to write whatever you can imagine and that's where a lot of the fake news originates.  Someone writes or tweets something, somebody else shares it, an individual with a platform sees it and spreads it more widely and it eventually becomes a headline.

I've had enough - have you?

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, harvard business review, sales core competencies, sales enablement, omg

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned awards for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog for eleven consecutive years and of the more than 2,000 articles Dave has published, many of the articles have also earned awards.

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