In a slide show recently published by the Harvard Business Review, researchers Lynette Ryals and Iain Davies present some fascinating and eye-opening findings regarding sales effectiveness. Their study based on observation of 800 sales professionals in actual live sales meetings led them to conclude that only 37% of sales professionals were consistently effective in achieving results.
Their findings categorized the study group into eight classifications of behavior patterns: Socializers, Aggressors, Narrators, Focusers, Storytellers, Consultants, Closers, Experts. According to the study only the last three, Experts, Closers and Consultants, were able to deliver consistent results. Together these three groups comprised just 37% of the sample.
Also of interest were some data points that debunked some “common knowledge” assumptions about what makes a good salesperson. Conventional wisdom and sales folklore point to the socializing sales professional and the hard-driving aggressor as the desirable sales personalities, yet in this study these two groups were the bottom performers. The aggressors could occasionally have a big win, but their performance on average was poor, while the socializers would get caught up in the small talk and not keep the sales pitch in focus.
The authors noted that “a disproportionate amount of training is allocated to presentation and rapport skills, as well as the actual sales pitch” and therefore these skills had become commodified across the field.
We, at Data Dome agree that much of the focus of sales training tends to overlook behavioral issues and instead focus on closing skills and process methodologies. However, as this Harvard study indicates, behaviors are more indicative of sales performance. Hiring salespeople is often an error prone process filled with subjective decisions that can bring disappointing results – just ask the sales managers who hired the Aggressors and Socializers in the study. This is one of the reasons why we encourage the use of behavioral and motivator focused tools to identify candidates with high sales potential. Objective assessments eliminate much of the guesswork whether they’re used as a selection aid during the hiring process or as a development aid to diagnose specific behavior and motivator weaknesses that may lower an individual’s sales success potential. These tools can also be valuable in recommending targeted training for awareness and improvement in these areas.