Sales managers have customarily relied on broadbrush personality traits like dominance,
sociability and empathy to identify top sellers. But according to recent research
by veteran scientists George W. Dudley, Shannon L. Goodson, and Trelitha R. Bryant,
a far better predictor of future sales performance is a salesperson willingness to
initiate first contact with prospective customers. Personality factors all play
in sales success, they say, but “the will to persistently prospect is the keystone.
Without it, the other characteristics don’t make any difference. All you have is
a highly trained professional visitor.”
Studies by Dudley and Goodson have shown that sales people who hesitate to promote
themselves and their products to prospective buyers sacrifice an average of 15 orders
every month. That hesitation is called Sales Call Reluctance®. Detecting it before
a hiring decision is made, say the researchers, can help managers correctly identify
candidates as potential top producers or future liabilities.
Dudley, Goodson, and Bryant looked at a multi-industry sample of 1,043 currently
employed salespeople. Industries represented ranged from financial services and
real estate to manufacturing and advertising sales. Approximately 222 of the salespeople
were identified as Very High Producers (in the top 20% of their companies), and 206
as Very Low Producers (bottom 20% of their companies). Each participant completed
SPQ*GOLD®, a 110 question computer scored test designed specifically to detect and
measure 12 types of behavioral inhibition associated with sales call reluctance.
Then, using only questionnaire results, the researchers attempted to correctly classify
each participant’s production.
Analysis of SPQ results enabled the researchers to correctly identify 65% of the
VHPs. While that’s not perfect, it significantly improved on typical base “hit”
rates (candidates correctly identified at time of hire) that can range from 20% to
54%. Bryant emphasized that even small increases in selection accuracy can save
companies hundreds of thousands of dollars in wasted training and unmet quotas. “In
most cases, knowing up front whether a candidate will be able to prospect comfortably
saves time, money and frustration.”
Other findings from the analysis include:
High producers have significantly less fear that their calls will be seen as pushy
or intrusive. They don’t wait for a mythical “right time” to call on prospects –
to them, it’s always the right time.
Low producers are more likely to criticize, complain and make excuses for their behavior.
They tend to be more difficult to manage, coach, train, and advise than their high-producing
Dudley acknowledges that this study flies in the face of current sales selection
philosophies, especially those, which favor candidates with high relationship-building
skills. But, he says, today’s so-called client-centered approaches put the cart
before the horse. “The emphasis on nurturing client relationships assumes that salespeople
are comfortable with initiating the relationship in the first place. But many aren’t.
They can’t, won’t or simply don’t make initial contacts with prospective clients
in sufficient numbers. As a result, many salespeople who have become well-versed
in relationship building chronically lack new customers to build relationships with.”
Dudley and Goodson are co-authors of The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance® Earning
What You’re Worth in Sales (Behavioral Sciences Research Press, Inc., www.bsrpinc.com).
Copyright 2009 Behavioral Sciences Research Press, Inc.