Chapter 8

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Personal Characteristics and Sales Aptitude: Criteria for Selecting Salespeople

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Learning Objectives
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Understand the answer to the question, "Are good salespeople born or made?" Define the characteristics of successful salespeople Explain the role of sales aptitude in sales performance Understand the different success characteristics for different sales 2 positions

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Key Terms
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Selection Criteria Physical Characteristics Behavioral Variables Psychological Traits Skills Variables

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Key Terms
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Selection criteria (pg. 254) – Characteristics management looks for in selecting individuals for sales positions. Physical characteristics (pg. 258) – Characteristics associated with the physical traits of an individual (height, appearance). Behavioral variables (pg. 258) – These are of two types. Background and experience characteristics include developmental education and work experiences of an individual (educational content, sales experience). Current status and lifestyle are an individual’s present marital, family and financial status as well as leisure activities associated with the behavior of an individual (family status). Psychological traits (pg. 258) – These are of two types. Aptitude refers to enduring personal characteristics that determine and individual’s overall ability to perform a sales job (intelligence, cognitive ability). Personality refers to enduring personal traits that reflect an individual’s consistent reactions to situations encountered in the environment (self esteem, creativity). Skills variables (pg. 258) – Learned proficiencies and attitudes necessary for effective performance of specific job tasks; 4 skills can change over time with training and experience (vocational skills, interpersonal skills).

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Salespeople Born or Made?
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Training and development represent critical determinants of future success. A strong ego, self-confidence, decisiveness, and a need for achievement must also be extant in sales force candidates.

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Continued on next slide

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Leadership
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Identifying Successful Salespeople in Europe As you might imagine, knowledge of the product and basic selling skills are still critical (as they are in USA.); however, other skills are also essential. Specifically, a recent survey identified the following skills: • The ability to think strategically and develop long-range plans. • The ability to work effectively in teams. • Most important, the ability to think like the customer, identify customer needs, and communicate solutions, or put another way, a customer orientation. Pharmaceutical companies are looking for salespeople who can become “partner” with health care providers (doctors, nurses). These kinds of skills are harder to ascertain using conventional recruiting methods, but companies realize that identifying these skills in potential salespeople before they are hired increases their chances for success. 8

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Variables That Cause Differences in Performance 0011 0010 1010 1101 0001 0100 1011

Factors controlled or influenced by sales mangers account for the largest variance in sales performance. – role perception – Skills – motivation Research suggests successful salespeople are both born and made.

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Costs of Inappropriate Selection
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Odds a salesperson will quit or be terminated in first five years of employment = 50/50. People lacking the necessary personal traits/abilities tend to leave the company before training and experience can turn them into productive sales performers.

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Characteristics of Successful Salespeople 0011 0010 1010 1101 0001 0100 1011

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Aptitude and personal characteristics may place an upper limit on an individual's ability to perform in a sales job. Enthusiasm consistently ranks among the most important personal attributes in selling. General sales experience typically means more than specific product or industry experience.

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Research into Personal Characteristics 0011 0010 1010 1101 0001 0100 1011

Personal factors influencing variance in sales performance fall into: – physical and behavioral characteristics – psychological traits and abilities

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Summary of the Effect of Variables on Salesperson Performance
Variable Percentage of Variance in Performance Explained

0011 0010 1010 1101 0001 0100 1011 Demographic and physical characteristics—physical traits
Age* Gender* Physical appearance < 5% < 5% < 5%

Background and experience—developmental education and work experience Personal history and family background* Level of educational attainment Educational content Sales experience Nonsales work experience Almost 21% < 5% < 5% < 5% < 5%

*Inappropriate or illegal in selecting a job candidate.

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Summary of the Effect of Variables on Salesperson Performance
Variable Percentage of Variance in Performance Explained

0011 0010 1010 1101 0001 0100 1011 Current status and lifestyle—present marital, family, and financial status
Marital/family status* Financial status Activities/lifestyle* Almost 12% Approximately 6% < 5%

Aptitude—enduring personal characteristics that determine an individual’s overall ability to perform a sales job Intelligence Cognitive ability Verbal intelligence Math ability Sales aptitude < 5%

*Inappropriate or illegal in selecting a job candidate.

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Almost 7% < 5% < 5% < 5%

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Summary of the Effect of Variables on Salesperson Performance
Variable

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Responsibility Dominance Sociability Self-esteem Creativity/flexibility Need for achievement/intrinsic reward Need for power/extrinsic reward <5% <5%

Percentage of Variance in Performance Explained

*Inappropriate or illegal in selecting a job candidate.

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< 5% < 5% <5% <5% < 5%

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Summary of the Effect of Variables on Salesperson Performance
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Percentage of Variance in Performance Explained

Skills—learned proficiencies and attitudes necessary for effective performance of specific job tasks (these can change with training and experience) Vocational skills Sales presentation Interpersonal General management Vocational esteem

*Inappropriate or illegal in selecting a job candidate.

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Almost 5% < 5% A little over 9% <5%

Almost 9.5%

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The Importance of Image
What type of sales representative has a tougher time making sales?
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94% 75 59 54 54 32 8

An unstylish sales rep (haircut, out of style outfit) A physically unattractive sales rep An overweight sales rep A sales rep with a heavy accent A very young looking sales rep An older looking sales rep

Source: Melinda Ligos, “Does Image Matter?” Sales & Marketing Management, March 19 2001, pp. 52–56.

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The Importance of Image
What type of sales representative would you avoid hiring?
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A sloppy dresser

80% 78 77 51 37 23 20 20 13 12 2
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A rep who used salty language A rep with visible body piercing or tattoos An unstylish look Male overweight Female overweight A heavy regional foreign accent An unattractive female An unattractive male A very youthful appearance Any older look

Source: Melinda Ligos, “Does Image Matter?” Sales & Marketing Management, March

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The Educated Sales Force
Percent with College Degree by Industry
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Health service Pharmaceuticals Air transportation Printing/Publishing Rubber/Plastics Manufacturing Electronics Chemicals Business services

100 100 100 84 83 78 77 73 72

Electronic components Communications Banking Construction Real estate Retail

67 56 46 40 33 33 29 28

Trucking/Warehousing

Transportation equipment

Source: Christen P. Heide, Dartnell’s 30th Sales Force Compensation Survey (Chicago: The Dartnell Corporation, 1999), p. 173.

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Summary
This chapter, the first of two dealing with salesperson selection, sought to review the evidence regarding what personal and psychological characteristics are related to an individual’s likely performance as a salesperson. Personal traits and aptitude are 0011 0010 1010 1101 0001 to place an upper limit on an individual’s typically thought 0100 1011 ability to perform a given sales job. Several sets of personal factors are thought to affect a salesperson’s ability to perform, including the following: 1.Demographic and physical characteristics—such as age, sex, and physical appearance. 2. Background and experience factors—such as a person’s personal history and family background, educational attainment, and sales experience. 3. Current status and lifestyle variables—including a person’s marital and financial status, and activities outside of the job. 4. Aptitude variables—enduring mental characteristics such as intelligence, cognitive ability, and sales aptitude. 5. Personal traits—including such characteristics as sociability, dominance, and self-esteem. 6. Skill levels—learned proficiencies, such as vocational skills (e.g., product knowledge), interpersonal skills, sales presentation skills, and general management skills. Although a number of reasons can be advanced as to why these 25 factors might be related to sales performance, the available evidence suggests that none is consistently related to

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Summary
One of the more persuasive reasons for these inconsistent relationships is that particular characteristics of salespeople enable them to deal more effectively 0011 0010 1010 1101 0001kinds1011 with some 0100 of customers than with others. Consequently, some studies have used a dyadic approach to explain variations in performance among salespeople. The basic hypothesis is that salespeople are more likely to be successful when they deal with prospects who are similar to themselves in terms of demographic characteristics, personality traits, and attitudes. The implication of the dyadic perspective or sales managers is that they should hire salespeople with characteristics similar to the customers on when they will call. But such a strategy can be hard to implement in business to business selling, and it is likely to become even more difficult as both sales recruits and customer organizations become more culturally diverse. Also, the existing research evidence does not consistently support the proposition. The most important conclusion regarding salespeople selection is that there are many different types of selling jobs. Each type requires the salesperson to perform a variety of different tasks and activities under different circumstances. Consequently, the most useful approach to defining sales 26 aptitude and evaluating a person’s potential for future success is, first, to determine the kinds of tasks involved

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