IN YOUR SHOES Tips For Small Business

Generating Sales Leads

Diana Pohly

Harvard Business Review Article Identifies the Three Top-Performing Sales Personalities

Get the Most Effective Sales Personalities Selling for You

When researching their article “The Trouble with Salespeople” for Harvard Business Review, British management professors Lynette Ryals and Iain Davies observed 800 sales professionals in actual sales meetings.

Based on what Ryals and Davies saw in those meetings, they concluded that salespeople fall into eight personality groups: Experts, Closers, Consultants, Storytellers, Focusers, Narrators, Aggressors, and Socializers. They also determined that only three of those eight sales personalities were consistently effective in making sales:

  • Experts are well-balanced professionals who can apply all eight sales personalities when needed. They made up 9% of all the sales professionals that Ryals and Davies studied.


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  • Consultants listen well and solve problems. They made up 15%.

  • Closers have the personality to “pull off big product sales.” They made up 13%.

If you add up these percentages, only 37% of the salespeople in the study were consistently making sales, while 63% were not.

Ryals and Davies recommend coaching ineffective salespeople to behave more like Experts, Consultants, and Closers. If you have Storytellers on your team who are not meeting their quotas, for example, you can encourage them to set clear meeting agendas, listen actively, and focus more on the current prospect than on their past sales successes. Aggressors can be coached to listen better and be more empathetic.

All salespeople must have the specific skills to “ask for the sale” and then close sales as well.

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