What matters more, is it personality and character traits or skills and track record when predicting success in a sales role?
I always felt that both matters a lot… However, there a certain things you cannot change about a person. You cannot change the attitude, some of the very fundamental character traits… such as introversion versus extraversion or a very strong tendency to avoid conflicts. However, you can improve skills and get somebody better at asking questions and active listening. Many times I feel in my work that some of the people on a sales training course are ducks trying to learn how to be an eagle. E.g. recently a sales director told me that he needs to turn some back office agents into proactive, assertive sales people who make cold calls… sound like a mission impossible.
Surely there is no such a thing as a sales personality. There are, however certain character traits which are obviously a matter of nature. Being conscious of what your personality is like helps a great deal when choosing the right job for yourself and also, looking at the personality of those people who apply for a job would help a lot for those who do the recruitment. Not because there is an ideal personality type for each job. But there are indicators which will increase the chance of succeed in a job role. Not to mention the fact, that I have seen people who were analytical minds with a great desire to learn, but their boss was looking for someone to come in a the rock the boat and show the new way of sales management. It is very difficult for someone who is more of an introvert to then turn into someone very extroverted with a charisma. Subsequently, the person failed at the job and was dismissed. This could have been prevented by a conscious analysis of what is the existing team like in terms of personalities and what is expected of the new member.
As a psychologist I can tell you that there is no agreement on what is the definition of personality in the discipline. What some people call traits I call behaviour and tend to agree that it is almost impossible to draw a border between what seems like an inherent trait or part of the so called personality and what is more of a learned behaviour or habit. So people can change and can change their habits. However, there are certain things that you can really want to do badly and yet… it will not work. I believe in the concept of learning agility and that the desire to want to learn new things will be an important, perhaps the most important prerequisite for successful development. At the same time I have seen many people who wanted to succeed in sales badly but did not succeed. So for me ultimately, you have to hire a person as a whole. Your personality and communication style, the company culture- and a company personality, the team… it will all matter. To some extent certain natural abilities will also matter, such as ability to be assertive and challenge others… This is not just a skill but not a personality trait alone either. It can be developed to some extent but it will be easier for certain people than for others.