No two salespeople are exactly alike. But when you’ve spent enough time managing sales reps, you begin to notice patterns. There are some personality types that are common to most sales organizations. And one of the biggest mistakes that sales managers make is managing every rep the same. Inside sales reps with different personalities will have different needs from managers. And each rep will benefit from a style of management that coincides with their personality type.
No matter what anyone tells you, there isn’t a single personality type that is predictive of success. Some reps have dominant personalities with their eyes perpetually on the prize. Other reps are more analytical, offering customers air-tight rational arguments as to why they should buy an offering. The best sales managers understand that there’s more than one way to close a deal. And they help bring out each rep’s strengths.
I was recently listening to a radio program in which journalists followed around several sales reps at a car dealership as they struggled to hit their monthly quota. While I’ve never worked at a car dealership, all of the sales reps’ personalities felt very familiar to me. Each reminded me of several people I had encountered working as an inside sales rep.
While everyone has unique personality characteristics, psychologists like Carl Jung and David Keirsey identified that there are personality groups, or archetypes. Understanding these archetypes can help you to quickly identify the most effective ways to help your reps succeed.
In this post, I’m going to discuss some common personality types of inside sales reps. I’ll identify the strengths and weaknesses of each type and offer some tips on how to be an effective inside sales manager for each personality type.
Almost every sales team has at least one rep with a dominant personality. They’re often competitive (many played sports), they’re opinionated, and they’re laser-focused on closing deals.
Advantages: Many successful individuals have dominant personality types and sales is certainly no exception. Alpha personality types tend to intrinsically understand the Always-Be-Closing mentality. They’re often driven, outgoing and play the game of sales as though the stakes are life or death.
Disadvantages: Let’s face it, dominant personality types can be overly confident. They don’t always have a realistic perception of their abilities to close deals. They might make promises they can’t always live up to. Reps with dominant personalities might also try to steamroll a deal into closing before a buyer is ready.
Inside Sales Management Tips: Alpha dogs tend to have big egos and don’t love taking orders. Playing to their egos can be a good thing, as long as they are delivering results. As a manager, it can help to leverage their competitive nature to your advantage. For example, instead of telling a rep, “you should be making more calls” it could be helpful say, “You know, James made 70 calls yesterday, I bet you could make more than him!”
While some sales reps thrive on eliciting emotional responses from prospects, there are other reps who view each deal as a game of chess. These reps are often highly knowledgeable about what they’re selling and have a knack for convincing customers that they can’t afford not to buy a product.
Advantages: These reps are often highly intelligent, able to change their pitch on a whim, and are quick to discard tactics that aren’t working in favor of trying something new. In B2B sales, it is often important to have reps with advanced tactical abilities. Many of these sales reps don’t stay sales reps for long, moving on to executive leadership positions.
Disadvantages: Reps with rational personalities might not function well in roles that involve a lot of cold calling. They feel a lot more comfortable meticulously preparing for each sales call, looking up leads on LinkedIn, searching their CRM for past communications history and more.
Inside Sales Management Tips: Though all reps benefit from better sales tools, rational sales reps will especially love sales tools that enable them to gather prospect data faster and minimize the amount of time they spend on tasks they find tedious.
Schmoozers have what’s known as the gift of gab. They can talk and talk. They tend to be gregarious and engaging, exuding energy that keeps leads on the phone.
Advantages: Schmoozers tend to be likable and people tend to want to buy from sales reps that they like.
Disadvantages: Schmoozers can loose their focus sometimes. Building rapport with customers is important, but at the end of the day a sales rep’s job is to sell. I once went to buy a car, knew exactly the car and features I wanted and knew what I wanted to pay for it. But instead of negotiating a price, the salesman took me for a test drive and told me a bunch of personal stories that didn’t interest me. He could have gotten me out of that dealership in half the time he did. But he spent unnecessary time trying to build rapport with me when he could have been closing another deal.
Inside Sales Management Tips: Sales managers should be vigilant of how long Schmoozers are spending on each call. Tracking a metric like average call duration per rep can enable managers to see whether a rep is spending too much time on calls. It also helps managers to track how many calls per day a Schmoozer is making to ensure they are calling enough leads. Recording phone calls is also helpful, since it enables you to listen to a schmoozer’s pitch and identify ways that they can do what they do best—build rapport—while still keeping their focus on closing.
Sometimes sales just comes naturally. Natural sales reps are often as effective or more effective than alpha reps, but lack the same degree of conceit. They are masters at earning trust and loyalty from customers as well as from peers.
Advantages: Naturals tend to be great in sales environments that involve collaboration. They feel at home working with others to get jobs done. They tend to also bring a fantastic mix of talent and humility. Their no-nonsense approach earns customers’ trust and respect.
Disadvantages: This isn’t necessarily a disadvantage, but Naturals don’t always like to play by the rules. In fact, they often outperform peers by devising their own way of operating.
Inside Sales Management Tips: If a Natural is crushing it, it could be well worth staying out of his or her way. But don’t make the mistake of assuming that a Natural’s success can be replicated by other reps since a Natural’s success often hinges on ineffable qualities.
Have you ever encountered a sales rep that always makes quota but almost never crushes it? Some reps are content to survive and collect their paychecks. Around the water cooler they are quick to point out how many days it is until Friday. When they leave the office, it’s safe to say they’re not taking their work home with them.
Advantages: Survivors are usually experienced, and it’s this experience that enables them to hit their quotas month after month. Providing that they do possess the skills to hit their numbers they tend to be dependable.
Disadvantages: Simply put, these reps aren’t your A-players and probably never will be. To them, selling your company’s products or services is just a means to an end, whether that end be sending their kids to college, or making mortgage payments. As long as their primary goals are being met, they’re content to squeak by.
Inside Sales Management Tips: Sure, every sales manager wants to stack their team with A-players, but for medium-to-large sized sales teams it’s rarely an attainable goal. Chances are you’re going to be stuck with some reps who just get it done. Your goal is to help them sell as much as possible. If you really want to shake a Survivors up, get them out of their comfort zone. Raising quotas or threatening to terminate reps can deliver results. But so can positive reinforcement. Contests with monetary prizes or bonuses can motivate Survivors to sell more. After all, a bonus can help them pay off those mortgages quicker. Survivors also benefit greatly from technology that enables them to dial more leads and have smarter conversations without requiring any additional effort from the reps.
The high demand for sales reps is causing companies to hire reps with less experience than ever before. In many cases, companies are recruiting reps right out of college who have never worked in sales before. For many inside sales organizations, the reality is that there are going to be a lot of unsure, inexperienced reps who are trying to learn their new trade as they go. Newbies are typically going to ask a lot of questions. This is generally a good thing. Because newbies who don’t ask questions are typically the ones who make the most mistakes.
Advantages: Newbies are a clean slate. They aren’t going to be bringing habits from other sales organizations that may not work in yours. With the right coaching, they can become stars in your organization. Before long they will likely begin demonstrating the personality traits of one of the other types listed here.
Disadvantages: They will typically take up a lot of time and resources as they ramp up and become acquainted with their new role.
Inside Sales Management Tips: Using a coaching solution that provides real-time insight into new reps’ activities, as well as the outcome of those activities, makes it easier for sales leaders to help Newbies succeed. Our sales coaching suite not only provides a wide variety of real-time sales metrics, it also empowers managers to listen to live calls and recordings while providing reps with real-time feedback.
For more sales management tips, check out our free eBook featuring 31 sales hiring and coaching tips from industry experts!
Jesse WestDirector of Lifecycle MarketingringDNA
Jesse Davis West is Director of Lifecycle Marketing at ringDNA, focusing on improving the experience and maximizing the lifetime value for customers across their entire journey. Drawing on 9 years of B2B marketing experience, Jesse is passionate about communication, branding and strategic marketing. He also plays a mean lead guitar and can throw down at karaoke.