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Chapter 8
Personal Characteristics and
Sales Aptitude: Criteria for
Selecting Salespeople

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Learning Objectives
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 positions
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Salespeople Born or Made?


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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Variables That Cause Differences


in Performance
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


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
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
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

Demographic and physical characteristicsphysical traits


Age*

< 5%

Gender*

< 5%

Physical appearance

< 5%

Background and experiencedevelopmental education and work experience


Personal history and family background*

Almost 21%

Level of educational attainment

< 5%

Educational content

< 5%

Sales experience

< 5%

Nonsales work experience

< 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

Current status and lifestylepresent marital, family, and financial status


Marital/family status*

Almost 12%

Financial status

Approximately 6%

Activities/lifestyle*

< 5%

Aptitudeenduring personal characteristics that determine an individuals overall


ability to perform a sales job
Intelligence

< 5%

Cognitive ability

Almost 7%

Verbal intelligence

< 5%

Math ability

< 5%

Sales aptitude

< 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

Personalityenduring personal traits that reflect an individuals consistent


reactions to situations encountered in the environment
Responsibility

<5%

Dominance

<5%

Sociability

< 5%

Self-esteem

< 5%

Creativity/flexibility

<5%

Need for achievement/intrinsic reward

<5%

Need for power/extrinsic reward

< 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

Skillslearned proficiencies and attitudes necessary for effective performance of


specific job tasks (these can change with training and experience)
Vocational skills

Almost 9.5%

Sales presentation

Almost 5%

Interpersonal

< 5%

General management

A little over 9%

Vocational esteem

<5%

*Inappropriate or illegal in selecting a job candidate.


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The Importance of Image


What type of sales representative has a tougher time making
sales?
A sloppily dressed sales rep

94%

An unstylish sales rep (haircut, out of style outfit)

75

A physically unattractive sales rep

59

An overweight sales rep

54

A sales rep with a heavy accent

54

A very young looking sales rep

32

An older looking sales rep

Source: Melinda Ligos, Does Image Matter? Sales & Marketing Management, March
2001, pp. 5256.
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The Importance of Image


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

80%

A rep who used salty language

78

A rep with visible body piercing or tattoos

77

An unstylish look

51

Male overweight

37

Female overweight

23

A heavy regional foreign accent

20

An unattractive female

20

An unattractive male

13

A very youthful appearance

12

Any older look

Source: Melinda Ligos, Does Image Matter? Sales & Marketing Management, March
2001, pp. 5256.
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The Educated Sales Force


Percent with College Degree by Industry
Health service

100

Electronic components

67

Pharmaceuticals

100

Communications

56

Air transportation

100

Banking

46

Printing/Publishing

84

Construction

40

Rubber/Plastics

83

Trucking/Warehousing

33

Manufacturing

78

Real estate

33

Electronics

77

Retail

29

Chemicals

73

Transportation equipment

28

Business services

72

Source: Christen P. Heide, Dartnells 30th Sales Force Compensation Survey


(Chicago: The Dartnell Corporation, 1999), p. 173.
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Key Terms

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Selection Criteria
Physical Characteristics
Behavioral Variables
Psychological Traits
Skills Variables

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Mark W. Johnston
Rollins College
McGraw-Hill/Irwin

Greg W. Marshall
Rollins College
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