Effective salespeople aren’t always likable personalities. Here’s why

Contrary to popular belief, your personality does not determine success in Sales. For instance, there’s a pervasive myth that effective salespeople are extroverted, charming, charismatic, and instantly likable. The only problem is there’s no evidence that it’s actually true; it’s a widely held belief but just that-a myth. While charisma can certainly be an asset in certain sales situations, the reality is that successful sales professionals come in all shapes, sizes, and personality types. Let’s debunk this myth and explore why effective salespeople aren’t always likable personalities.  And in the process, what determines sales success.

Read: Shrewd salespeople don’t play by rules but still close

Sales isn’t about making friends

First and foremost, it’s essential to understand that the primary goal of sales is not to make friends—it’s to drive revenue and achieve results. While being likable can help build rapport and trust with customers, ultimately, sales success hinges on the ability to identify needs, overcome objections, and close deals. Effective salespeople prioritize results over popularity. The profoundness of this came to the fore with this bank representative in Mombasa who sold for an Islamic bank. Let’s call him Aziz. By the time we were interacting with the employer, he was on his way out. “We can’t retain him. He’s not closing.”

Read: Use ‘gifts’ to increase sales not popularity

You see, Aziz had piles of uncompleted application forms. This one was missing an ID, that one a payslip, a third one bank statements a fourth, PIN number a fifth, a combination of any of the last four and on and on. And why? He explains: “Wajua customer wanasahau tu. Sio kupenda kwao. Customer akisema ataleta  ID kesho, halafu asahau namwambia inshallah, kesho pia ni siku.” (When a customer says they’ve forgotten their ID I sympathize with them and ask them to remember to bring it the following day).

Read: Selling is not closing but to close you must sell.

Understanding personality does not determine sales success, to make him effective, we used his personality to work for, not against him. Here’s an example. “Can you ask them if it’s OK to be sending them polite text reminders just before they leave home to carry their ID (or missing document)?” His eyes lit up, “Yes.” Long story short, he wasn’t fired and over the next month, and focusing only on it, he converted 62% of the incomplete application forms to complete closes.

Read: Debt collection is in itself a formidable salesman

Effective salespeople personalities

Different strokes for different folks: Effective salespeople personalities

Sales is a diverse field, and what works for one salesperson may not work for another. While some sales professionals thrive on charm and charisma, others excel through expertise, persistence, or sheer determination. The key is recognizing and leveraging your unique strengths and adapting your approach to suit the needs of your customers.  For instance, again from true experiences.

“I’m not good in making PowerPoint slides or even group presentations, so I avoid them but when I must, I pair up with a colleague whose strength it is.  My strength lies in one-on-one interactions and simplifying complex things for customers to understand and so I close faster.”

Or, this one shared by a budding Sales Development Representative (responsible for lead generation and qualification):

“I am hugely introverted. I even struggle with making ‘phone calls. As I’m warming up to it, in the meantime, what I do is pair up with my colleague who thrives in it. What I do is get us prospects to qualify which he struggles with. You see, I know how to prospect intelligently.” What did he mean? Being in logistics, manufacturers were automatically potential prospects for them. So, what he used to do was go to a supermarket and examine the label of every manufactured item on display, looking for the contacts of the manufacturer. Imagine the diligence. And talk of targeted prospecting. And when you stop to realize that prospecting is the most important step in the sales cycle, for with no prospect you die, the profoundness of his effectiveness is magnified that much more.

 Read: Don’t just qualify, disqualify sales leads too

Fun fact: Two studies on sales professionals by Harvard show that top performers are less gregarious than below average ones and that the most sociable sales people are often the poorest performers of all. Yet another separate one reveals this: introverted sales reps didn’t perform as well as extraverted ones, but neither held a candle to ambiverts-people who are neither overly extraverted nor wildly introverted. (Paraphrased from: To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink)

Authenticity trumps likability

In today’s hyper-connected world, authenticity is more valuable than ever. Customers can sense insincerity a mile away, and being overly concerned with being liked can come across as disingenuous. Effective salespeople prioritize authenticity over likability, building genuine connections based on trust, honesty, and transparency.

Read: Be practical about the buyer’s problem and accelerate the sale

Read: How salespeople drive away buyers

Fun fact: Two studies on sales professionals by Harvard show that top performers are less gregarious than below average ones and that the most sociable sales people are often the poorest performers of all. Yet a separate one reveals this: dyed-in-the-wool introverted sales reps didn’t perform as well as extraverted ones, but neither held a candle to ambiverts. These are people who are neither overly extraverted nor wildly introverted. (Paraphrased from: To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink)

Effective salespeople personalities: Focus on adding value

Rather than trying to win people over with charm alone, effective salespeople focus on adding value to their customers’ lives. They take the time to understand their clients’ needs, offer tailored solutions, and provide exceptional service before, during, and after the sale. By focusing on delivering value, effective salespeople earn respect and loyalty, regardless of their personality type.

Read: How do I stand out in sales? Show value

Resilience and determination

Sales can be a tough and often thankless job. Effective salespeople personalities possess resilience and determination, allowing them to persevere in the face of rejection, setbacks, and challenges. They understand that success in sales requires resilience, grit, and a willingness to keep pushing forward, even when the going gets tough. The absence of this, is a key characteristic of a non-successful salesperson.

Read: The sales odyssey: Lessons in persistence. The Paul Kinuthia story

Conclusion: How does personality affect sales?

In conclusion, embrace diversity in sales. Effective salesmanship is about skills, not personality. And the skills that nature did not give you, you can nurture. The notion that effective salespeople must be sociable is a myth that deserves to be debunked. Sales is a diverse field that welcomes individuals of all personality types, backgrounds, and communication styles. While charm and charisma can certainly be assets, they are by no means prerequisites for success. Instead, effective salespeople prioritize authenticity, value creation, and results above all else. So, whether you’re an outgoing extrovert or a quiet introvert, remember that your unique strengths and qualities can make you a highly effective sales professional.

Read: How to become a successful salesperson


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