White Paper: Five Basic Skills
Selling can be taught. Sales performance can improve dramatically. But only if we treat selling as a skill—not a personality type, not a work style, not a gift.
If the goal is to boost sales performance, then the question we should ask about training programs built upon personality type or work style is: do they, in fact, reliably drive performance to higher levels?
In a market economy, sales are self-evidently good, like oxygen. A company that can’t sell can’t survive. So it is hardly surprising that for many years we have sent salespeople to a multitude of training programs in an effort to teach them how to sell more stuff.
What is surprising is the way in which we have gone about it. To a remarkable degree, our efforts to boost sales performance have looked less like skill building than like exercises in zoological classification. We have categorized salespeople relentlessly, by personality type, by work style, and every other way we could think of.
What is your basic personality type? Are you a driver, amiable, expressive, or analytic? Or, as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator would have it, perhaps you are an INTP or an ESFJ. As for work styles, which tend to be closely linked to personality types, we can spend time and effort to classify you as a hunter or a farmer. Or we can figure out whether you are a challenger, problem solver, hard worker, relationship builder, lone wolf, or something else.
Many of these typologies describe genuine differences in personality or style, and most of them make for interesting intellectual exercises. But if the goal is to boost sales performance, then the question we should ask about training programs built upon these classification systems is: do they, in fact, reliably drive performance to higher levels?