I’ve found often that people whom others would describe as good sales people are usually not that, or at least not the right personality fit for the job in the long term. There’s a great tool called Clifton StrengthsFinder (formerly Gallup), which I’ve used many times to find out a little bit about the personality of different sales people, and there are two main types that we’ve come across so far.

The first group are those who have what they call the Woo, the sort of person who can sell ice to an Eskimo. It might sound strange, but these aren’t the sort of people you want in the long run. Woo people are hunters. They love the thrill of the chase, but they’re always ready to move on to the next thing, which means they’re not so good at serving their clients or building relationships over the long-term. If you have a high turnover of sales people you’ll lose clients more quickly, and you end up with a rocky, up-and-down sales profile, which isn’t helpful in any business. This is why Woo people aren’t necessarily my first choice for sales people.

The second group of people rank high in the StrengthsFinder category of Responsibility, and these are the people you should be looking out for. They may not look amazing, they’re not necessarily the most charismatic person in the room, but they’re significantly better sales people in that they deliver long term results. They stick around longer and they are more loyal. A person who ranks highly in the Responsibility strength will tell you that they’re going to deliver you results, and you believe it because these people are used to, all their life, delivering everything that they say they’re going to deliver

I’ve hired a number of people who have been unemployed for many years because I saw in them the right character, whereas others hadn’t been able to see their value. And, because these people are high in the strength of Responsibility, their loyalty is also strong and they’re still working in these roles. They’re still succeeding and growing on a good, even growth plane, and I don’t think they’ll go anywhere else because they’ve found their thing and they’re really good at it.

Next time you’re looking at hiring a new sales person, have them take the Clifton StrengthsFinder test. Choose someone based on their strength of Responsibility, and see what a difference this change of thinking about the character of a sales person can bring.

One final note: the StrengthsFinder isn’t the last word on whether a person will succeed in sales. In my opinion anyone who is willing to make the calls and stick at it will succeed long term. The StrengthsFinder just indicates that a particular type of person might be better suited to sales than another. After all I’ve been doing sales for 15 years and I don’t have either Woo or Responsibility as my core strengths. But I’m able to do it because of sheer will.