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Talent or training?

Sales training can influence the difference between a top seller, and an average sales representative. Anyhow it is unclear how vital sales talent is to succeed. Some people may think that personality is crucial for success. Some others may think that trained sales techniques determine success and failure.

To find an answer to this question, one of the world’s most extensive surveys on competences in sales was conducted. Usually, surveys of this kind get along with 300 – 400 participants. The study of the Federal Association of Sales Managers (BdVM) in cooperation with the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the IQP evaluated the declarations of more than 2,400 sales representatives and leaders.

A special feature of the survey: The surveyed sales representatives and leaders come from over 1,000 different companies out of the DACH region.

A result of the survey: There is definitely a connection between personality and sales. That leads to severe consequences for the recruitment procedures in sales!

The DNA of sales representatives

The survey indicates that sales numbers can be increased by up to 11 % if the employee selection of the sales workforce is based on a specific personality profile. The Hay Group from the UK also came to a similar conclusion. Both studies have one thing in common: There are three personality traits of sales managers that are sticking out. Sales representatives are endowed with a higher readiness to take risks. Also, factors such as a favor for team-oriented work and the demand for security are not as important to sales representatives as to other professional groups.

Talent or training

A total of 63 % of the trial participants have taken advantage of training on sales techniques. The difference in turnover to those participants who did not attend sales training was as weak as 0.7%. The same comparison was made between existing and non-existent personality traits. Here, the difference in turnover between resilient, extroverted and less team-oriented, stress-prone and introvert sales representatives is as impressive as 11.6%.

“I am sure that there are good and effective sales training programs. But the general result of our survey is disillusioning. The salespeople with and those without a special training did not even differ by one percent in their number of turnover. That surprised me a lot! Certainly, training improves variables such as satisfaction, etc. but on average not the actual sales strength.” Prof. Dr. Nachtwei, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

The researcher used a specific psychometric test. This psychometric SALES Test (PsySAT) was revised and is now usable for the human resources departments. The test measures personal features that are linked to successful salespeople.

Consequences for the employee selection

A woman attends a sales training

Instead of widespread distribution of sales training, the results of the survey have shown that it’s more efficient to invest in instruments for personality diagnostics. The application of the psychometric test is most suitable in combination with the so-called negative selection (it is decided against the applicants who are very far from the desired personality profile). The application of this method is also possible in the context of personal development to plan measures.

By offering tailored sales training to the carefully selected sales representatives, both sales representatives and companies can benefit equally.


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Join the discussion One Comment

  • Mick says:

    I think it’s both, nature and nurture. Great skills and personality is important, but so are other factors. Not everything can be taught, but sometimes it can be easier to train good habits than break bad ones!