(Lesson 6 From 1,000 Assessments)
In 1969, Psynet Group was founded primarily on the ability to help companies select sales people. At that time, we used an assessment that measured motivations. Over the years, our assessments have gone through several iterations and refinements and evolved into Psybil®️. As a highly predictive platform for hiring and promoting the right people to help companies thrive, we’ve moved beyond simply measuring motivations to a more robust appraisal of sales ability.
The 2011 book written by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, outlines five sales styles and the differences in sales successes for each. The book identifies the “Challenger Sales Style” as superior to the others, with the “Lone Wolf Style” a clear second.
Acknowledging that there is some connection between an individual’s sales style and overall sales success, Psynet Group conducted research on existing assessment data to draw conclusions about the validity of using sales style indicators as a part of the pre-hire interview process. Data used in our study primarily included individuals selling capital equipment, financial services, consulting services, and technology.
Finding One: Sales people with a “Challenger” mentality make more sales
Our findings showed that following the first 3 months post hire, the “Lone Wolf Style” edged out the “Challenger Style” in terms of measures related to sales quota. However, when reassessed after a period of 6, 12, and 24 months, the “Challenger Style” was found to be superior in the same measures.
To help understand why this may have occurred, we interviewed 8 people who utilize the “Challenger Style” and 4 who utilize the “Lone Wolf Style”. Although a small sample size, the difference between the two groups appears to be the ability to start selling quickly. For example, “Lone Wolves” have a propensity to start selling as soon as they are allowed to reach out to clients, often before completely understanding the companies’ sales processes. The “Challenger Style ” individuals, on the other hand, typically delay the outreach process to focus on becoming a product and industry expert before contacting anyone.
Finding Two: Overall, the “Lone Wolf” was not superior to the other three styles
This discovery contradicts the findings cited by Dixon and Adamson. We found that some “Lone Wolves” were highly successful, but people with this style were significantly more likely to leave or be released within six months. This group was found to be more bimodal than the other groups, meaning that they are either effective or released, with almost no middle ground.
It is worth noting that Dixon and Adamson conducted their research on current sales people more established within their roles, whereas our research began at the onset of hiring. As such, they mention that unsuccessful “Lone Wolves” were likely fired, adding an element of bias to their study sample.
Accordingly, the “Lone Wolf” will be most effective in loosely managed sales organizations, but will struggle when a sales manager insists on following processes or utilizing a team sales approach.
Finding Three: The “Challenger Sales Style” may improve others’ wins
Research drawn from multi-rater reviews shows that people with the “Challenger Style” are much more likely to be cited as sharing information or tips with other sales people.
Our hypothesis is that “Challenger” salespeople have a compulsion to share what they have learned and, even though they tend to be highly competitive, they focus their drive to win outward instead of internally within the organization.
Finding Four: Hiring “Challenger” Salespeople who lack self awareness can backfire
At Psynet Group, we have seen twelve instances of a “Challenger Style” individual failing. Ten of those individuals scored in the 85th percentile or higher on our Psybil®️ self-deception measure, meaning that they fundamentally lacked awareness of their true capabilities and presented as either arrogant or naive.
More specifically, one of these ten salespeople nearly lost a high-value client based on this arrogance. The client complained to the salesperson’s manager that, “The little @#$% came in here acting like he knew more about my business than me and had the balls to say that our strategy would put us out of business”. Luckily, this sales manager had a long-established relationship with the client and was able to recover, however, this circumstance easily could have gone the other way, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
While no psychometric assessment provides a 100% guarantee that a new salesperson will succeed, measuring sales style and understanding the ramifications of the designated styles greatly improves the chances that hiring managers will select top performing sales people.