Do Brains or Personality Matter More in Sales Hiring?

Ji-A Min
Ji-A Min




When people talk about what makes a great sales rep, they often use adjectives like "optimistic", "resilient," and "driven" to describe their personality.

But what role does intelligence play in selling success? Is recruiting a sales rep based on brains the smart thing to do?

Research examining the performance of sales reps has found some interesting results.

Sales Performance Correlates With Personality, Not Brains

Sales performance is the official job duties of the sales rep: Activities, metrics, and quotas. Research on nearly 46,000 salespeople examined the relationship between personality, intelligence, and sales performance.

The results found that brains account for 15% of sales performance and personality accounts for 85%.

A recent study provides us with some clues why: intelligence was correlated with sales volume but only for salespeople who are also high in people skills.

Citizenship Work Correlates With Brain, Not Personality

Citizenship work behaviors are ones that help the organization, such as volunteering for overtime, proactively suggesting new ideas, and offering to work with difficult colleagues.

These helpful behaviors are important because they've been shown to encourage creativity and adaptability in the workplace and improve employee morale.

Research has found that brains account for 53% of these helpful work behaviors and personality accounts for 47%.

Counterproductive Work Behavior Correlates With Personality, Not Brains

Counterproductive work behaviors are ones that harm the organization, such as theft, insults, or taking credit for someone else’s work.

These harmful behaviors matter because they've been shown to increase absenteeism and turnover, which represents thousands, even millions, of financial loss to a company per year.

Research has found that brains account for 9% of these harmful work behaviors and personality accounts for 91%.

Should You Hire Sales Reps With Brains or Personality?

Ideally, you want sales reps that have the brains and personality to succeed. But all things being equal, the research finds recruiting sales reps with the right personality traits for selling success will give you the edge.


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Topics: Sales Hiring

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