BY Russell Wardrop

DATE: 15 NOV 2013


What kind of sales person are you? Or if you bridle at the notion of sales, what kind of persuader are you? Do you operate as a Lone Wolf, Relationship Builder, Hard Worker, Challenger or Problem Solver? A bit of everything, to be sure, but which one predominates?

I was plodding through a Harvard study which categorised sales people into the above five types and it all seemed so obvious. The five types, I mean. We've all seen versions of them before: are you a blue walrus, purple chicken or pink elephant? But the point of the paper was not to describe different types of sales person: it was to tell you who performs best, who closes the most business.

Now I was interested.

Before I reveal the winner I'm going to say that such research should always be taken with a pinch of salt. There are too many variables that cannot be accurately factored: one can always snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in sports and sales for bizarre and ethereal reasons. (You may even have a lucky tortoise-shell key-ring that you believe gets you over the line. Just remember it never worked for the tortoise.) Let me tell you a sartorial story by way of illustrating who wins, by some margin. The cleverer among you will know I am also giving you more time to say which type of persuader you are.

Well, go on, which? Look back to the top and make your selection. I'll allow you a first choice and a back up.

I have had some difficult times recently buying a suit. Maybe my body shape- Danny De Vito meets Sergio Aguero- has something to do with it. Maybe I'm getting fussy as I get older. Maybe I'm just getting older. Whatever the reason, it's tough to get something that fits. I went into a tailors I'd visited before and asked for a three button, single vent, 42 short, in grey or blue.

"You've been in before; I showed you a perfect suit. Perfect."

"That's right, I..."

"You going to buy this time? That suit's gone. Our suits sell; they are good suits."

"Maybe, last time I..."

"Perfect for you. You have broad shoulders, you need to watch the top of the arms, and that it doesn't gape across the chest. You gonna buy a suit?"

At this point I am tempted to say he would need to show me a suit first. He does not seem keen to do this, despite the hundreds within reach. There are other shops with navy blue suits. I could leave. But I don't. Yet.

"I am a master-tailor you know. All these are half-canvas or full canvas. The one I showed you was wool and mohair. Never creases. You travel a lot?" (This, I am sure, is a guess. But a good one.)

And so it goes on, until I am eventually shown a suit. One suit. In a shop full of suits. Grey, not blue. Not my first choice, but the best one for my shape, apparently. Unless I go bespoke, for three times the cost.

I bought the suit. As I was trying it for size and alteration (legs shortened, arms shortened. Hey ho...) I was treated to a Masterclass in tailoring: this man knew his stuff. I may get a bespoke one next time. I have been assured it will be outstanding, but it will cost a lot.

The Challenger makes the most sales, the Harvard paper reveals. Forty per cent more than any of the others. To be sure, there are times to be the Relationship Builder. And who does not like a Problem Solver? We are all, I hope, Hard Workers. But if you are trying to influence, persuade or sell something that is sophisticated, complex, clever. Something that has more grey than black or white, a long term relationship-building sell, just being a relationship builder is only part of the story.

My view? Be a Relationship Builder for sure, but have Challenger in there too. At least as your back up.


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about the author

Russell Wardrop is our Chief Executive. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.

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