How do I get the right sales person for the right role?

I find it somewhat frustrating when people make simplistic claims and statements about salespeople like: “super sales performers are all risk takers and oblivious to rejection and failure.”

Statements like this are simply not true and trivialise the complex world of selling by trying to box people without proper analysis and insight.

There is a large body of research that shows there are many types of sales people for different types of clients, products, and markets. Just because a sales person may be excellent in one market may not mean they are well suited for another.

Take call centres for instance. If the type of sale is simple and transactional, putting in people who like complex problem solving and variety would be a very bad decision. Boredom and repetition, amongst other things, could see people like this leave sooner than intended, or create havoc while there.

The reason I am speaking up about this is I find many people do not understand the intricacies of selling and tend to take a one-type-of-salesperson-does-it-all approach when selecting and developing sales people, often leaving them frustrated and angry and not getting the sales performance they want.

In the last 15 years my team and I have analysed and profiled over 100 different types of sales roles as diverse as:

– Business banking sales,
– Media sales (TV & radio)
– Online advertising sales
– Publishing sales
– IT sales
– Hi-tech medical equipment sales
– Pharmaceutical sales
– Funeral sales
– Wholesale sales
– Print and distribution sales
– Telephone sales (inbound and outbound)
– Direct sales (party plan, etc.)
– Money market sales
– Mortgage sales
– Investment sales
– Recruitment sales
– Industrial sales
– Engineering sales
– Key account management sales
– Sales management
– Sales directors
– Music licensing sales
– Account co-ordinators
– Sales support

I am here to tell you that there were many variations in these sales roles and variation of the styles and types of people needed to perform these roles effectively. For instance, some need to be very ‘prospecting fit’, while others need to be detailed, patient and very thorough.

When one assumes that an organisation can have one sales force with no differentiation, there are often negative consequences.

These include:

  • Individuals don’t work together well.
  • Sales opportunities seem to ‘slip away’.
  • Individuals can’t seem to get the job done.

The assumption that every salesperson can be all things to every customer does not work.

This assumption regards all customers and salespeople as a commodity, or an interchangeable part. For example, if a salesperson is unable to secure a sale with a customer, the organisation may not make a conclusion that the salesperson does not meet the needs of the customer.

Instead the organisation might view the customer as a commodity or an opportunity that has been lost, and will hope that the salesperson is able to secure another sale with a different customer.

A ‘one-salesperson-does-it-all approach’ does not work when you have a diverse product range or a varied pool of customers. Each customer has unique needs, operates within a unique organisation, and needs to know different information from the salesperson. Therefore it is necessary to link the salesperson’s style of working to the needs of the customer, your market and your products.

Too little work is done in this area and yet it is one of the most critical areas you need to consider for business success.

The book The Quadrant Solution by Stevens, H & Cox, J, describes a sales model based upon a quadrant that is used to evaluate the organisation and its products on its complexity and the expected customer experience.


When a customer is making a complex purchase, with a lot of customised offerings, the seller needs to do a lot of hand-holding during the purchase and delivery. That would be a ‘high touch’ sale (hand-holding, longer, more secure relationship with seller). If it is a simple purchase and the customer can handle the purchase on their own, this would be a ‘low touch’ sale (customer is confident in handling purchase, doesn’t need hand-holding, short/temporary relationship).

Customer experience

When a customer needs a high degree of technical support during and after the purchase, it is a ‘high tech’ sale. If the customer has the experience and knowledge to handle the technical components of the sale, it is a ‘low tech’ sale.

In the book he describes four sales styles that link into the quadrant model. These are ‘consultative’ selling, ‘relationship’ selling, ‘display’ selling, and ‘super closer’ selling.

I have provided examples of each style as a way of demonstrating my point about the variety that exists in sales. However from our research there are even more selling styles or subsets of selling styles. Not all selling roles will fit these categories, however I feel it is a good place to simulate our thinking on this topic and help you make more sense of what you may need by way of sales talent.

Consultative selling style

Salespeople who adopt a consultative selling style enjoy being the trusted consultant to their customers. They like a degree of complexity in their work, and are comfortable interacting with high-level managers. They are analytical, ambitious, educated, professional, self-confident and well-organised. They are able to work with customers who need technical support and a long-standing relationship (high tech, high touch).

Relationship selling style

Salespeople who adopt a relationship selling style enjoy building and fostering relationships with customers. They have a strong work ethic and enjoy a hands-on approach when interacting with others. They are warm and personable and are sensitive to problems that the customer may be having. Relationship salespeople are not technically oriented, and focus on the relationship aspect of a sale (low tech, high touch).

Display selling style

Salespeople who adopt a display selling style are comfortable promoting or displaying a product to the customer in the most effective way. They ensure that their approach is easy, convenient and simple for everyone to understand. They prefer to work with customers on a transactional basis, and are not inclined to provide the technical or long-term relationship support (low tech, low touch).

Super closer selling style

Salespeople who adopt a super closer selling style are progressive and determined in their approach. They are extroverted, energetic and competitive in their style. They are visionary, entrepreneurial and are often viewed as experts in their field. They tend to get customers excited about the possibilities of a product/service, and their primary focus is on closing the sale. The super closer salesperson is generally moving too fast onto the next prospect to maintain a long-term relationship with the client, but will provide them with the technical support to secure the sale (high tech, low touch).

In conclusion

In conclusion, excellent salespeople can generally sell many things but not usually everything. And even if they could, some selling environments would not suit them in the long term and therefore they would not be classified as good sales person for your business if this happened.

Our sales forces should be organised so that the natural selling style of the salesperson compliments the kind of product or service that they are selling, and fits in with the customer’s market.

My point is that we all need to know what type of sales role and sales person our businesses need to prosper. By determining a salesperson’s natural tendency or selling style, we can ensure that this is linked to the customer’s and product’s unique needs.

In today’s world we are well equipped to define the type of sales role our business needs and define the salesperson’s selling style to match that role. So let’s move away from limiting sales stereotypes and open ourselves to diversity.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Happy selling.


Sue Barrett is founder and managing director of BARRETT, a boutique consultancy firm. Sue is an experienced consultant, public speaker, coach and facilitator. Sue and her team are best known for their work in creating high performing people and teams. Key to their success is working with the whole person and integrating emotional intelligence, skill, knowledge, behaviour, process and strategy via effective training and coaching programs. Click here to find out more

Click here for blogs from Sue Barrett.


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