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Unlearning what we knew and rediscovering what we could have known

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PII: 0956-5221(94)90036-1 Pergamon Stand. J. Mgmf, Vol. 10, No. 1, 49-57, 1994 pp. Copyright 0 1994 Elsevier Science Ltd Printed in Great Britain. All rights reserved 0951%5221/94 $6.00 + 0.00 PERSONALITY CHARACTERISTICS THAT PREDICT EFFECTIVE PERFORMANCE OF SALES PEOPLE WILLEM VERBEKE School of Economics, Erasmus University (First received January 1992; accepted in revised form Februq 1993) Abstract -In sales literature the role of personality traits in the prediction of salespeople’s performance is a hot topic. This study, based upon an administered personality test, suggests that salespeople’s personality traits -specifically, the ability to elicit information from others, to self-monitor during conversations, and to adapt during conversations - are good predictors of performance. Key words: Sales management, personality traits, complex systems theory, conversations, recruitment. 1. INTRODUCTION Ever since Churchill et aZ.‘s meta-study (1985) showed that personality traits account for only 4% of the variance in outcome-based sales performance, studies relating personality and perfor- mance have not been popular. Nonetheless, European managers remain greatly interested in these topics, for several reasons. (1) In many European companies, company sales positions serve as the first step in a long-term career ladder, and many managers want to know if prospective employees will be suitable also in this context. (2) Since salespeople are not easily fired in Europe, managers want to know as much as possible before they take anyone on. (3) Given the importance of social skills in sales, managers want to test prospective recruits to identify the team players. In line with this trend, more and more business schools are preparing personality profiles of students for corporate recruiters (Byrne, 1991); and in a well-known study (which will be exam- ined later), Spiro and Weitz (1990) discovered that some personality traits (such as self-moni- toring) cor

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