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Selecting SalespeopleDid you know that when predicting which salespeople will be successful in competitive sales, 50% of the prediction is: “Do they have the DNA?”

The other 50%? Based on over three decades of research, we have found that the other half of the equation is: “Do they have the market, and, can they access the market?”

Our equation for predicting successful competitive sales professionals involves all of these factors.

Success = DNA + Market + Access to Market

The DNA of Competitive Sales Professionals

This factor is the answer to the question: Can they do the job?

A good psychometric profile should be able to tell you whether a candidate has the right DNA to be an effective competitive sales person or not.  The difference is that a person with the right DNA can be trained while those without the DNA will be a waste of resources because they simply don’t have the potential to do the tasks required of them for competitive sales.

From our research, one characteristic stands out above the rest as the most important for predicting successful salespeople based on DNA – self management.  

Self managers make themselves responsible for their efforts and accountable for their results. They regularly direct their own activities to do the things they need to do – on a daily basis – to get the results they want.

Read more about the characteristics of self managers and other attributes necessary for success in our blog “The Top 3 Characteristics of Successful Competitive Sales Professionals”.

Salespeople with a Natural Market and Access to that Market

The other half of the equation is whether the salesperson has a natural market, and – critically – the ability to access that market.

A natural market is how many people or organizations the person already knows who would be in the market for the product they are representing. A good salesperson should have the skills and initiative to develop their market, growing it over time (again, their DNA is very important to this ability!).

Just as important as having a market and the ability to develop it, however, is having access to that market. That means: “Will their market feel comfortable with them and actually buy from them?”

Access requires having empathy and understanding with their market, so they are able to deal effectively with prospects and customers and ultimately get referrals to expand their network. Trust and connection is central to competitive sales, and it is required before prospects will talk to a sales professional about a product or make a purchase from them.

Here’s an easy way to conceptualize market vs. access to market: How many Facebook friends do you have right now? Maybe as many as 400 or 500. But how many of those “friends” can you get a referral from or would actually trust you and buy from you? Probably a lot fewer. And that’s the difference.

It’s simple. If you have a salesperson who cannot access the market, they will not be successful because the market won’t buy from them.

When hiring salespeople, certain factors matter and others don’t – but it’s not always easy to tell which is which. Only with systematic, validated data can you know which characteristics are critical to success and which are red herrings.


SMG has over 35 years of data and research on the characteristics of top performers, particularly in sales roles. Our popular POP™ profile is designed specifically to select successful sales candidates. Contact us to learn more.

Download a sample POP™ profile.

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John Marshall

About John Marshall

John is the President and Founder of The Self Management Group, and has a doctorate in psychology from York University where he also worked as a lecturer. For over three decades, John has helped hundreds of organizations develop into self-managed, high performance cultures. Using advanced statistical methods and principles, SMG has become a leader in applied research and using predictive analytics to assist organizations in attracting, selecting, and developing top performers.

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